How to Cope with Sibling Bullying

If you're wondering how to cope with sibling bullying, we offer a few useful tips you can try.

Sibling bullying is going to happen whether you have one child or 12 children. There is always a cousin that will pick on a smaller cousin, and they may not be siblings but you can still prepare an only child to be aware of bullying. When it comes to 2 or more children, there is always going to be teasing or an occasional punch if one of your children is frustrated. The issue is consequences are going to have to be in place in case of bullying amongst siblings. The worst part of bullying is this happens when parents are at work and the bully usually threatens the one bullied to keep quiet so mom and dad don’t know what is going on. Parents like to think their children are perfect, but there is bullying and arguing in every family. The issue is how to keep this under control and raise your children to love and watch over their siblings instead of crucifying them.

Sibling relationships can be conflictual and meaningful. Don’t fool yourselves and think your children always get along and enjoy each other’s company because it’s not true. Parents know their children will argue, disagree and hurt each other with words, hostile behavior and teasing. Parents also see their children getting along and becoming close, playing together for hours, protecting one another and talking about their lives together. They are also friends and companions at times when no one else is around.

Parents also hear the same words over and over which are “that’s not fair”, he’s looking at me” and blah, blah, blah. Parents should know when to set ground rules in their home for certain behaviors and actions they expect from their kids. Parents that hear and see unacceptable behaviors like teasing, name-calling, and physical assertiveness, should step in and create consequences because of these unacceptable behaviors. Many pediatricians and therapists tell parents to let their children work out their own issues and only step in when things get out of control. The problem is deciding when to step in because the conflict is becoming emotionally damaging to both children.

Here are some ways to establish and manage sibling bullying when it happens at home.

Establish Rules

Parents can set rules and boundaries that say no name calling, no yelling, hitting, punching, teasing, or any other types of aggressive behavior. Be positive and use kind words, show consideration and be caring, tell the truth and help one another.

Conflict VS Bullying

Parents should understand that conflict is a struggle for power, property, and attention. Conflict can occur when siblings disagree, compete and struggle in different ways. The problem is how to deal with conflict. Bullying is more like behaving in ways that are scary, threatening or harmful in an emotional, physical or social way in order to manage conflict.

Solving the Conflict

Parents don’t want to get rid of sibling conflict because siblings will always argue and have disagreements. Parents have to teach their children how to resolve their conflicts. Parents show be aware that they may have to be a mediator more, in the beginning, to show their children skills to take care of conflict.

Let Siblings Work through Conflict Together

Parents should let their children develop their own skills to problem solve and work through conflicts on their own. Younger children tend to tattle more about every little thing. This is appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers because they are trying to find ways by tattling to problem solve. Older children grow out of tattling because they already know how to problem solve to a point. When older children are concerned, don’t fix their problems because your child will start to rely on you for every problem they have. You unconsciously are reinforcing tattling so they get attention from you and enjoy this because their sibling is getting in trouble. Don’t confuse tattling with reporting because tattling is telling on a child for something they are doing wrong. This also is a way to get their sibling in trouble. Reporting is more about stating a fact to keep emotional and physical safety. When your child comes to talk to you about any kind of aggression, get the facts and then step in.

Always Intervene with serious Aggression

Parents that hear name calling, teasing, physical altercations, destruction of another child’s property or taking their personal items, means this is time to meditate and stop this behavior with consequences.

Watch for Changes in Behavior

When kids get older and are not supervised frequently compared to the younger kids, be cautious because there is going to be more tension between the older siblings. You may not be seeing changes in behavior as things happen, so watch for behaviors when you feel tension when your school-aged children are around. This usually happens with tweens and teens. Some of these behaviors causing tension are yelling, screaming, door slamming, and crying. Kids this age are emotionally suffering so they shut down and isolate to cope. Behavior changes in small steps and you can see this if they don’t want to do things they used to like, mumble under their breath, talk sarcastically if they are upset and make statements that sound like they are having low esteem issues. This is a good time to talk to your child and find out what is bothering them and ask if something happened. You can try and encourage your child to talk to you so you can get the facts, so you can support your child. Never shut them down or they will isolate more so.

Parents should be Role Models

Children learn how to behave by watching their parents. When parents solve problems and cope with stress and frustration by yelling, door slamming, name calling or swearing, they are teaching their children this is the way to manage stress, frustration, and your child’s emotions. This is why it’s very important to use healthy coping skills in front of your children so you can manage the situation.

Life is not Fair at Times

Parents should know that kids only focus on what is fair and equal. Parents are not always fair and equal because it’s difficult and also impossible for them to be fair and equal at all times. Children need support, time and attention based on their age, development, and need. Parents should help their kids understand that not everything is always fair and equal. As parents, you work to make sure your kids get what they need, and most of the time things are very fair and equal.

Reinforce Positivity

All kids love to hear that they are doing well and you as parents are proud of them. When your child is being kind to their siblings, tell them you are proud of them. This is what helps to reinforce positive behavior which in turn is kind behavior towards others. This will help your child be encouraged to continue being kind and positive and your comments will help reinforce their kind behavior. Parents all want their children to be kind and show compassion and empathy towards others. It’s especially important that they show these traits to other family members as well. This is why it’s important to break any cycles you grew up with that were negative when it came to dealing with stress and turn it around to be positive even if you have to attend therapy for a while.