How To Stop Sibling Bullying In Your Household

Updated November 10, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault

It is common for brothers and sisters to argue, fight, and compete amongst each other; however, at some point, it can turn into bullying. And there are likely signs that there is more than sibling rivalry going on between the children and adolescents in your house. This article will go over some signs of sibling bullying, and also provide ways to stop it from persisting at home.

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What Is Sibling Bullying and What Isn't?

Sometimes the line between what is considered normal sibling behavior and bullying can be very fine, and activities and interactions should be observed as carefully as possible. However, some instances of bullying can also be concealed from parents, and will occur when they are not looking. Nonetheless, here are some signs of sibling bullying to look out for.

Bullying Has Harmful Intent

Compared to ordinary sibling rivalries, the aggressor always intends on being mean and hurtful, and therefore, will not show empathy or remorse for their actions. Because the bully does not see anything wrong with what they are doing to their sibling, their behavior will continue until there is intervention.

Bullying Is Often Repetitive

Behaviors that are considered bullying can have patterns to them. They can happen regularly, and might even consist of the same themes. The frequency of bullying behaviors leads to more distress than if it were a one-time conflict.

Bullying Usually Has No Resolution

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Following an event where bullying is suspected, there is a high chance that the siblings will not reconcile. Normal sibling relationships have warmth and conflict in them—after a quarrel, things will usually be fine once again, and they can enjoy each other’s company. However, in bullying, warmth may never present itself.

Sibling Bullying Always Has a Power Differential

According to Dr. Dan Olweus, who is a pioneer in bullying research and the founder of the successful Olweus Bullying Prevention program, two individuals cannot be approximately the same strength, physically or mentally. There is always an imbalance in power in bullying situations, and the victim sibling will usually struggle to defend him or herself.

The Effects of Sibling Bullying: Why It Needs to Be Stopped

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It has been well-documented that bullying, in all forms, can lead to an increased risk of both mental and physical health problems in individuals who have been subjected to it at any point in their life.

Children, in particular, that are bullied may be at risk for higher levels of depression and other emotional and behavioral disorders. Additionally, they might display specific symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, bedwetting, and other sleep problems, like insomnia.

Additionally, studies show that, compared to individuals who were never bullied, those who were subjected to it have some personality traits in common such as low self-esteem, low assertiveness, higher anxiety levels, and more social withdrawnness.

In some cases, bullying can create a sense of hopelessness in individuals, and even at a very young age, many kids turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms if they feel unsupported or unable to deal with the problem. 

Strategies to Stop Sibling Bullying At Home

In this section, you will learn ways that you can put an end to bullying in your home. As a parent, guardian, or any head of the household, you should be proactive in monitoring and addressing bullying behavior amongst siblings.

Don't Ignore - Intervene

If you notice unusually aggressive behavior happening between two of your children, do not just assume it is sibling rivalry, especially if it has been persistent.

Even if they have not occurred over a period of time, hitting, name-calling, and other related physical and verbal behaviors should never be tolerated, and you will need to make that clear in order to prevent future conflicts.

Enforce Disciplinary Action

If verbal warnings were not enough during your initial interventions, disciplining the bully may be necessary, and they should be held responsible for their actions.

You will need to use your best judgment on how to discipline a household bully, but grounding them or taking away their privileges are a couple of common, but effective ways to do this. Importantly, the bully sibling should also apologize to the victim.

Use Extra Supervision

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Bullying is rarely ever a one-time thing, and in siblings, it is more likely to happen over and over because they are living under the same roof.

Even if you've already addressed bad behavior and used discipline, you will still need to keep an eye out for new situations that can possibly arise. Bullying can happen again, and it is up to you to catch it if it happens to come up.

Teach Empathy & Respect

As the head of the household, you are a model for what good behavior should look like for your kids, and if bullying is a problem, you will need to demonstrate what these values are so that they can be learned.

Showing empathy towards the victim sibling can show the bully that his or her actions can cause their brother or sister pain, which can help prevent future events from coming up. Teaching them the meaning of respect will also go a long way, not only for their siblings, but with everyone else they encounter throughout life.

Introduce Them to Problem-Solving Techniques

In addition to empathy and respect, kids can learn new skills to help them replace bullying with more adaptive behaviors.

Some bullies are behaving that way because of stress and feelings of inadequacy, and consequently, lash out at others as a way to cope. By addressing these feelings and finding ways to replace them with productive ones, bullying can subside. Additionally, team-building exercises can be introduced to siblings to help them learn how to collaborate instead of being in conflict.

Always Treat Your Kids Equally

By giving siblings equal care and attention, you can reduce the need for bullying because they will feel that his or her needs are being met, and will not have to find recognition or validation by overpowering somebody else.

In order to prevent jealousy, it is also crucial that you avoid making comparisons between siblings, which can include using nicknames such as "the smart one," or similar categorizations. Categorizing is bad, so instead, praise each of your children equally, and let them know that they are valued.

Dealing With Sibling Bullying Through BetterHelp

Research has suggested that online therapy can be a useful method of helping to address conflict between family members. One study, published in Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, found that internet-based therapy is effective when helping parents to manage disruptive behavior in their children. The study outlines the benefits of internet-based therapy, specifically its elimination of certain restrictions associated with traditional care, including availability and efficacy of treatment. Additionally, online therapy can directly help adolescents who have been the victim of bullying, helping them to overcome low self-esteem and similar issues.   

With online therapy through BetterHelp, you can work on issues with family dynamics from your home, without having to get a babysitter, or make other arrangements. Read below for reviews of qualified mental health professionals, from those who have received help in the past.

Counselor Reviews

“I started with Amy back in June, I was a little nervous about starting to see a therapist, because I had never done that before. Amy immediately put me at ease. I was having a lot of issues in my personal life and issues with my family and Amy has helped me tremendously. I could not be more happier with Amy. She is very kind, understanding and every single session we have had, I have taken something very helpful away with me. Our sessions have been more helpful to me than I could possibly explain here. Anyone lucky enough to get paired with Amy, will not be disappointed.”

“Michelle’s the best and helping me through my family drama and processing my emotions of it all. I’m very grateful for Michelle!”

Conclusion

Due to the effects of bullying, it will always be a public health concern, and may never be eliminated entirely. However, everyone can do their part to help keep bullying to a minimum and reduce its impact on society.

Bullying at school is frequently discussed, but other forms of bullying can exist just about anywhere, including in your home and online; and since there is not any staff available, it is your responsibility to stop bullying in its tracks when it comes up.

Sibling bullying is one of the most common ways that bullying can manifest in your house, and this article has given you ways to differentiate it from normal rivalries, and strategies to eliminate it.

If your child is displaying any of the effects of bullying listed in this article, he or she can benefit from therapy. At BetterHelp, online counseling sessions from licensed therapists are available to help them heal. Persistent bullying situations can also be stressful for parents and guardians to handle, and therapy can provide ways to manage stress and anxiety, and teach them how to cope.

Even if defusing sibling bullying is more challenging than you anticipated, it is essential that you let your kids know that you care and support them no matter what. Victims of bullying, especially, will need assurance that they have allies and are not alone—and that things will be okay in due time.


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