How To Stop Sibling Bullying In Your Household

Updated August 29, 2019

Reviewer Lauren Guilbeault

It is common for brothers and sisters to argue, fight, and have competition amongst each other; however, up to a point, it can turn into bullying, and there signs that there is more than sibling rivalry going on. 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 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. [1]

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 others' 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. [2] 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. [3]

Additionally, studies show that compared to individuals who were never bullied who 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. [3]

In some cases, bullying can create a sense of hopelessness in individuals, and even at a very young age, many also express suicidal ideation, if they feel like they do not have any support and have no place to turn to.

In fact, kids who report being bullied are also much more likely to describe having suicide-related behavior than those who were not bullied, indicating that there is a very close relationship between the two. However, on a positive note, most people who are bullied will not engage in suicidal behaviors; the risk is just higher for it. [4]

Another risk factor to be aware of is substance abuse, and while the youth will not be able to purchase them, it is always possible for them to find and take a parent's alcohol, cigarettes, or prescription drugs to cope with being bullied. This is especially true with cases of sibling bullying since it will also usually take place at home.

Because of all of these effects of bullying, it is crucial that parents always get involved and do everything they can to stop it from happening, because it can have some grave, long-term, and sometimes permanent, consequences. Thankfully, there are many things you can do at home to stop bullying, which will be discussed in the next section.

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, they will all require an active approach from you. However, they are still practical and can be implemented immediately.

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 his or her 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 than not because they are living under the same roof; therefore, the potential to engage in bullying is higher than peers from school.

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 lash out 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 these feelings 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 as well as using nicknames such as "the smart one." Categorizing is bad, and instead, praise each of your children equally, and let them know that they are valued.

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 his or her 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 distinguish it between normal rivalries. Additionally, the strategies listed here will hopefully be effective in eliminating any bullying issue in your household.

If your child is displaying any of the effects of bullying listed in this article, he or she can benefit from therapy, and 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 also provide ways to manage stress and anxiety and teach them how to cope.

Even if diffusing 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, they are not alone, and things will be okay in due time.

References

  1. Malecki, C. K., Ph.D., & Demaray, M. K., Ph.D. (2014, December 1). 5 Signs That Sibling Fighting May Be Bullying. Retrieved July 7, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-wide-wide-world-psychology/201412/5-signs-sibling-fighting-may-be-bullying
  2. Olweus D. (1994) Bullying at School. In: Huesmann L.R. (eds) Aggressive Behavior. The Plenum Series in Social/Clinical Psychology. Springer, Boston, MA
  3. Fekkes, M. (2004). Bullying: Who does what, when and where? Involvement of children, teachers and parents in bullying behavior. Health Education Research, 20(1), 81-91. doi:10.1093/her/cyg100
  4. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Division of Violence Prevention. (2014). The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide: What We Know and What it Means for Schools [Brochure]. Retrieved July 7, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/bullying-suicide-translation-final-a.pdf

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