6 Things To Do When Sibling Rivalry Becomes BULLYING


Here are 6 things to do if your kids' fighting is out of control.

It's natural for siblings to argue, and most of us with brothers or sisters have experienced that phenomenon while growing up. This is not only considered normal, but is a rite of passage in our childhood memories. Who doesn't remember arguing over the remote, the best seat in the car or a variety of other trivial matters?

The problem begins when sibling rivalry takes on a tone of bullying.

A tell-tale sign of bullying is that one child is always the victim, and the other child actively plots how they can taunt or terrorize his or her sibling. This sort of bullying is not healthy, and good parenting advice is to intervene in order to minimize anxiety, depression in the child being victimized.

The problem should also be addressed to stop aggression in their child bully. Both kids will suffer the loss of good mental and emotional health if bullying behavior is allowed to continue, according to a Journal of Pediatrics study.

Researchers in this study did not include adult relationships, but many adult counselors focus on sibling rivalry and bullying behavior. Sometimes siblings form alliances against one of the other siblings and ostracize them entirely. This behavior can extend well beyond adolsecent years.

A child who grew up as a victim of bullying may continually be picked on well into adulthood. It is not uncommon for a parent to begin overprotecting said child, and this dynamic can continue into adulthood. This can lead to a sense of favoritism among family members, as the weaker child often receives extra attention from the parents.

These patterns, unless intervened with in childhood, can forever change family dynamics, making them toxic and uncomfortable for everyone involved.

Intervening in sibling rivalry should be done with careful thought and diligence. Giving siblings the chance to work out their own issues and conflicts is important, but when parents are busy or not present, there can be a tendency for one sibling to repeatedly victimize another, and this pattern continues unchecked. Many times, the bully tells their sibling victim that if they "tattle" to a parent, there will be consequences. Naturally, a child that is in distress over physical or emotional harm is not a child at his or her healthiest.

Thankfully, there are ways parents can intervene when sibling rivalry becomes sibling bullying.

1. Speak to bullies frankly.

"It is OK to get mad, but not okay to act in a way that is hurtful to someone else." Make clear that you do not tolerate bullying behavior, and then follow through with consequences. 

2. If you have an angry or aggressive child, encourage empathy by rewarding signs of it in your home.

Limit violent TV and movies.

3. Get both of your children involved in activities that will help them physically work out their frustration or stress.

Like non-contact sports, hikes or backyard play.

4. Never compare your children to one another out loud or within earshot.

Some children are very sensitive to this, and it can increase jealousy and mistrust — of each other, and of you.

5. Have one area in your home where kids can talk about issues in a constructive manner.

If you hear bickering in their rooms, take them to the prescribed location, like a kitchen table. Setting up a time each evening for them to bicker in the "public" sphere can help minimize the behavior. 

6. Never referee the fighting or conflict.

As much as you can, try to stay out of it. Participating gives the impression that you support the behavior.

Parents who teach healthy communication and conflict resolution skills are gifting their children and generations to come. Home is where the heart is, and the heart should feel safe. Children who grow up in a positive, supportive environment are given the tools they need to grow into successful adults. 

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