Speaking with your children about bullying isn’t the easiest thing to do when you don’t quite understand bullying yourself. Before you initiate this conversation with your kids, it’s important to brush up on your own knowledge about bullying. Julia Cook, children’s author and parenting expert, says that bullying is any “aggressive, hurtful behavior that involves an imbalance of power.” This can have very serious consequences: kids who are bullied suffer from low self-esteem, depression, and suicidal thoughts, just to name a few. And bullying doesn’t just happen in the hallways at school. In fact, the real breeding ground for bullying is in our very own households.
Dr. Fran Walfish—Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author of “The Self-Aware Parent” and regular expert child psychologist on The Doctors, CBS TV-explains that bullies are typically created at home, as they’re bullied by close family members, which is where their rage and cruel behavior stems from. “All bullies carry a secret that they personally have been the target of bullying, mistreatment, and mishandling by someone most likely within their family. That important someone is usually their father or mother, and in less frequent instances, an older sibling. Oftentimes, the mistreatment is abusive—emotionally or physically. The child who is the victim in his own family cannot hold or contain the hostility and his rage, becoming the bully. He goes to school or out in the world and looks for an easy target. Then, he expels his hostilities onto another innocent victim. It is a vicious cycle.”
As Dr. Fran mentioned, kids are sometimes bullied in their own homes by their siblings, even though it isn’t as frequent as being bullied by a parent. This type of bullying can have detrimental effects on the victims, as seen in recent research from the University of Warwick. This study explored the link between sibling bullying and the development of psychotic disorders by assessing approximately 3,600 individuals over the course of six years. Upon the researchers’ assessment, they found that kids who are bullied by their siblings are up to three times more likely to develop a psychiatric disorder during adulthood.
What can be done about this? Try and keep sibling bullying out of your home and watch for these four warning signs of sibling bullying, identified by Dr. Fran:
- The child has expressed fear of being alone with their sibling.
- They have visible bruises or marks.
- The aggressor has verbalized hostilities and/or jealousy.
- The aggressor has a fascination with fire or hurting animals.
4 Steps to Address Sibling Bullying
If you’ve observed any of the above signs of sibling bullying, it’s important to take the appropriate steps to address and stop it. Dr. Fran says if you take the following four important steps, you’ll be on your way to creating a happier, healthier home for the whole family:
- Have an open discussion about equal love and zero tolerance for violence.
- Define acceptable and unacceptable behavior within your family.
- Set clear, firm rules and consequences for unacceptable behavior.
- Establish quality time with each child individually to build upon trust and bonding.
About the Author: Taylor Bennett is a staff writer at Thriveworks and publishes mental health news and self-improvement tips daily. She is devoted to distributing important information related to mental health and wellbeing.