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Sibling Bullying

Dear Mark.

My daughter is using your advice and is very happy and has gained a new confidence already. It is a great relief for all of us.

My daughter J___ today called me down (she lives close by) because of a problem associated with her daughter (my grand-daughter). The grand-daughter refused to do as she was told and so J___, as a punishment, took her computer from her.

Which was OK but then the problem-daughter B___ started bullying her little sister, taking her venom out on her.

That's when J___ called me down because some violence erupted as a result of J___ trying to keep the younger sister out of it all.

B___ is 13 years old. She is adopted and her step-father will have nothing to do with her. In fact the step-father is prepared to show hatred if the opportunity arises.

So B___ has had a bad time in her youth and we have all been trying to help her because our sympathy is with her. Still, she cannot keep getting out of control.

What do you suggest about B___ bullying her younger sister when she is being punished herself.

My compliments.



Hi A.,

Bullying should only be verbal. Physical aggression or real meanness between siblings is a sign of displaced angry feelings.

Although the child being victimized appears to get your sympathy, that child needs to learn an effective defense, which you can teach.

Implementing what is known as the Talk-Walk-Squawk rule in your household can be effective, especially in empowering younger children who are being bullied.

Talk – The child being bullied should be taught to use words of empowerment to their siblings such as “stop” and “I’m not afraid of you.”

Walk- The bullied child should then walk away from the scene.

Squawk – The bullied child should tell a parent or a trusted adult about the incident. It’s important to make sure they know this is not “tattling” but a way to work on a solution to their problem.

Countering the bullying-behavior includes:

· Help each child learn skills for handling their emotions – They may not understand or know a better way to express their disappointment, hurt or anger.

· Making sure each child adheres to the rules – There must be clear consequences when breaking the rules and you must be consistent in your enforcement of these consequences.

· Making sure each child knows the household rules – There should not be any hitting or pushing.

Here are a few questions that may help in that process of understanding the bullying behavior:

· How is the child’s home life? Children do learn by example and even though it may be difficult for some parents, an honest assessment of their home environment is necessary.

· Have your child’s circle of friends changed? Any new friend in the picture? Never under estimate the influence of other children. Your child may now be newly exposed to the power of bullying – on the giving end or receiving end. This includes cyber-bullying.

· Has your child had any major lifestyle changes such as moving to a new neighborhood/school, death of close relative, parental divorce or remarriage? Your child may be acting out his frustration and difficulty dealing with their emotions on anyone they can.

· Does the bullying sibling focus on only one child? This may be sibling rivalry gone awry and it could have more to do with you (getting your attention) than with the child he/she bullies.

Given the normal amount of teasing and bickering in any family, it can be difficult for parents to know where to draw the line. Ideally, we want our children to learn to work out disagreements among themselves. But when is adult intervention necessary?

Here’s a good rule of thumb: Behavior that would be unacceptable between two unrelated children is unacceptable between two siblings. When one child intentionally and consistently hurts or frightens a smaller or less powerful sibling, that’s bullying — and it needs to stop.

Refer to the strategy entitled “When You Want Something From Your Kid” [Anger Management Chapter – Online Version of the eBook] for specific steps.


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