7 Ways Parents Can Address Sibling Bullying

Two female siblings arguing


Conflicts among siblings are normal. But sometimes these disagreements can go too far. When normal conflict turns into bullying, parents need to step in. Allowing your kids to fight it out is not the best approach, especially if one child has more power than the other. If you discover that one of your kids is bullying the other, here are some things you can do to confront sibling bullying.

Stopping Aggressive Behavior

If your children react to one another in aggressive ways including hitting and pushing and even name-calling, you need to intervene immediately. Tell them that aggressive and mean behavior will not be tolerated. Then, discipline your child for bullying.

Teach your kids how to treat one another with respect even when they disagree. Show them how to relate with one another in healthy ways.

When you do so, you are giving them the opportunity to practice healthy relationship skills in a safe environment with people that love them unconditionally.

Hold the Bully Responsible

It is essential that your kids know that the choice to bully is theirs, regardless of the reason behind it. Emphasize that bullying causes pain for their brothers and sisters and encourage them to take responsibility for their actions.

To ensure that your child owns their actions, be sure your children can repeat back what they did wrong. Then implement appropriate consequences.

For instance, should your child be grounded? Is an apology needed? Should he lose a privilege? The answer will depend on the severity of the bullying incident and your parenting style. But the key is to do something to ensure that your child understands that bullying is unacceptable.

Diffuse Jealousy

Although jealousy is a normal human emotion, it can be exacerbated if you don’t praise your children equally. Be sure that each child receives recognition, love, and acceptance and avoid comparisons at all costs. You also should avoid labeling or categorizing your children. In other words, do not call them “the athletic one,” “the smart one,” and so on. Doing so breeds envy and contempt.

Always point out your kids’ good characteristics. Mention concrete things that you saw or heard them do. Let them know you value their efforts as much as their siblings' efforts.

When your kids receive compliments from you, what they experience is affection. The more compliments you give your children, the more affection they feel.

They also will feel like they are being recognized and that their needs are being met. When this happens, there is less need to bully others.

Model Respect

The first step in teaching respect is for parents to model that behavior by acting supportively toward one another. Additionally, you should talk to your kids about what constitutes a healthy friendship and encourage them to take steps to be a good friend to their siblings. You also may want to adopt a family philosophy that encourages family members to help and support one another.

Instill Empathy

When a child feels empathy toward other people, this will go a long way in preventing bullying.

Kids who are empathetic will be able to see that bullying hurts other people and will learn to refrain from it.

In fact, empathy, along with emotional intelligence, are the cornerstones of bullying prevention.

Teach Problem-Solving Skills

Kids do not automatically know how to problem-solve. Many times, they will default to unhealthy methods instead. Consequently, work on problem-solving techniques and stress collaboration.

Give your kids situations to work out or create opportunities where they have to work together to get a job done. Just be sure to supervise them to ensure one sibling is not taking advantage of another.

Prevent Future Bullying

Sometimes when bullying is caught early, it won’t happen again. But do not assume this is always the case. Instead, continue to monitor the situation, correcting bullying or unkind behaviors immediately.

Remember, if one sibling bullies the other, this does not mean you are a bad parent. Kids are still learning what is acceptable and what isn’t. Be firm and consistent. You and your kids will get through this and come out stronger in the end.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.