WHEN SIBLING FIGHTING BECOMES SIBLING BULLYING
While it is perfectly normal that siblings fight and bicker on a regular basis, sometimes the rivalry goes too far and crosses the line. But, how do you know when picking on the little brother or sister becomes bullying?
So, first, let’s restate what bullying is exactly. By definition, bullying is repetitive, has a purposeful, negative, and hurtful intent, and reflects a power differential between the victim and the perpetrator. Oftentimes, parents ignore or dismiss bullying among their children considering that all siblings fight. However, studies show that bullying promotes anxiety, depression, and social stress. So, disregarding this type of behavior is definitely not the solution. The first step is to be able to identify the problem.
Here are 5 signs that might suggest that sibling fighting is a bullying problem:
1. The intensity and the frequency of the fighting is quite high among siblings.
2. You can identify patterns in the fighting. For example, the same child is tormented over and over by the same sibling about the same topic.
3. A power differential is overt. One sibling is more powerful in some way (older, bigger, more socially skilled,…)
4. The siblings do not reconcile after the fight. They do not demonstrate warmth to one another at other times.
5. One child lacks empathy toward his sibling. In other words, he cannot put himself in his sibling’s shoes and cannot understand emotionally his sibling.
The second step is to understand the dynamic between the perpetrator and the victim. The talk tends to be: bullies equal bad and victims equal good. But, of course, it is more complex than that. A bully doesn’t bully for fun. It may look like that, but actually a bully bullies in order to solve a problem – usually, to gain equilibrium where an imbalance is felt.
The root of the problem lies in the lack of validation of feelings. A child’s feelings should always be validated instead of being dismissed. Some uncomfortable children’ feelings (jealousy, anger, sadness, fear,…) should be acknowledged in a non-judgmental way and empathized with. When a child feels understood emotionally, his uncomfortable feelings will lessen.
Stay tuned for the third step that will address HOW TO ADDRESS SIBLING BULLYING.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.