This week’s anti-bullying buzz is about siblings. A new study published by the journal Pediatrics, reveals that sibling bullying can be just as harmful as peer bullying to children’s mental health.
When kids are out of school and spending more time as a family, it’s an important thing to be aware of. How brothers and sisters treat each other can either have a lifelong positive effect or do a lot of damage. Parents set the tone.
Bully, the movie, will make you want to do something. You may wonder what that “something’ could be? It may be as close as your own home.
In one of the scenes from the movie, it’s painful to watch Alex get bullied by his younger sister. She basically calls him a loser and you can tell that it’s not the first time.
We always focus on bullying in the schoolyard or online, but we rarely talk about sibling bullying.
Some conflict between siblings is normal and unavoidable. Sibling conflict is viewed as abusive when the interaction becomes violent, when one sibling feels powerless to stop the interaction, when the conflict persists over extended periods of time, and when the conflict is lopsided so that one sibling is singled out consistently.
Do we tune this out as parents? Do we get so sick of the kids “fighting,” that we don’t pay attention anymore?
A few years ago, I was at the International Bullying Prevention Assoc. conference and one of the most impressive workshops was led by this very serene looking woman. She started out by talking about sibling abuse and bullying. By the end of it, I noticed that all the attendees (mostly principals, teachers, coaches, security officers, counselors), including the men in the room, were emotional. It seemed that each person could relate to the subject of sibling to sibling meanness.
Last fall I was visiting a classroom. We weren’t even talking about bullying but there was a little boy who raised his hand and then popped out of his desk to tell me that his bigger cousin was beating him up. When I asked him if his parents knew, he said that they told him to get over it…his cousin was just “horsing around.” This child was clearly afraid of his cousin.
Sibling (or family) bullying often gets swept under the rug and often the pain of that bullying never goes away — as was seen on the faces of those men in that workshop. (Not all siblings will like each other growing up, but they shouldn’t be allowed to hurt each other.)
Letting our own children cross the line with (or against) each other is not good. That line is the line between “getting on each other’s nerves” to constantly belittling, demeaning or physically hurting each other.
In general children should resolve differences on their own. When children are unable to do so, adults should intervene…
Susan S. Raisch is the founder of Tangled Ball, a service that develops bullying prevention and leadership tools, including this website devoted to providing resources for families and educators. Click to learn more!