Sibling Aggression: Bullying in the Family

Sibling rivalries often lead to verbal and physical violence. If parents are unable to curtail them in the beginning, the situation only gets worse. Parents often see their children pulling each other’s hair, kicking and punching each other, but will not intervene thinking that it's child’s play. This way they miss out on the fact that sibling bullying actually has a deep impact on a child mentally and physically.

Dr. Corinna Jenkins Tucker and her colleagues from the University of New Hampshire conducted a research on over 3500 teenagers. The teens were questioned about sibling aggression and their experiences were recorded. The study concluded that children who experienced sibling aggression reported similar mental health distress as the ones who were bullied by children outside their families. Parents should ask themselves why they tolerate sibling violence at home, when the same behavior is touted as bullying if carried out by non-family members.

What parents need to know

For most parents the most common concern is sibling aggression. This includes both physical and psychological aggression, which leave negative impressions on the child’s brain and personality. Conflicts and disagreements are normal between children. However, it is up to the parents to teach their kids how to handle conflict and avoid any form of violence.

Your child will behave differently with friends

Do not get confused if you see your children talking and having a nice time with their friends, while they had a brawl with their sibling moments ago. Parents need to understand that every relationship has different dynamics. Relationships between siblings are more intense than others. Every kind of emotion is heightened tenfolds between siblings. Parents can make this work in favor of fostering positive relationship between the kids.

Understand your kid’s behavior in conflict 

The behavior of children during sibling rivalry throws light on their reaction in moments of conflict and extreme pressure. Encouraging interaction between siblings is the best way to inculcate social and emotional management skills in kids. Parents can use sibling fights to teach children about conflict resolution.

Supervision and vigilance is important 

Parents can avoid conflicts and fights between siblings by staying vigilant about them. They should intervene as soon as one of their kids gets aggressive. Parents can teach their kids strategies to calm them down. 

If your child gets extremely aggressive with their siblings then it is necessary that you take your kid to a professional child psychologist for sibling aggression assessment and treatment.

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