My Teen Is Bullying Their Sibling

Ways to deal with bullying in the home…

Having more than one child means you will often have to play referee when siblings clash. Usually, these will be silly squabbles or petty arguments that are easily resolved with your intervention. Occasionally, however, it can escalate to something more serious than a simple sibling spat. If your teen is bullying your other child and making them feel distressed, isolated or fearful, here are five tips to confront the bullying and put a stop to it…

  1. Always intervene whenever you see or hear bullying behaviour. Make it very clear that bullying will not be tolerated in your home. Sit both parties down and act as a mediator to help them talk over their differences. Encourage good communication skills, such as taking it in turns to speak and listening to the other person to set a good example. Show your children that there are better ways to get their point across without raising their voices, name-calling or hitting.
  1. Make it known that there are consequences to bullying actions – talk to your teen about the effect their words and actions can have on others to make them see how upsetting and potentially damaging their behaviour is. Your teen also needs to recognise that the consequences of bullying include punishment – they can begin making amends by apologising to their sibling. Whether you then ground your teen or take away an electrical device, they need to know that there are penalties to be paid for bullying behaviour.
  1. Bullying is usually an ongoing situation rather than a one-off incident so you may need to increase your supervision to keep a close eye on things. It can help to make other family members aware of the situation so they too can keep an eye out when your children are in their care. 
  1. Sibling rivalry is often at the heart of arguments, with one child feeling less favoured than the other. Try to be fair and consistent in how you deal with your children and avoid comparing them in any way to make them feel as equal as possible.
  1. Encourage empathy and understanding in the home to keep the focus on positive behaviours and treating others with kindness and respect. Compliment your teen when they act in a positive manner to build their confidence and self-esteem. People who feel loved and valued are far less likely to bully others.

Understanding The Cause

Sit your teen down and talk to them about their behaviour. Ask if anything is worrying or troubling them and try to discover why they lash out at their sibling.

Once you’ve heard what your child has to say, you may have a clearer picture of why they’ve acted in this way, whether it’s due to deeper family or behavioural issues or simply losing their temper. Whilst you may understand their feelings, regardless of the reason, it’s important to explain to your child why their behaviour is unacceptable and why it can be so damaging.

To get more help on dealing with a child who is a bully, click here.

Helping Your Other Child

Depending on the severity of the bullying, your bullied child may need extra support. Be on the lookout for changes in their behaviour. Signs to look out for include, but are not limited to:

  • Becoming quiet and withdrawn or prone to mood swings and angry outbursts.
  • A reluctance to go to school.
  • Missing belongings.
  • Teary or upset.
  • Changes to their diet or health (such as tummy aches or headaches).
  • Bedwetting.
  • Anxiety.
  • Low self-esteem.

They may be feeling scared, ashamed or embarrassed to talk honestly about what’s been going on. They may even feel as if they might get into trouble or will face negative consequences by speaking out. Try to talk to your child in a quiet, familiar place where they feel safe. Offer constant reassurance that you are there to support them and reinforce that you will do whatever you can to help. If they still won’t open up, try not to take it personally. Suggest that they talk to a different family member about their worries or a trusted teacher in a bid to get them to speak out.  Get more help with supporting a child who is being bullied here.


Related Posts

Download the App

Hidden strength the go – to, advice + support portal for 13 – 24 year olds designed to provide accessible and immediate support and chat-based therapy from qualified therapists to any young people who may be struggling with their mental wellbeing, completely for free.