How to prevent sibling abuse and bullying
“The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.” – Edmund Burke
Is one of your children abusing the other? Do they seem to fight constantly? Is one of your children always the loser? Then it’s about time you intervene and prevent this damaging behavior from continuing.
Most parents tend to overlook or deny unpleasant and cruel behavior in their children. However, if you suspect that there may be some form of abuse or bullying going on among your children, you need to put a stop to it immediately.
You need to intervene in an authoritative yet sensible manner so that there is enough opportunity for the siblings to resolve their conflicts by themselves with a little help from you. But make sure you do not take a clear side as it may lead to more aggressive sibling behavior as they start fighting over parents’ love.
Here are a few effective ways you can intervene and prevent sibling bullying from the very beginning:
- Separate your children every time there is any aggression or violence between them.
- Do not become the judge or umpire in their fight.
- Allow them enough time and space to cool down.
- Gather a family meeting and ask each child about what happened.
- Let them speak their version of the truth without interrupting or judging them.
- Point out the facts about what actually happened and tell them what you understand.
- Encourage them to find a solution to the problem.
- Offer them multiple solutions and tell them how they can reach a satisfying goal.
- Talk with all children and select the most acceptable solution for everyone.
- Help them set a goal regarding conflict resolution the next time a fight occurs. For instance, they will take time off and cool down whenever arguing.
- Ensure that you don’t play favorites or blame, ignore and punish the victimized child.
- Tell them the consequences of fighting and not reaching a solution, like doing chores and other tasks. Make sure both children are disciplined, if you have to. Again don’t pick a favorite.
- Set some ground rules like no name-calling, teasing or hitting or destroying each others’ toys.
- Tell them it’s okay to be angry but there’s a right way of expressing it.
- Be vigilant and check on your children frequently. Ask them to call you anytime a problem occurs in the future.
- If the issues persist or if their behavior becomes extremely violent, seek professional help.
Here are some other things you need to keep in mind if you wish to reduce rivalries between your children and prevent abuse:
- Don’t make your older children overly responsible for your younger ones. It’s your responsibility to take care of all your children, not theirs.
- Make some time every day to talk with your kids on a one-to-one basis.
- Learn how and when to intervene and mediate issues & conflicts.
- Learn to manage your own anger and how you react to triggers.
- Practice healthy and good behavior in your household, especially with your spouse. Your children learn from you and how you conduct yourself.
- Practice non-violence and effective conflict-solving in your family.
- Teach your children to stand up for themselves and protest unwanted physical contact.
- Observe what media your children watch. Talk to them about the messages the media deliver. If necessary, ban poor media choices.
- Be invested and actively involved in their lives.
Build an abuse-free, safe home for everyone
“Sisters and brothers are the truest, purest forms of love, family, and friendship, knowing when to hold you and when to challenge you, but always being a part of you.” – Carol Ann Albright Eastman
Sibling rivalry and envy are natural. But when you create a loving environment in your home where every member feels valued, appreciated, and safe, this rivalry will never amount to abuse or bullying. The key is equal treatment for all your children.
Set boundaries and limits to cope with sibling bullying and intervene when the fights become ugly and rude. Teach your children to treat all siblings with love and respect. When you treat every member with love and respect, when every child feels nurtured, the inherent bond between siblings will only become stronger and better.