Sibling Rivalry - When Is It Bullying?

Those of us who are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have siblings all have at least one story to tell of the scrapes, feuds, fall outs or plain fist fights we had as children. This is normal and very much a part of growing up



One of the first lessons we learn is how to share with our brothers and sisters or peer group, not just toys but territory.

It's a tough old dog eat dog world right from the off. You have to fight your corner and hopefully you learn to do so verbally, diplomatically and by using problem solving tactics instilled by your parents.

Ha ha! That's the plan anyway!

Spotting the signs of bullying early

But what happens when healthy sibling rivalry takes a serious turn and becomes bullying? How do you spot it and when do you step in?

I know a horrifying story from a friend whose brother subjected him to years of torment; not just in childhood but well into adulthood. To some extent it continues today, despite them both being in their mid-sixties.

In this case it was pure jealousy, control and manipulation from his older brother, who simply could not bear the fact that his younger sibling was better looking, kind, generous and talented. His method of dealing with this was to take from his brother whatever he had, regardless of whether he really wanted it but just to prove he could - toys, personal belongings as a child, girlfriends, and business opportunities as an adult.

Part of the problem was poor intervention by their parents. Because of the older child's ability to manipulate his parents and other siblings, he was allowed to continue on his path thus allowing the problem to spill over into their adult lives.

Enforce rules and don't play favourites

So it seems the golden rule is to spot the signs of bullying early.

Most parents will also agree that you should never show favouritism and try not to judge your children too harshly. Make sure you listen to each side of the argument before making your decision, even if one child does always seem to be causing trouble. Pointing this out too often will only serve to make the child more resentful, leading to more aggression and frustration.

Negotiation and compromise

Speaking from my own experience, making everything equal is pretty unrealistic in a family... and all families are different.

My son has dyspraxia so there is an inevitable amount of extra attention paid to him at times. He can be difficult and challenging in a way that is harder to navigate around. I'm always mindful of this and try to explain to my daughter the reasons why he does this or that in the hope that it will give her a better understanding of both his needs and how to resolve an argument through discussion and compromise. It seems to be working so far.

Ultimately, you can only do your best and keep your fingers crossed that your best is good enough!

Jayne, Working Mum and Freelance Editor

For more information read: Our Favourite Ways to Deal With Bullying

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