How to Deal with a Difficult Sibling and Sibling Bullying
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How to Deal with a Difficult Sibling and Sibling Bullying

Steps to take to prevent or stop bullying when the person bullying or abusing you is a sibling or family member. There are ways to stop bullying and things you can do when a sibling or family member is harming you emotionally or physically. No one should allow themselves to be abused. There is always an answer.

How to Deal with a Difficult Sibling and Sibling Bullying

Dealing with meanness or bullying is difficult enough, but when the person you’re dealing with is a sibling who lives with you, it can seem almost impossible. It is only natural for siblings to have disagreements and grow irritated with one another every once in a while. In fact, problems between siblings are so common that most parents have a hard time recognizing the difference between an ordinary sibling fight and actual bullying.  Often, the bullied sibling has difficulty making his or her parents understand the seriousness of the problem. Fortunately, there are ways to resolve even the most hopeless seeming situations.

Step 1:  Try to Find the Reason for the Negative Behavior

It may seem unfair to suggest altering your behavior when your sibling is the one causing problems. Unfortunately, life isn’t always as fair as we would like it to be. Sometimes, in order to change the behavior of others, we must first change our own behavior.  To deal with your difficult sibling, start by trying to understand why they lash out you.

Start paying attention to where you are and what you’re doing when your sister or brother lashes out at you.  This can often tell you why your sibling is acting a specific way and help you to avoid such negative behavior.  Listen to them when they complain. If your sibling complains about you being in their space or touching their things, the situation might easily be resolved by allowing your sibling his or her personal space.  If your sibling constantly complains about a specific behavior, such as you playing games, television, or radio too loud, it might be worth lowering the volume to keep the peace.  If your sibling complains that you are taking more than your fair share of something, whether it is time on a video game, the TV schedule, or simply the last cookie, you may want to look at just how much you’re taking compared to what your sibling is getting.  While it is completely possible that the negative behavior has nothing to do with you and is simply due to your sibling’s poor attitude, you should always look to yourself first.  This way, if you have to bring your parents into the issue, you will have clearly defined that the problem is not your own behavior. 

Step 2:  Try to Relate

Now that you have determined that your sibling’s negative behavior isn’t due to anything you’re doing, try asking your sibling what the problem is.  Try to avoid anything that sounds too much like an accusation.  Saying, “why have you been so grouchy lately,” will just put your sibling on the defensive and make the problem worse.  Instead try saying, “lately it’s seemed like something’s bothering you.  Would you like to talk about it?”  While it may not lead to an immediate heart-to-heart conversation, it is a step in the right direction. It shows that you care about your sibling despite his or her behavior and are willing to offer to help or even just listen.  If your sibling respond but nothing is wrong, try to ask in the least accusatory way possible, why they have been treating you the way they have.  Don’t use general terms like “being mean” or “acting bitchy.”  These will only put more space and negativity between you.  Instead, use specific examples.  “Why did you push me down yesterday,” is a good example.  Be as specific as you can and try not to get angry.  You are giving your sibling a chance to resolve the situation in a positive way.  It may not work, but you should always give it a try.  If your sibling responds, listen to what they have to say.  If they have a valid complaint, see if you can find a compromise to make things better for both of you.  If they are upset because of something you did, apologize and try to resolve the situation.

Step 3:  Record any Incidents of Abuse

If the situation is a simple misunderstanding, steps one and two should resolve it. However, there is the possibility that this is not a simple misunderstanding but actual sibling abuse. If your sibling is lashing out or abusing you with no reason or excuse, you will have to deal with the situation in a completely different way.  Start quietly keeping track of each incident of abuse. If your sibling does any of the actions listed below, write them down.  If they are serious acts, tell a parent or trusted adult immediately.  Just don’t run to an adult with every ugly word your sibling says.  If you go to your parents with every little thing, they may not see how serious the situation actually is and could get mad at you for making something out of what they see as nothing.  If possible, record these events in a way that can’t be found or destroyed by your sibling.  Either write them on a sheet of paper you keep hidden or type them up on the home computer and save them on a flash drive you keep hidden.  For even more convincing proof, you can always text the event to your sibling in the form of a question, then save the response.  Nothing is more concrete and difficult to deny than a text from you saying “why did you hit me” and a response from your sibling saying “because I felt like it.”

Common Forms of Sibling Abuse:


Frequent complaining

Name calling

Destruction of small items (toys, papers, book covers)

Single incidents of pinching or pushing

Insulting you to others

Taking your clothing or personal property without permission

Serious Forms of Sibling Abuse*:

Hitting or slapping

Hair pulling

Non painful injury (cutting hair, shaving eyebrows, marking on skin with permanent markers)

Actual Injury (cutting, scraping, scratching, biting, or anything that leaves a painful mark)

Hitting you with objects

Destruction of property (cds, whole books, games, computers, phones, or anything they know you place great value in)

Injury to pets (never let an animal suffer at the hands of someone you know)

Touching in an inappropriate place (sexual assault should ALWAYS be reported to an adult immediately)

*These are serious forms of abuse and need to be immediately reported to a parent or adult.  If your sibling is doing any of these things, immediately find an adult you trust and tell them what is going on.

Step 4:  Avoid Abuse Triggers

While you are recording each minor incident of abuse or negative behavior by your sibling, do what you can to avoid abuse triggers.  If your sibling lashes out at you only when you are alone, avoid spending time together away from other people.  If your sibling mistreats you every time you have a conversation, avoid interacting with them. Do everything you can to stay out of your siblings way until the situation can be resolved. Keep writing down the things that happen.  When you feel you have enough examples of minor abuse to show that this is really a serious situation or when your sibling commits any of the acts listed as serious abuse, take the list to your parents or guardian.

Step 5:  Call in an Adult

When a sibling is bullying another, it often calls for parental interference. If your parents are understanding enough to talk to in the very beginning, don’t hesitate to go to them as soon as you realize something is wrong. Unfortunately, many parents have difficulty believing that their child could be a bully. However, with the proper amount of planning and forethought, any parent can be shown the truth. Keep evidence of all abuse whether big or small and show it to your parents when you bring up the issue. Explain that you have tried to talk to your sibling and that you have done what you can to avoid this abuse. Tell them you need them to step in. If they absolutely refuse to help and the abuse continues, you may want to try and find a way out of the situation. If you can stay with another parent or relative it may be a better situation for you. If it comes to the point that your parents refuse to help and you are afraid the abuse will get serious, talk to your school counselor about the situation. There are always options for getting out of your situation. Even if it seems difficult or scary, you owe it to yourself to make sure you are treated fairly. No one deserves to be bullied or abused, especially by their own family. 

The National Childrens Alliance:

Stop Bullying:

Additional resources:

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Comments (1)

Very well written article that gives a great deal of information.