3 signs your child is a bully

 In Parenting, Parenting Teens, Stronger Relationships Trial

If you have children who have siblings, then you have sibling rivalry. Brothers and sisters bicker about everything, from who is on “my side” of the seat, to whether or not their sibling is breathing “my air.” But sometimes, children’s behaviour can go too far and strays from bickering and competition to the point that it becomes bullying. For most parents, we respond to sibling rivalry with a “live and let live” attitude – we think it’s a good way for kids to learn how to deal with people. But a recent study  has shown that one third of children and teenagers have been affected by sibling aggression and bullying in the past 12 months. So how can we tell when healthy and normal competition turns into bullying and aggression? Here are three signs to watch out for:

  1. One Way Street. If the behaviour is all one way, this can be indicative of a bullying issue – for example, if one child is consistently hurting, manipulating, stealing from, excluding, teasing or threatening another, particularly if the other child isn’t provoking or engaging with teasing of their own.
  2. Motivation? Generally, if children’s fighting stems from self-interest, such as fighting over toys, more likely than not this is purely sibling rivalry and normal bickering. However, if the motivation seems to be simply to hurt or humiliate, it’s time to step in.
  3. Age and development. At certain ages, it’s developmentally appropriate for children to display immature behaviour when dealing with problems, and it’s our job as parents to teach them how to address those problems appropriately. A 2-year-old child may not understand that stealing or hitting is wrong, but a 9 year old should know better. In that case, you may have a bullying situation on your hands.

Ultimately we have to work with our children in effective ways if we want to address their behaviour. That may mean we need to lead by example, spend time with them to fulfil their needs, or we may need to teach them empathy, by asking them to consider how it feels for the other person. For more information on how these strategies work to deal with sibling rivalry, check out our Making Happy Families Course.

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