You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

Why keeping the peace at home may be even more important….

christmas pic 2011

New study on sibling bullying…something all parents of more than one child need to think about!  When is rivalry really bullying?

Last night after dinner my two kids that are home for the summer were helping clean up the kitchen.  Even at their “mature” age there was just a few jabs thrown about who was working harder. As a whole, our 4 kids get along very well.  There have been times, of course, when the mere looking at each other resulted in an argument.  Siblings have those moments….simply because anyone who lives together and loves each other sometimes will get on each other’s nerves!  Simple sibling rivalry or bickering really is not anything to worry about, but a recent study published this last week should make all of us parents stop for a moment and think about just what should be tolerated when siblings fight.  New research published  this last week shows that we parents just might need to get involved when that sibling rivalry actually is sibling bullying.  Research shows that bullying at home from siblings can have a true lasting effect on a child’s mental health.

What is bullying and what is typical sibling rivalry?  The study looked at 3,500 children and teens.  The children were asked about “physical assault with and without a weapon or injury, stealing something from a child with or without force, or breaking siblings’ things on purpose, and saying things to make a child feel bad or scared or not wanted around.”

Children and teens who reported that they had been bullied by a sibling in the last year had significantly worse mental health scores on standardized scales.  These children were more likely to exhibit depression, anxiety, and anger.

So what does a parent do?  I think there is a difference between normal sibling scuffles and a child who is bullied by a sibling.

  • Repeated name calling, physical hitting, shoving, threats, or any type behavior that a parent would not tolerate from a friend should never be tolerated from a sibling.
  • Have a no tolerance rule in your home for hitting, shoving, and name calling. Be proactive in teaching respect and the value of kindness to each other.
  • Teach your children how to handle conflict, negotiate, walk away, and ask for help when feeling threatened or bullied.  This holds true in your home and outside your home!
  • Have a plan to deal with the sibling arguments that cross the line in your home, which may include separation, apologies, and a little extra hug between the culprits.  Sometimes that can even result in a little fun and silliness.  I often made our children sit across from each other and look at each other quietly.  This resulted in ugly stares, but usually ended up in giggles.

I have posted before about sibling relationships and what parents can do to help each child as he or she defines who they are and competes for attention in the family.  Review how you can make each child feel important and not concentrate on treating everyone “the same” but giving each child what he or she needs at that moment.

The fact is, sibling arguments will happen, but we should never allow those arguments to become a pattern of bullying in our homes.  This study may result in parents looking a little closer at the atmosphere between brothers and sisters in their home.  Helping children keep the peace and develop good sibling relationships may be more important that we previously thought.  Sibling squabbles are common but  bullying should not be accepted in or outside of our homes…..ever.

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


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