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How to deal with a bully who is also your sibling

Bully sibling

Unfortunately, bullying is a reality of our times. It is taken so much for granted that children accept it as a sorry aspect of the world and learn to deal with it, or at least bear it. Bullying among siblings can be worst because you are staying under the same roof. You are easily accessible to the bully and your parents cannot deal with him or her as harshly as they would someone from outside of family. Even contemporary movies never show a normal, loving, healthy relationship between siblings. The eldest sibling is always shown to be performing obnoxious tricks upon the younger sibling, including intimidation, physical abuse and breaking of toys. Such movies and stories constantly seem to be saying, well, buddy, this is the reality, so deal with it.

Not getting along or peripheral sibling rivalry is normal among families. It crosses the limit when it begins to affect negatively, both physically as well as mentally, the kid being targeted. The problem is aggravated when parents don’t take this matter seriously and conveniently assume that the child being targeted will be able to handle the situation sooner or later.

This article in the New York Times refers to a study that says the scars and psychological wounds left by sibling bullies can be as devastating as those left by a bullet wound.

While normal rivalries with siblings can encourage healthy competition, the line between healthy relations and abuse is crossed when one child is consistently the victim of another and the aggression is intended to cause harm and humiliation, said John V. Caffaro, a clinical psychologist and the author of “Sibling Abuse Trauma.” Parents who fail to intervene, play favorites or give their children labels that sow divisions — like “the smart one” and “the athlete” — can inadvertently encourage conflict.

Nationwide, sibling violence is by far the most common form of family violence, occurring four to five times as frequently as spousal or parental child abuse, Dr. Caffaro said. According to some studies, nearly half of all children have been punched, kicked or bitten by a sibling, and roughly 15 percent have been repeatedly attacked. But even the most severe incidents are underreported because families are loath to acknowledge them, dismissing slaps and punches as horseplay and bullying as boys just being boys, he said.

Although the study gives meaningful numbers, it doesn’t throw any light on how to deal with a bully who is also your sibling. Here are a few things you can do:

Accept that bullying is not normal

Just because your sibling is older than you, stronger than you, doesn’t mean that he or she is entitled to bullying you. It is an evil act. It is not acceptable, it is not natural. If your sibling bullies you, something is wrong with him or her, not you. Even if you are weak, introvert and nonaggressive, it doesn’t mean that you should be subjected to such behavior. Whether you have been bullied for years or it has just started, protest vociferously.

Share your problem with your parents, seriously

For parents all kids are the same, so initially it will be difficult for them to realize and acknowledge that one of them is indulging in a villainous activity. They may immediately go on the defensive. Instead of feeling upset, expect such behavior from them. So you will need to be persistent and you will have to drive the point across in a clear language. Tell them that the bullying has become a serious issue and if they don’t take any action, you are going to talk to your teacher or someone else outside of the family.

Try to strike up a good relationship with your bully sibling

Does your sibling bully you just because he or she is nasty, or does he or she resent you for something? Is it that your parents give you more attention than your brother or sister? Are you the star of the family while the other sibling gets constantly ignored? Are you, unconsciously, nagging your sibling? Talk to him on her. Let it be known to him or her how troubled you are by this behavior. Tell that you are deeply hurt. Also convey how much his or her behavior matters as a brother or a sister. Let it be known that as the eldest sibling, he or she should be protecting you rather than hurting you. Sometimes a simple talk can change feelings.

Grow mentally and physically stronger

This may sound like a Chuck Norris sort of advice, but this may really help if nothing else works. Grow stronger so that you can beat up your bully sibling. Most of the bullies are timid people; the moment they are threatened, they retreat or stop their objectionable activity. This must be the last resort.

Here is some good advice on The Telegraph on how to deal with a bully brother.

By the end of the day, the ineluctable reality is there is no escape from a sibling who lives under the same roof. You will have to learn to deal with him either by tact or by force.