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Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Guest blogger: Bullying and Siblings

May 16, 2011

by Suzanna Narducci

Suzanna Narducci is an avid tweeter, blogger and co-founder of She’s always been fascinated by the evolution of an idea into a successful business. After an interesting but intense run in the fashion business, Suzanna decided to switch gears and become a mother. As Suzanna’s children grew, she realized that a reliable and consolidated resource for parents of pre-teens was missing in the marketplace. Suzanna shared her idea with her friend and now business partner, Judy King-Murray, and was born. We’re so glad that it was!

Give it back you little @#$%!

At some point in their lives, most kids experience bullying of some type – whether it is in school, in the neighborhood, online or another social situation. The truth is most kids will not only be bullied, but will also harass other kids. For parents, the challenge is how to help their children develop the social skills they need to positively assert themselves in negative situations.

Fortunately, what children learn at home is transferable to their outside interactions. In a study published by the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, Dr. Ersilia Menesini and her colleagues at the Universita’ degi Studi di Firenze found that there was a direct correlation between sibling bullying and victimization and bullying and victimization at school. In short, the roles kids play out at home are likely to be reenacted with peers. According to the study, the children in families with high levels of conflict and low levels of empathy were at greatest risk. In light of these results, Dr. Menesini recommends that parents actively mediate when their kids start arguing.

Of course, it is normal for brothers and sisters to argue. However, parents can help their children learn to move forward in conflicts in a way that is not hurtful by actively teaching them skills to gain empathy while positively asserting their feelings. Here are some suggestions to help parents teach their tweens how to resolve arguments in a positive way.


  • Listen and Reflect. Expect your kids to listen to each other’s point of view. Teach them to repeat back what they’ve heard from each other and explain why they think that their siblings feel the way that they do. They don’t have to agree, just understand.
  • Avoid the Blame Game. Talk about how each person contributed to the situation, rather than placing blame. Start sentences with “I felt” rather than “you did,” to dissipate defensiveness.
  • House Rules. Name calling, belittling, undermining and teasing by anyone in the family is not only hurtful, but also damaging to a child’s self-esteem. Kids begin to believe that negative comments that are consistently repeated about them – even in jest or teasing — are true.
  • Keep Perspective. Developing a healthy relationship between siblings takes time. The end goal is to help your kids learn both how to constructively express their feelings and develop a better understanding of their siblings’ feelings. This won’t happen overnight, but by feeling that their needs are also being considered to resolve conflict, they will gain confidence and, hopefully, experience less aggression.

If all goes well, your kids will not only develop the skills they need to help them in their social lives at home and beyond, but will also recognize that this type of interaction is healthy and normal will help them have emotionally fulfilling and trusting relationships as adults.


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