Time and time again I hear about yet another broken down adult sibling relationship. The story goes something like this -one of the sibling’s is a serial bully, who continues to verbally, and psychologically abuse the other sibling. The bullied siblings doesn’t, and has never felt supported by their parents’ in relation to the bullying problem. Some adult siblings’ ride it out, and put up with the snide comments, goading, bullying, disparaging remarks, and bouts of rage from their troubled sibling, to keep the family in tact; while others just jump ship, and forgo the relationship because of the obvious power imbalance.
Endings vary. Adult bullied siblings’ often go out with a bang, and finally give in to what has been years of abuse, with a huge emotional reaction. Some siblings’ will assertively tell their sibling that they won’t be bullied anymore – while others simply emotionally and physically distance themselves without really saying anything. All in all, the cord has been cut, a line has been drawn in the sand, and the less troubled sibling has thrown in the towel. Enough is enough.
Either way, the ending of the sisterhood, brotherhood, or sister and brotherhood can be devastating. Sibling to sibling psychological abuse is not limited to gender, and is far more prevalent than what we realise.
So, why did it come to this?
What do adult children with a bullying sibling say?
Adult children with a bully for a sibling often claim that their parents’ were not present people acting with their best interests at heart. They instead were lazy in their parenting, and allowed one child to get away with murder.
Bullied siblings’ with a narcissistic parent often claim that the parent or parents’ of their fully fledged bullying golden child adult sibling, were in denial about the red flags, and are still in denial about the problem well into adulthood. In this child’s eyes, the golden child was given a position of power over the bullied sibling, which should not have been handed over to the child. A lot of bullied children feel invalidated, and as though their voice was stolen by their parents’ and their siblings’. Bullied children are often told by uninvolved parents’ that they need to grow a tougher skin, and these parent’s constantly claim that both children are at fault for the constant conflict.
How does a personality disordered parent fuel the fire? ‘You target, are just as much to blame.’
Sometimes parents’ with serious mental health issues, who have a tendency to victim blame, will shame a bullied child by blaming them for the abuse hurled upon them by an often older, more aggressive sibling.
It becomes a case of ‘well your both fighting, so it must be both of you.’
This just makes a bullied child furious because they aren’t being listened to or validated.
This parent doesn’t want to deal with the problem, and refuses to discipline their serial bullying child. Blame and deflection onto the bullied child (who is often being constantly provoked, controlled and manipulated by a psycho bully sibling) is extremely painful to deal with for this child.
There is an obvious power imbalance between the siblings’ in these circumstances. Not only are the deeds of the bully often overlooked – but, the bullied sibling is manipulated into believing that they need to change something about themselves in order for the problem to be fixed.
Bullied siblings’ whose voices are being invalidated, feel as though they are drowning in emotion because nobody is listening to them. This child is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they don’t stand up for themselves, they are bullied more, and if they do stand up for themselves, they are told by their parent to let it go, ignore it, and that they are part of the problem because of their obvious sensitivity and retaliative behaviour.
This is victim shaming and blaming. It is never ok, and it is how monster’s are created. The bullied child is being told by their parent in a round about way that they are responsible for their own pain, and that their pain is not important to them.
A highly reactive child is often a continually bullied child who feels powerless to help themselves. In this family system, the reaction to the bullying is seen by the parent as just as much of a failure on the part of the victim, instead of a normal reaction to what is could sometimes be described as psychopathic abuse.
What happens when a parent doesn’t intervene? Talking to a brick wall – oh the toxicity
A lack of parental intervention creates a toxic situation between the bullied child, and the bully.
The bullied child comes to accept that their mental health, and physical well-being does not matter to the parent. Well into adult- hood bullied siblings often feel hurt, dismissed by the parent, and emotionally rejected. This parent does not have their back, and they know it. They haven’t been validated, and the bullied sibling often ends up hating and resenting their psycho bully sibling as a result.
The consequences of the parent’s inability
The consequences of the parent’s inability to appropriately promote healthy sibling relationships affects both children in this unhealthy dynamic. The parent refusing to hold the perpetrator accountable, can often lead to the creation of a very entitled cruel sibling, who thinks that their behaviour is ok, acceptable, and should be tolerated. If a bully for a sibling is not corrected on their vile behaviour by their parent’s, then the bully will always believe their behaviour is ok. This adult child cannot understand why other people feel alienated by them, and probably never will, unless of course they enter therapy sessions.
The bullied child feels unloved, unappreciated, and devalued on every level. This can lead to feelings of deep seated anger towards the parent and the sibling. This is where the situation becomes toxic.
A lazy approach to parenting
This is lazy parenting, and self – consumed parenting at its best. Some parents’ either don’t want to take the time to get to the bottom of the problem, or they simply can’t due to being consumed by their own problems. Mental health problems can play a big part in uninvolved parenting.
The fall out with the bullying child in return for accountability is often too much to handle for this parent. So, the invalidation of the bullied child is a much easier, less exhausting approach for the uninvolved parent.
Whats normal and whats not?
Sibling rivalry as normal: Sibling rivalry is the jealousy, competition and fighting between brothers’ and sisters’. It is a concern for almost all parents with two or more children. Sibling rivalry usually begins after the birth of the second child, and is existent right throughout childhood. It is common for brothers’ and sisters’ to fight, and it is also very common for all siblings’ to swing back and forth between either loving or completely detesting one another.
Unique personalities play a huge role in how siblings’ get along.
Abnormal sibling behaviour: It is not normal for any child to just hate their sibling, and never rotate between love, and annoyance. It is not normal when a sibling has a problem with everyone they have intimate relationships with. A parent knows they have a problem between both siblings when one child openly shows complete disdain for a more challenging sibling with different opinions from the bullying child, yet seems to like a less opinionated sibling. These issues could present a big psychological problem.
The psychological effect of sibling to sibling bullying on the targeted child
Sibling to sibling psychological abuse leaves permanent scarring. Sometimes, sibling to sibling physical and psychological abuse can be so intense, that this perceived hatred from one sibling to the next can cause life lasting damage to the bullied child or children; some of it irreparable.
Abuse not dealt with can manifest as anxiety, fear, depression, C-PTSD, and self- hatred.
The parent’s job is to delve deeper into perceived problems between siblings’, to come up with strategies to enable both children to get a long, and to intervene. Failure to do this can lead to poor self esteem in the bullied child, and a strained relationship with the parent who didn’t have their back.
Another child’s hatred of their sibling will inevitably leave everlasting affects.
Cyber- bully’s commit their atrocious acts while socialising in cyberspace through the use of popular social media applications including, but not limited to; face-book, twitter, whats app, or email. The intention of cyberbullying is to hurt, and to demean the target, as well as to diminish their self-esteem. Bullying can engage in social, psychological and even physical harm, in more extreme circumstances.
Perpetrators may write nasty emails, send cruel texts, or post videos and photographs which are unflattering to the target. Online is the perfect environment to commit these acts because gossip spreads quickly, and is difficult to delete.
Other forms of cyber -bullying include:
Cyber-bullying, like school-yard bullying can cause great emotional harm to victims; often inducing fear, shame, guilt and fear. Bullying can lead to depression, deliberate isolation of oneself, low self-esteem, and other mental health issues.
Accessibility to the internet, and the reality that young people are spending more and more time on screens, means that avoiding bullying is difficult. It is not unusual for teens to have access to, or to even own, two or more different forms of technology which can be used to access the internet.
Mobile phones and laptops make it easy for wifi to be accessed by teenagers at school, in the library, in a cafe, or even on the bus, if need be. This regular access to technology means that cyber-bullying is becoming harder and harder for adults to manage.
At what age does cyber-bullying begin?
Cyber-bullying is likely to begin late in primary school, and early in high – school. Girls are more likely to participate in cyber-bullying than boys, and it is much more common for older students with regular access to technology to participate in cyber-bullying, than it is for children entering primary school.
The primary school cyber-bully’s focus:
The primary school cyber-bully is more focused on the physical appearance of their target, while high – school cyber-bully’s are more focused on the behaviour of their peers in social settings, especially the peers who don’t fit in.
The safe schools initiative:
The safe schools initiative has specific policies which address cyber-bullying; and safe schools’ encourage children to become a part of an open, supportive and connected school culture. The national safe schools’ framework helps Australian schools develop student safety and well-being policies.
Schools can implement cyber safety lesson plans, and teachers’ can openly encourage all students’ to be active bystanders if they witness bullying.
If teachers’ have significant concerns that a student is being cyber – bullied, this should be discussed with the student, and their parent’s and carer’s. Students should be provided with options, including psychological support if needed.
What does the law say about cyber bullying?
What can happen?
What to do?
Report cyber-bullying to the social media site: The social media site will take appropriate action against anyone abusing the terms of service.
Review the terms and conditions, or rights and responsibilities sections of the social networking site: The terms and conditions describe what inappropriate content looks like and how to make a complaint.
Visit social media safety centres: Teach your teenager how to use the settings to control who can make contact with you.
Use the report button: The best way to report abusive content is to use the report button next to the content itself.
Keep evidence: If the attacks persist, you may need to report the activity to an internet service provider and they will want to see the messages.
See a councillor: Talking about the bullying with somebody outside of the problem, like a councillor, can reassure the child that this is not their fault.
Speak to the school: Look into the schools’ policies on bullying, and utilise the resources provided by the school, which are there to sort the problem out. Keep all evidence of the events taking place.
Handling a schoolyard bully is difficult, even for the self-assured, confident child. However, for the child with few friends, a lack of confidence, and a shy persona, the school yard bully is their worst nightmare.
Make no mistake- the bully is studying your child to see if there are aspects of your child’s personality which could potentially make them their next target.
Children who are over reactive, shy, lacking in confidence, or who exhibit body language exacerbating these traits are common candidates for a bully.
‘The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.’
Knowledge is power – and without it, children can easily become disempowered, and begin to feel hopeless in the face of bullying. The power children have against bullying is in the skills they are given to protect themselves from the affects of bullying.
What can your child do to avoid bullying?
What can parents’ do to help their child with bullying?
Ask your child about the children they play with: Ask your child about the dynamics in their group of friends’. Ask them who they are friends with, and who the bullies’ are. Always enquire about your child’s engagement with the bully. Remind your child to always be polite to the bully; but to steer clear of a close friendship with this person.
Remind your child:
Moving forward after being bullied is extremely difficult. It will take persistence and determination to ride through the emotional pain.
Whoever came up with the phrase ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me,’ has obviously never been bullied.
Bullying begins when the perpetrator intentionally creates a dominance bond with the victim. A cold demeanour from the bully, along with chronic harassment, will ultimately impact the victim’s self – esteem, and overall productivity. The bully’s critical view of the victim calls for the victim to reassess their value, and to question their self – worth.
For children being bullied, it often becomes a question of ‘what did I do to draw attention to myself? And what is wrong with me?’ rather than ‘What is wrong with the bully?’
The biggest breakthrough for children when having come into contact with a bully, is when they realise that the bully bullied them because the bully is a troubled child (”Healing the shame that binds you” ). Up until the bullied child comes to this conclusion, recovery can be difficult, yet not impossible.
How can children recover from the effects of bullying?
Friends, siblings, co-workers, and other children who look the other way when their friend or loved one is persistently being bullied honestly need to re-evaluate their position and stance on bullying.
Why is it so common for people to stand by and watch while a victim is being bullied, instead of calling the perpetrator out on their behaviour?
The answer: The bystander most likely does not want to become the bully’s next victim.
The people who turn a blind eye to the bully’s bad behaviour are part of the bullying epidemic. Bystanders to bullying are one of the major reasons why bullying has become such a big problem because they refuse to step in.
‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’ Edmund Burke
Bystanders may feel as though the bullying of their best friend, beloved sibling, or co-worker has nothing to do with them, and is not their problem. However, the bystander officially became a problematic dynamic in the cycle of abuse, as well as an accomplice of sorts when they made the choice not to support the target in holding the bully accountable for their behaviour.
Standing by and watching the bully abuse their target only helps the bully, not the bullied.
As human beings, we’re all in this together – and our integrity lies with the bullied, not the perpetrator.
If enough people asked the bully to stop, stood up for the bullied, and said no to the bullies unacceptable behaviour, the bully would need to stop. Their social life would depend on it.
There is nothing worse for a target of bullying than when a bystander can see that the bully is playing mind games, only for the bystander to enable the problem, rather than stand against the problem. Pretending that the bully is ok, that their behaviour is ok, and that the bystander is not at all phased by how the bully treats other people enables the bully, contributes to the abuse of the target, and perpetuates the problem.
The choice made by the bystander to look out for themselves instead of the bullied helps the oppressor, not the oppressed. In these situations it becomes a case of the ’emperors new clothes.’ Everybody can see it, but refuses to bring to the surface the bully’s behaviour.
Some bystanders are simply too scared to speak up. Its not deliberate on their part. They most likely do have a lot of empathy for the bullied – however, they may just feel disempowered.
A lot of bystanders simply do not feel as though they should need to make a choice in regard to the bully or the bullied – and would like to remain neutral between bully and victim; even when they know that the bully’s behaviour is potentially destroying the victim’s mental health.
However, there are also bystanders who simply just don’t care about the impact the bully is having on the victim. Neither scenario is ok.
We need to stand together against bullying.
Bullying is a severe form of mental abuse that ruptures confidence, traumatises some people for life, ruins the childhoods of many, can cause severe mental health disorders such as PTSD, and in the worst case scenario bullying can end in the suicide of the target.
Both of you? Or just the bully?
Have you ever had a misinformed, or lazy parent (who won’t put your bullying sibling in their place) tell you after you’ve protested about the bully’s behaviour that it is apparently ‘both of you?’ This is one of the biggest cop-outs I’ve ever heard, and the words of an abuse apologist.
Does it really take two to tango?
The one phrase I cannot stand is ‘it takes two to tango.’ From what I’ve seen, a professional bully can tango on their own.
So, let me get this straight. Is the target supposed to stand there and let a bully treat them badly without standing up for themselves? If they retaliate because the bully won’t stop berating them, are they both doing the tango? Or, did the bully just drag them onto the dance floor? Isn’t asking someone to stop bullying them, or trying to discuss the problem a human right?
When are people going to stop blaming both people, and start questioning the bully’s obsession with the tango?
If a bully is consistently consistent in goading their target until they snap, are both people fighting? Or, are they both doing the tango? (which, by the way is a dance about love, not hate) Or, is the bully verging on psychopathy, and in desperate need of help?
Can you both stop fighting?
Can we please start checking in on what is really going on between our own children, and the kids in the schoolyard? A bully at heart will push and push until a child snaps. This is not two children fighting. This is one difficult child doing whatever it takes to get a response from another child.
Children are human too! One child can only take so much.
Can we all please stop excusing and condoning bullying behaviour?Our children are in desperate need of our help to stop the enabling of the bullying epidemic.
The school yard bully is a mean, self – centred, insecure control freak who enjoys the thrill gained from bullying, intimidating, and having power over other children. They don’t just target the different child, the nerdy child, or the less confident child. Another common target is the child the bully is jealous of.
Less capable people bully, it is just how it goes…..
Simply put, the school yard bully is insecure, and has low self-esteem.
Who becomes targeted?
Anyone can fit the description of a perfect target. However, target’s are usually selected due to a particular vulnerability. The bully is on the hunt for vulnerable children lacking in sound emotional skills, confidence and assertiveness – children who are very quiet, and children or teenagers who identify as gay or lesbian.
Popular children aren’t safe from bullying either. If the bully becomes jealous of this child, watch out!
Factors which eliminate someone from the bullies list:
Why do they do it?
plain and simple! Bullies don’t like themselves. Why else would they do it? Happy people don’t go around bullying other people, or trying to control them. They don’t need to. They have a deep sense of security, and a place in the world. Children who feel loved have more friends than enemies.
The bully is one angry, unhappy person, who wants to drop their inner shame all over some one else. These children are seething. They can’t contain the pain anymore, so they go and dump it all over some other kid. What goes in must come out!
‘How dare you be a happy! I’ll show you…..’
The power of the bully
For the bully, bullying is a sick, twisted, sadistic game of power and control. A game where they choose the rules, and the target endures.
‘I don’t like you, and you can’t do anything about it! Ha ha ha!’
What an unequal distribution of power this is, and sadism at it’s best. They’ve distributed all the power, and the target has none.
A bully is a puppeteer pulling all the strings, often turning other children against the target, making up lies to discredit them, and doing everything they can to make the target feel as incompetent and inferior as they feel.
Bullies withhold from their target what every child wants; love, attention, and the bullies approval. For the victim, its like being in a torture chamber!
Targets will do almost anything to make them stop! They may try to appease the bully, seek their approval, do lovely things for the bully. Yet, nothing works! Alternatively, the bully gleefully refuses to back down, and will most likely bully the target for years to come.
School playgrounds are like miniature war zones where nasty words are like tiny grenades being hurled left right and centre, in hope of piercing the soul.
Childhood bullies may never know how unlovable, and how defected they have made their target feel. Ultimately these children will most likely never know the nightmares had, the tears shed, and the anxiety experienced in fear of this perpetrator.
‘One thing I know to be true is that this is not about you! Its all about the bully!’
Bullies want their targets to think the issue had with them is in fact about them! Ultimately, the bully wants their target to feel inadequate, insignificant, unimportant and defected, because this is how they feel.
This is the only way a bully knows how to release their pain and suffering.
One thing every bully should know, is that they do not know who they are bullying! Full stop…..
Nice clothes, good grades, and a smiley face does not mean someone has a good life, and is free from emotional pain. Some nasty little person could be bullying the most mentally and physically abused person in the classroom, and may never know it.
For all they know, the victim has already been rejected a zillion times over, and may never get up again once this bully is done with them.
Kids are mean, its plain and simple. They say nasty things, don’t think before they speak, and generally, they lack understanding.
A child who bullies is quite simply unaware of the impact their behaviour is having on their target.
What the bullied must understand is that the bully is in pain. Somebody is bullying them (and its most likely a parent). Evidence suggests that bullies are really quite broken, and may end up abusing drugs and alcohol.
Most likely, the school yard bully is dying inside, comes from the school of hard knocks, and can’t fathom that anyone would be stupid enough to take them seriously. For them, the concept that their existence matters enough for their words, thoughts and opinions to actually affect another person, is hard to comprehend.
Not all children who bully others continue the behaviour into adulthood. A lot of adults deeply regret having ever bullied any of their peers that they once went to school with.
Yet, never the less, the cycle of passing the buck, or passing the pain, hurt, and suffering onwards, continues. What goes in must come out!