Siblings fight. Siblings argue. Siblings call each other stupid, and shove each other around. While this may be typical kid behavior and rivalry, this is actually where bullying starts, and if you allow it in your home, they’ll take their behaviors and bully tolerance to school.
Always address negative behavior of your children toward one another as soon as you see it, and you’ll have a head start on battling bullying at school when you’re not around to monitor it. If your kids are spitting at each other, immediately stop the behavior by letting them know what they’re doing exactly and why it’s not OK. Say, “I don’t enjoy you two disrespecting each other, and it is not nice. How would you like it if someone at school, church, daycare, etc spit on you? You wouldn’t like it, would you?” Allowing your children to realize right away that disrespecting one another in their own home is not acceptable lessens the chance they will do this to others away from you, or allow themselves to be treated the same way at social events.
Tell your children that if someone pinches them, calls them a name, makes fun of them, or pushes them that they should say, “Stop. I don’t like that.” and tell them that if the person continues to bother them they should draw the attention of an authority figure. Have your children directly address bullying first, with their own siblings or friends, before bringing you or another authority figure into the situation to teach your children to stand up for themselves.
If you see your young child bite, pinch, or pull on another child, quickly address the situation. Even a 1 year old can learn that what they are doing is wrong. Simply calmly pull them away, and say “Owie- no no.” and let them play again until they pinch or pull or bite again, and repeat the process. While this is normal exploratory behavior, your child can quickly learn it’s not OK to be rough.
When you address your children, don’t yell or corner them. If you see two kids fighting, address them both. A common tactic is, “Does it make you feel good to make him/her cry? It doesn’t make me feel good.” When your kids realize that they have disappointed you, it makes them feel guilty for what they’ve done, and realize that their behavior is unacceptable.
Allow your kids to squabble- to a point. Kids learn from their siblings and friends how to settle disagreements and annoyance, so you need to let them attempt to work it out. Interfere when you hear name-calling or witness physical attacks (even poking) to keep your kids in check on what is right or what is wrong.
If your child complains of bullying in school, listen. It may just be an annoying heckler, but it bothers your child. Tell them to politely tell the person to stop, that it isn’t nice and hurts their feelings, and if the problem continues to go to a teacher or aide or principal to get the issue to stop. If you teach your child how to handle bullying at home with their siblings, they have a knowledge on how to stop bullying with children at school and other activities.
Parents all the time let their kids fight with each other and only interfere when someone is crying. If you allow bullying at home, it’s no wonder kids go to school and bully there. Teach your children respect for themselves and others at every opportunity and you’ll teach them empathy and compassion for others away from the home, and they’ll be better able to handle bullying when they are away from you because they know what bullying is already and that it is not allowed.