Find out what you should do and NOT do if one of your kids is bullying another one of your kids.


Is one of your children being a bully to a younger sibling? You have every right to be distressed over this, but be very careful how you respond, because the last thing you want to do is model the very behavior you don’t want your children to commit: bullying.

Bullying among kids has been in the news very prominently since the Columbine shootings. The focus on whom the victims of bullying are tends to be very concentrated among classmates of the perpetrator.

However, what about when one sibling bullies another?

This brings to mind a few things: 1) A child (grade school to teenage) who gets bullied by an older sibling will be more vulnerable to harassment from classmates, and 2) the bully at school may be a victim of sibling bullying at home!

In other words, being harassed in one environment can carry over to another, while many trouble makers are also victims of bullies (

Are you the type of parent whose first reaction, upon learning one of your kids is bullying a younger sibling, is to scold or threaten the older child?

This is no time to let emotions preside over rationale, according to Janet Lehman, MSW, co-creator of The Total Transformation Program; social worker who’s been a case manager, therapist and program director for 25+ years in traditional residential care and group homes for troubled children.

Lehman says that it’s the parents’ responsibility to provide a safe, stable home environment for their kids; there is no excuse for abuse, ever, and bullying is a form of abuse.

Lehman explains, “Scolding is not the best remedy; humiliating a child only escalates the behavior.”

I had a buddy in junior high school who had a habit of pushing around her younger brother; I don’t mean physically, but she’d ridicule him.

I warned her that one day the boy would be bigger and stronger than her, but she just shrugged that off.

However, her mother screamed at her one day after the boy complained, to the extent that my friend was in tears. Even at a young age, I knew this wasn’t right.

“The best approach is to clearly identify the behavior: Label it, communicate that it is unacceptable and attach a clear consequence for the rule breaking,” says Lehman.

Parents must ask themselves, “How can I instill in my child some kindness and empathy if I react like a bully MYSELF when I catch them pushing around a younger sibling?”

Dr. Lehman explains that if the bullying behavior continues, the penalty for it should escalate “until it is abundantly clear that the home is a bully free zone. If more parents recognized these behaviors at home, there would be fewer problems in academic settings.”

There’s an old saying that has a lot of truth to it: Kids don’t listen to their parents; they imitate them.

Janet Lehman, with her husband James, developed the foundational parenting programs offered by
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.