How can you be absolutely sure your older child doesn’t bully the younger one?

Never in a million years did my parents ever suspect that their oldest child bullied his two younger brothers whenever they put him in charge when they left the house.

The younger boys (eleven months apart in age) were too afraid to report it to my parents because the older boy (by about four and a half years) threatened to beat them up if they did.

Parents often miss the clues when a child bullies a younger sibling, but in general, the worse the bullying, the stronger the clues.

Some signs are more obvious than others, and parents need to look for the clues, rather than blindly assume nothing is wrong.

Warning Signs Your Child Bullies Your Younger Child

One sign is that “Your younger child is fearful of your older child or more distant than they had been in the past,” says Stacy Kaiser, a southern California-based licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert with a special interest in the topic of bullying.

Kaiser continues, “You are seeing your younger child engaging in bullying behavior towards their peers or children younger than them.”

Ask yourself where your child could have learned this behavior. Who might be modeling it for them? Sometimes it’s at least one of the parents, but sometimes, more than any other person, the bullying older sibling is the No. 1 influence.

Kaiser also points out that if the younger child’s behavior has changed around the family, that this could be a sign that an older sibling is being a bully.

Is the younger one more withdrawn and isolated than usual? Are they more angry and aggressive?

The victim of the bullying by the older sibling may also be quite young—too young to verbalize what’s going on.

They “might suddenly become physically aggressive and hostile towards their bullying sibling because they do not know how else to communicate that they are being bullied,” explains Kaiser.

In addition, a sign to be suspicious of is when you’re out of the room or out of earshot of your kids, and, says Kaiser, “You return to find your younger child very upset and your older child is behaving as if nothing has happened.”

Finally, if you’re wondering if there’s any bullying going on amongst your children, ask yourself if you yourself could possibly be modeling this kind of behavior.

What kind of behavior do your kids witness you exhibit when, for instance, you’re not hearing what you want to hear from customer service at your favorite store?

How do you respond to solicitors at your doorstep or a neighbor whose dog keeps barking?

And how do you respond to your children when they goof something up or start getting a bit annoying?

With over 100 TV appearances on major networks including CNN, NBC, CBS and ABC, Stacy Kaiser brings a unique mix of provocative insight to many topics such as anger management, office relationship issues and parenting.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/ fizkes