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No More "Boys Will Be Boys": Is It Sibling Fighting or Bullying?

Posted by Guest Blogger

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest blog post comes from Adrian at Adrian’s Crazy Life, where she blogs about parenting, decluttering, finances and is “always going 90 miles with her hair on fire, and loving every minute of it.” Adrian has three sons, ages 30, 22 and 13.

Raising three boys can be exhausting, particularly when your kids are always arguing, fighting, and seem to be intent on just driving each other crazy.  It’s hard on the parents, it’s hard on the furniture, and it’s definitely hard on the kids, too.

People have always said things like “boys will be boys” or “let kids just be kids” as an excuse for kids who play rough or are constantly mean and hurtful to each other. But I really question that thinking.  If we let them, our kids might still be pooping their pants and eating food off the floor too, but as parents, it’s our job to teach them better habits.

Related: 5 ways to teach your kids to get along.

How is it any different for a child to reach over and whack his little brother or sister than it would be to do the same action to some random kid on a playground? As the parent of a bullied child, I am very sensitive to anything that looks like bullying, and to me, a lot of the “typical” sibling rivalry looks just like bullying. Obviously, young children who spend all day, every day together aren’t going to get along perfectly, but where is that line between normal bickering and inter-family bullying? In a way, I think it’s almost worse for kids to be mean to their siblings — after all, there’s nowhere to go to get away from a brother or sister who picks on you. They have to live right alongside them every day.

I always think of that older brother from The Wonder Years TV show who was so mean to his younger brother Kevin. He was always horrible to him both physically and emotionally. What a nightmare it would be so have to someone like that living in your home! And the parents were completely oblivious. I never once heard them tell that kid to knock it off.  The sad thing is that it is usually an older child tormenting a younger one.  This creates a permanent imbalance of power, because the younger child is almost always going to be smaller and weaker.  This has to produce a terrible feeling of powerlessness in kids. Even if a child asks a parent to intervene, they are frequently considered a tattletale, so it really can feel like a no-win situation.

Related: Siblings at war in your home? Declare a cease-fire now.

If this is going on with your kids, try to step outside the picture a little bit and rethink what you’re seeing. If a bully at school treated your child badly, you’d be screaming for the Principal, wouldn’t you?  I think about the boys who bullied my own son in elementary school and I wonder if their bullying habits began with their own brothers or sisters. Kids have so much pressure today; in school, in sports, in every other environment, the home should be the one place where they can let their guard down and just relax.  They deserve to just be themselves without constantly being harassed, teased, or hurt in any way by their own family members.

Related: My defiant child is abusive to siblings–help!

Now, stopping the problem is a whole other story, but I think it can be done, even if your kids are die-hard daily fighters. Kids are pretty smart and they catch on quickly to what will or won’t be tolerated. It’s all a matter of deciding if it’s worth the effort to help your kids learn to get along with each other. If nothing else, I think it would be helpful to them to learn some negotiation skills. It will probably help them later in life when they’re dealing with kids they don’t like, bad teachers or abusive bosses.  It’s certainly worth a try – and it might give YOU some peace and quiet as well!

Adrian raises her three boys, works, blogs, and chases her cats around. Adrian blogs about parenting, decluttering, managing your finances, and whatever else she feels like an expert on that day. Visit her at


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