It’s considered normal for siblings to push each other around, wrestle, and generally try to annoy one another. In some situations, you may start to notice that things no longer look like harmless sibling rivalry.
You may have a teen who is deliberately and aggressively hurting his siblings. Harmless wrestling may have transitioned to being aggressive and violent. Pushing a sibling out of the way to get to the fridge first may have transitioned to pushing them into a wall, onto the ground, or even down the stairs.
It can be alarming for a parent to realize that they have a violent situation on their hands. It can also be overwhelming to try and figure out your next step, to help every person in your family. You want to help your violent teen find his way back to a life without violent behavior, but you need to protect your other children from their violent siblings.
Learning how to protect every member of your family and knowing when to call in reinforcements can help remove some of those overwhelming feelings.
What you need to know about sibling violence
Sibling violence is more common than many may think. Unfortunately, it’s also often overlooked. Sibling violence is very different from the daily sibling rivalry, arguments, and physical playing seen often with siblings of all ages.
Violence often brings a form of power imbalance that makes it difficult for siblings to defend themselves. It could include emotional and physical violence.
It can be difficult for parents to recognize sibling violence as much of it doesn’t take place in front of them or other adults in their lives. This can make it difficult to recognize that there is, in fact, a form of abuse taking place right in your own home.
Sibling violence can be incredibly harmful. It can also have some serious short-term and long-term concerns for all involved.
The importance of early intervention
It’s important to support the child or children being harmed, but it’s just as important to address the behavior of the aggressive sibling. Aggression that begins in childhood is likely to continue into adulthood, mainly if the aggressive child doesn’t get the appropriate support. There is a link seen between sibling violence and later violence towards domestic partners.
The sooner that help is offered to the aggressive sibling, the better life will be for their siblings, and the less likely they will be to face a future of violence towards others around them. There could be several reasons for aggression in children and teens. This could include trauma, conduct disorders, mood disorders, impulse concerns, and more.
When faced with a violent teen
Whether your child is 9 or 15, seeing him act violently towards one or all of his siblings can take you by surprise. Perhaps he’s always been slightly aggressive and quick to anger or perhaps it is behavior that seems to have come out of nowhere.
Regardless, it’s important that you act as soon as you are able. Here are a few ways to safely intervene:
- Don’t ignore your children when they tell you that their sibling is hurting them. It could be initially easy to dismiss being told that a sibling whacked another sibling across the arm as just normal sibling squabbles. Any violence between siblings should be something to be concerned about.
- Separate your violent teen from his siblings. When violent behavior occurs, the sooner you can intervene, the better you’ll be able to protect the siblings being victimized. A bit of distance can help you to get to the root of the problem.
- Speak to all parties to try and get to the truth. You are likely to get a few variations on what has happened and what has been happening. Using this information, you can try to discern what took place.
- Be sure to treat all children involved with the same tone of voice, level of respect, and try not to give the impression that you’re taking sides. Certainly, you need to protect your children from harm, but the last thing your aggressive teen needs to feel is that he is being slighted.
Once the immediate situation has calmed, address a more long-term solution. Several factors could be contributing to your teen acting out and acting out with violence. Getting to the bottom of it all can be the first step on the road to restoring peace and safety in your home. No one deserves to feel unsafe in their home.
Protection for younger siblings
It’s very easy for an older and bigger child to overpower a sibling. There often doesn’t even need to be a trigger for the aggressive behavior and violence.
That said, you should do what is possible to protect younger siblings from aggression and violent behavior.
- Don’t dismiss your children when they tell you that their sibling has hurt them. Encourage them to be honest by ensuring they know they can always talk to you about the things that bother them.
- Ensure your children know the importance of speaking up when they don’t feel safe. This includes situations that they may find themselves facing at school, with friends, or at home.
- If your child has been injured, get them seen by their pediatrician. A tumble down the stairs after being shoved by an aggressive sibling may leave bruises but may also leave more serious injuries. It’s important to note that child protective services may get involved in some cases.
- Get all children into a therapeutic program that can help them work through what they’ve been experiencing. Children who have been victimized need to learn that it’s not their fault and how to best work through how it makes them feel.
- It can serve siblings well to spend time outside of the family home until things have settled down. They may enjoy a weekend with their grandparents, cousins, or perhaps with a friend.
Keeping every member of your family safe is a priority. Making sure that your children each get the help that they need is essential.
When should you get law enforcement involved?
As a parent, you may not want to get outside help at all, but it can come to a point where you have no choice but to reach out for additional help. It’s certainly a personal decision that you shouldn’t take lightly. When law enforcement gets involved, child protective services may also get involved.
This can be a scary situation for any parent. However, these agencies can often provide parents with the resources they need to help restore normalcy to their home.
When should you call the police to your home?
- If you fear for your safety and the safety of other children in the house.
- If your teen has access to weapons of any kind.
- If your teen has hurt you, deliberately hurt a sibling, or has hurt a pet.
- If your teen is making threats to harm themselves or a sibling.
Law enforcement can help to provide a firm third-party opinion as to what your next steps should be when you have a violent teen in the home. Whether that looks like getting help from paramedics for minor injuries or getting professional help for an out-of-control teen.
It truly is a better option for your aggressive and violent teen to spend time away from the family in some situations. Time spent in a therapeutic boarding school can provide your teen with the support structure needed to help him focus on what is truly going on. He’ll be able to get the type of therapy he needs while also focusing on continuing his education.