Sibling Bullying

Dear Doctor Darcy,

I am 13 years old and my older brother [name removed] is a big bully.  He plays rough and acts like an angel when our parents are around.  But he is mean.  Sometimes he hits me when no ones looking.  Last year we had our sculiosis test and the nurse saw marks on my back from a fight we had.  I don’t know what 2 do because it gets worse every year. Maybe you can talk 2 my mom.  She might listen to you because she reads your blog.


Thank you for your email.  This sort of thing happens all the time in families and many parents mistakenly think it’s OK and that kids will just grow out of it.  Unfortunately, even if kids do grow out of it, the effects of sibling bullying can last a lifetime.  I’ve received emails from readers who were bullied as children and now as grown adults, they continue to feel animosity towards the sibling and towards the parents for not protecting them.  I’m going to presume that your mother doesn’t know all the details about your brother’s bullying as I guide you through the steps to take:

  1. Tell your mother you want to speak with her privately – away from the house.  Go for a walk with her, maybe to a park.  Tell her you’ll need about half an hour of her time.
  2. Put the following words into your own words, making sure that you don’t change the meaning: “Mom, I know that you know that *Tommy and I fight a lot.  And sometimes it gets rough.  What you may not know is that during those rough times, Tommy hits me, sometimes leaving bruises on me.  He also he hits me randomly when you guys aren’t paying attention.  It makes me feel unsafe in my own home and I really need you to make it stop.  I’ve tried myself for years and it’s only gotten worse.”
  3. Ask your mom what you should do the next time Tommy hits you.  Give it a few days.
  4. Follow your mother’s plan the next time Tommy hits you.  If it doesn’t result in something drastic happening such as your brother being punished, you’ll need to go to step 5.
  5. Involve another adult.  You live in NJ, so the organization you’ll need to call is DYFS, which stands for Division of Youth and Family Services (I linked to it here). If that doesn’t result in the bullying ending, go to step 6.
  6. In a few weeks when school’s back in session, ask to speak to the school counselor and tell her what you told me.  Also, tell her the steps you’ve taken so far.  She will call your mother / parents in and she’ll be able to help them fix the problem.

I’m sorry that the adults in your life aren’t more aware and haven’t properly protected you up to this point.  They may need a nudge from you.  Writing in was extremely brave of you and you should be very proud of yourself.  If, after speaking with your mom, you choose to tell her that you wrote in to me, let her know that I’d be happy to speak with her to help her put an end to your brother’s negative behaviors.

Writer’s Stats: I like girls, Male.

*Name was changed to protect anonymity.