Bullying In The Home: how should a parent respond?

Is your daughter bullying her little brother? Well, let's talk about that today on tips
on teens. My name is Kent Toussaint. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I specialize
in helping kids, teens, and families to live happier lives. I lead two organizations teen Therapy
Center and the nonprofit 501 c three organization, child and Teen Counseling, both here in
Woodland Hills, California. Every Wednesday at noon, I jump on to Facebook Live to answer your
parenting questions. Let's answer today's. It feels like my 14 year old daughter has become
a bully to my ten year old son. Every little thing he does is wrong these days. And when she's in
a bad mood, she targets him. She's always criticizing him. She also slugs him. Not in a way that
really hurts physically, but I can tell his feelings are hurt. He just wants to be with her. Is
this bullying and how do I stop it? Yeah, I think this would qualify as a form of bullying. No one
wants to see their child as a bully. This

is not uncommon. So I don't think we need to think this is a crisis situation, but it obviously
needs to be dealt with. There's many layers to this. There's a lot of nuances to this. First and
foremost, if your daughter is lashing out and bullying your son, calling him names, just overly
criticizing him, hitting him, seeking him out, to hurt him, the impulse is to correct your daughter.
The impulse is to criticize or scold your daughter. And I would say, don't do that. And I would
say instead, focus all your attention on your son, showing empathy, compassion, letting him
know that he does not deserve to be hit, he does not deserve to be called names. He does not deserve
to be treated this way, hugging him, checking in, making sure he's okay, giving him all the attention
and ignoring your daughter. Why is this? Number one, it shows your son that you care. You're
modeling also empathy and compassion and consideration. You're also not rewarding your daughter's
behavior with attention. And

what I mean by that is that her 14 year old brain isn't fully understanding or differentiating
the difference between positive attention and negative attention. It's all just attention.
So underneath that anger, she's showing your son. I believe there's an equal amount of fear
and or sadness that's going on that she's not really dealing with. And so she's coming up with
this anger and she's lashing out. But if you reward her behavior by acknowledging it in the moment,
you're feeding the monster. You're feeding the beast. She knows every time she hits her brother,
you're going to give her attention. Even though it's negative tension, it's still attention.
And so what I would do is, first, focus on your son, making sure he's okay. Once he's settled,
then you can go talk to your daughter calmly. Don't match her bullying ways. It's easy to do because
you're upset, you're angry, you're hurt. How could your own child treat your other child this
way? Now, there's a thousand of reasons why. Could

be that her little brother is annoying. As a former little brother, I'm still a little brother,
but I'm grown up now. Yeah, little brothers can be annoying to teenage sisters. That's not uncommon.
And of course, vice versa. Obviously, hitting and being belligerent, that's not okay, but
it may not be. She's the bad guy, and your son's the good guy. He also may be triggering it too.
And that's something you may need to address as well. Doesn't justify her hitting him or being
belligerent, but there are causes I think we need to address. I'm not trying to victim blame
your son, but I've seen it a lot often that there usually is no true good guy and bad guy in this
situation. But I also want to talk to your daughter. I want you to talk to your daughter. Hopefully
when she's more calm about what's going on, what's driving this, if she just says, well, he's
just annoying, he won't leave me alone. Okay, well, how can I help? Because there will be times
when the family's together and you guys all

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need to be together. Do you want him just staying out of your room? You could hopefully try to
enforce that, keep him out of that room, help him understand that she's going through a thing
right now and just give her some space. Hopefully with some space and through family time, you
guys can all get back together and be okay. Also, you have to make sure that she doesn't go in his
room and seek him out when she's upset. But if she's having a hard time accessing what's underneath
that anger, it may be time to talk to someone. It could be there's something going on at school
or her social life, or it could be a thousand things. Right? We just define out what's causing
that anger and that lashing out, because it's going to potentially lash out into other areas
of her life. We want to make sure we understand that so we can minimize this bullying situation.
Again, the more you can approach this from a place of compassion and empathy and patience, that's
hard to do. But the more you can do that,

the more, again, you're modeling behavior. Both your daughter and your son, you're helping
both them feel hopefully understood. And hopefully, whether it's with you, whether it's an
uncle or an aunt, a therapist, a rabbi, a priest, whatever, whoever is that person who can help
guide them some more, helps her get more in touch with what her true, more vulnerable feelings
are. And I think if she's able to do that, she can dismiss her little brother more easily than
lash out at him. It's a big topic. There's probably a whole lot of layers of this that we don't
know because we only know what you sent, but this is the starter of how to start approaching this
again. If you need help, talk to a therapist who specializes in kids and families. They can help
with this. This is something we deal with all the time. Talk to a religious leader who has some
counseling background. Anyone you think can be a help and support your family, reach out. I
think you can help. Anyways, that's our question for today.

Thank you very much. Bullying is a big topic. If you have questions or other questions you have
about your kids, please email us at tipsonteens@teentherapycenter.com, or you can direct
message us right here on Facebook. We love your questions. Thank you so much again. My name is
Kent Toussaint with Teen Therapy Center and Child and Teen Counseling. And I'll see you guys
next Wednesday. Bye.


What? Your older kid is bullying your younger kid? It happens all the time. Your first instinct will be to focus on your child who is bullying the other. Instead, start by focusing on your kid who is the target of the bullying. Show them empathy and support. This will not only help them feel cared for, but it will also not give your little bully the attention they may be seeking. 


When things are calm, talk to your child who is acting out calmly and try to understand what is driving their behavior. Is it because their sibling is annoying them? Is there something else going on in his or her life that is causing them to act out? Remember to approach this issue with compassion and patience to help both kids feel like you understand them. If you can’t figure out what the underlying reason for the bullying is, you may want to consult a therapist.

There’s more to say and we approach topic with more nuance in this Tips on Teens video:

“It feels like my 14 old daughter has become a bully to my 10 year old son. Every little thing he does is wrong these days and when she’s in a bad mood she targets him. She’s always criticizing him. She also slugs him, not in a way that really hurts physically, but I can tell his feelings are hurt. He just wants to be with her. Is this bullying and how do I stop it?”

Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com. We love to hear from you!

Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE!  Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/

If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.