“Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring – quite often the hard way.” ~ Pamela Dugdale
Imagine if your spouse, colleague or another family member told you that you were stupid, ugly, fat, or that you were a loser. You would likely be outraged, and consider this verbal abuse. You would also most likely be deeply hurt. No doubt you would consider this kind of communication totally unacceptable. If it continued you would avoid contact with the abuser, and if it were a spouse, you might eventually leave the marriage. As an adult, you could do something to protect yourself.
There is a group within our society that may find they are subject to this kind of verbal abuse regularly, but have little power to change it. These are children and their siblings. Some are put down and verbally attacked several times a day, every day.
To parents it may sound like the kids are fighting again, and it is either ignored, or they are told to quit fighting. Many parents assume this is normal behavior for children, and while they do not like it, they feel helpless to do anything about it.
However, if this behavior would be unacceptable directed towards us, it cannot be considered acceptable just because they are kids. Children are deeply affected by negative comments from siblings. Their self-esteem and confidence may be damaged for life.
As parents, it is our job and responsibility to ensure our children are both physically and emotionally safe, especially in their own home. A standard must be set and enforced that does not allow for any kind of abuse. Naturally parents should not be engaging in this behavior either!
If this behavior has been happening in your home, have a family meeting and lay down the new law. Consequences must be set, and be serious enough to act as a deterrent. Time outs may be sufficient for little ones; removal of privileges for those a little older. Having to pay a fine to the one you offended also works very well.
Having a policy of zero tolerance for abuse in your home is one of the best things you can do for your children, your family, and ultimately the larger community.
Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.
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