Posted: Jun 21, 2013 12:00 PM
 
A recent study found that "sibling aggression is connected to mental health problems among youth" and is as detrimental as peer bullying. Here's what I want to know: Why do we need a study to tell us this?

Sentences like this one (from the Huffington Post article "Sibling Bullying as Detrimental as Peer Bullying, Study Claims") make me want to stab my eyes out: "A provocative new study claims that even mild acts of sibling aggression are just as detrimental as the bullying that many children face at school."

A provocative new study claims that even mild acts of sibling aggression are just as detrimental as the bullying that many children face at school.

Immediately, my mind goes like this: "Oh, great. 'Mild acts of sibling aggression' are just as bad as bullying at school. Yay! One more way I'm ruining my children. Wait, what do they mean by 'mild'? Is throwing a toy 'mild?' Is whacking your brother on the arm 'mild'?"

"And wait a minute. Isn't 'mild act of aggression' oxymoronic? I mean, if it's aggression, isn't it by definition not mild?"

And so I just get confused, but I keep reading, hoping at some point the author will define some of these terms being thrown around. But she doesn't — well, not explicitly, at least.

"If a child's aggression is aimed at intentionally hurting a sibling physically or psychologically," it is dangerous.

The article does, however, give examples of sibling aggression: "psychological bullying, property damage, physical fighting (with no weapons that resulted in no injuries), and more serious physical assault."

It goes on to say that "if a child's aggression is aimed at intentionally hurting a sibling physically or psychologically," it is dangerous and that "repeated [aggressive] behaviors" should be recognized as different from normal sibling bickering and rivalry.

Do we really need a study to tell us this?

And then I'm shaking my head in utter disbelief. We need a study to tell us that bullying, fighting and property damage in a family is "detrimental"? We need a bunch of doctors and psychologists to confirm for us that repeated belittling and aggressive behavior between siblings result in "mental health problems"?

Good lord — this is precisely the type of thing that makes me lose hope in humanity.

The answer to those questions, according to the article, is "Yes." The article states, "Some people actually view [sibling bullying] as a good thing, thinking it teaches kids how to fight and develop conflict resolution skills."

Some people actually view [sibling bullying] as a good thing, thinking it teaches kids how to fight and develop conflict resolution skills.

You have got to be kidding me. Please tell me these people don't exist.

But then again, I know they exist because I've met them. I've heard that rhetoric before: "Well, it happened to me, and I'm fine — in fact, it made me tougher." (And we all know Americans should be tough. I mean, this is 'Murica, where the tough people live!)

No way. You know what that is? It's a weak masking of the truth. It's an attempt to make sense of the pain of one's youth matched with a refusal to take the scary step of doing something different with one's own kids.

It's an attempt to make sense of the pain of one's youth matched with a refusal to take the scary step of doing something different with one's own kids.

If your older brother kicked the crap out of you, you may be able to look back at that (now that you're safe) with humor and lightheartedness. However, I guarantee that when you were 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 and powerless, and your parents turned away because they thought, "It's normal, they're siblings," and you sank into the corner of your room defeated, resigning yourself to the fact that nobody cares, and this is life, so why try — I promise you, it wasn't funny then.

Or you squared your shoulders like a tiny tough guy, decided right then this wasn't going to break you and filled yourself with bluster, with aggression — to fight, to overcome, to win.

And now you say that crap turned you into the "man" or "woman" you are today? But what kind of "man" or "woman" are you if you're excusing the bullying of one of your children?

It makes me sick

We have a zero-tolerance-for-aggression policy in this house. When it happens, it's serious. There's a lot of bickering, and shouting "But it's my turn!" and whining, and bitching and tattling (hate that!) — but we don't ridicule one another, and we don't bully, and when I see a weakness in one child being played upon by another, we all stop what we're doing. And we talk about it.

We don't ridicule one another, and we don't bully, and when I see a weakness in one child being played upon by another, we all stop what we're doing. And we talk about it.

And remember: We're a family. This is it. This is as good as it gets for us. This is love. These are the people woven into the fabric of our being. And if you can't respect them, well, what will you give the world someday?

And on this sacred ground, we're building friends, wives, fathers, sons, husbands, mothers, friends, colleagues and citizens — people walking on this earth, with so many others.

So I guess it doesn't matter what "mild aggression" means. If it's aggression, it's got no place here.

We've simply got to become something more.

More on bullying

How to protect tweens from online bullying
Kids' resources to fight back against bullying
Helping siblings play nice

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