It’s never pleasant to see one child hit another child, but when the hitter is a teenager, the offense may feel more uncomfortable and serious. When you have a teenager who is lashing out physically at younger siblings, it’s time to put a stop to this behavior quickly. By stopping the hitting, you protect the younger children and you teach the teenager that physical violence is unacceptable.
Separate the siblings immediately to stop the fighting. Send the younger sibling away to one area of the home and the teenager away to another area to enable everyone to cool down. Allow several minutes to elapse for the high emotions to recede.
Speak with your teenager about the hitting after the cooling-off period concludes. Tell your teen that physical attacking and hitting is strictly off-limits and you will never tolerate it in your family. Explain to your teenager that it doesn’t matter what the provocation from the younger sibling, hitting is never the answer or solution.
Ask your teenager to explain what happened so you hear his perspective. As you encourage your teenager to talk, stay calm so your teen doesn’t feel cornered and attacked. By remaining calm and seeking to understand, it’s more likely that your teenager will open up and share his thoughts and feelings.
Provide some thoughts and ideas after hearing your teenager’s explanation. If you find out that your teenager feels frustrated and provoked by a younger sibling who is teasing, give your teenager some ideas for coping. First, remind your teenager about the “no physical violence rule” in your home. This rule is non-negotiable. Secondly, because hitting is not an option, your teenager needs other options for dealing with frustration. Suggest that your teenager could leave the room, think of a snappy retort or one-liner, or go find Mom or Dad for help dealing with the sibling.
Explain to your teenager that continued hitting will necessitate negative consequences. If the teenager continues to hit younger siblings, you will consider grounding the teenager or removing privileges for a specific time.
Talk with younger siblings to ensure that everyone is conducting themselves properly in the family. Younger siblings should not provoke or tease. If this is the case, explain to these children that teasing is not acceptable and appropriate, and you want it to stop.
Encourage all children to get away from teasing and provoking behaviors by walking away and finding a parent to intervene. The Ask Dr. Sears website suggests that parents should intervene when kids fight instead of ignoring the fighting. Over the long term, parental intervention and guidance will help kids learn to get along better without fighting. If your teenager is engaging in sibling abuse that injures younger siblings and you cannot enforce house rules that keep everyone safe, consult a professional to provide assistance.