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Sibling Abuse

Sibling Abuse

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Published by Jane Gilgun
Parents and other care providers often don’t realize that sibling aggression is sometimes abuse and not children being children. They therefore often ignore behaviors that actually are harmful.

Both children need adult attention and guidance. This brief article describes types of sibling abuse and what parents can do to protect their children from long-term hurt.
Parents and other care providers often don’t realize that sibling aggression is sometimes abuse and not children being children. They therefore often ignore behaviors that actually are harmful.

Both children need adult attention and guidance. This brief article describes types of sibling abuse and what parents can do to protect their children from long-term hurt.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Jane Gilgun on Nov 11, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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08/29/2013

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 SiblingAbuse
ByJaneGilgun
Summary
Parentsandothercareprovidersmaynotrealizethatsiblingaggressionissometimesabuseandnotchildrenbeingchildren.Theythereforeoftenignorebehaviorsthatactuallyareharmful.Bothchildrenneedadultattentionandguidance.Thisbriefarticledescribestypesofsiblingabuseandwhatparentscandotoprotecttheirchildrenfromlong-termhurt.
 AbouttheAuthor
JaneF.Gilgun,PhD,LICSW,isaprofessorandwriter.SeeJane’sotherarticles,books,andchildren’sstoriesonscribd.com,Amazon,iBooks,Barnes&Noble,andotherbooksellers.
 
 SiblingAbuse
P
 ARENTSANDOTHERCAREPROVIDERS
oftenassumethataggressionbetweensiblingsmeansthatchildrenarejustbeingchildren.Theymaythinkthattheaggressionismutualandthatyoungerchildrenarecapableofholdingtheirownwitholderchildren.Sometimestheyviewtheyoungerchildrenaspestswhobugtheiroldersiblings,andtheoldersiblingssimplyareputtingtheyoungerchildrenintheirplaces.Whentheirchildrencomplaintothemaboutanotherchild’saggression,theymayseethemascrybabiesandtellthemtoignoretheotherchild.Evenwhenchildrenresisttheseparentalresponsesandcryout,“Butithurts,”parentsmaydismisschildren’sdistress.Theyalsodon’tprovideguidancetotheolderchildrenwhomaynotrealizethattheyarehurtingtheiryoungersiblings,notonlyatthemoment,butforthelong-term.Obviously,parentslikethesehavenocluethatsiblingabusecancauselong-termharm.Thebehaviorsthatparentsandothercareprovidersviewaschildrenbeingchildreninclude
physicalaggression
thatincludeshitting,punching,andkicking;
teasingandtaunting
,suchaschildrencallingyoungersibswhowearglasses“foureyes;”
mockingandridicule
aswhenolderchildrenmakefunofyoungerchildren’sattemptsatlearningtoplayasportbyimitatingtheiractionsinexaggeratedways;
usingotherchildren’spossessionswithoutpermission
andthenbeingdefiantandsassywhentheotherchildrenprotest;and
sexualboundaryviolationsincludingsexualabuse
whereoldersiblingsmayuseyoungersiblingfortheirownsexualpleasureand/ortolorditoveryoungerchildren.Alloftheseformsofsiblingabusecancauseharmunlessparentssetlimitsonolderchildren,explaintothemthattheirbehaviorshurt,anddigdeepertoseeiftheolderchildrenarereactingtodifficultissuesintheirownlives.Sometimestheolderchildrenarehavingtheirowntroubles,whichrequireparentalattentionandattentiveness.Ifparentscan’thandletheirchildren’sissuesontheirown,theyarewisetoseekprofessionalhelp.Asignthefamilyneedsprofessionalhelpiswhentheolderchildrendonotstopwhenparentsaskthemto.Theyoungerchildrenrequireparentalattunementandresponsivenesswheretheyfeelsafeenoughtoprocessthemeaningsoftheirsiblings’behaviorsandwheretheycanworkthroughthehurtandfeeltheirsenseofself-worthanddignityberestored.
 
Herearesomeguidelinesonhowparentstellthedifferencebetween“childrenbeingchildren”andsiblingabuse.
 
Isonechildolder,bigger,andstrongerthantheother?Ifoneis,thentakeacloserlooktoseeifonechildisabusinganother.
 
Dotheolderchildrenthinkit’sfunnythattheycreatedistressintheiryoungersiblings?Talktobothchildrentofindoutwhatthebehaviorsmeantothem.
 
Dotheolderchildrenrecognizethattheiryoungersiblingsaresmaller,havelessphysicalstrength,anddonothavethesamesocialandcognitiveskillsthattheyhave?Iftheydonot,it’stimeparentsinformedthemaboutthedifferencesbetweenolderandyoungerchildren.
 
Dotheymakeupaftertheconflictandresumeafriendlyrelationship?Ordoesonechildcryandbecomewithdrawn,sad,whiney,tantrumyand/ordestructivetothepropertyofothers?Theideaistomakeupandresumeafriendlyrelationship.Ifthisdoesn’thappen,parentswoulddowelltoencouragethechildrentotalktothemabouttheirbehaviors.
 
Dotheyhaveaboutthesamesocialstatusordoesonehavesomesortofpoweroveranother--suchasbeingmorepopularorhavingsomekindofsupervisorystatusovertheotherchildren?Ifmorepopularormorepowerfulsiblingsthinktheirbehaviorsarejustpartofhavingfun,it’stimetoexplorewhatfunmeansandit’stimetoexplorewithtargetchildrenwhatthatkindoffunmeanstothem.
 
Dobothchildrenhavesimilarunderstandingsofthemeaningsoftheaggressivebehaviors?Iftheydo,andtheymakeup,thenalliswell.Ifnot,it’stimetoexploremeaningsandprotecttargetsandsetlimitsontheaggressorchildren.
 
Dobothchildrenhavesimilarunderstandingsoftheconsequencesoftheaggressivebehaviors?Asalreadysaid,aggressorchildrenmaynotrealizehowhurtfultheirbehaviorsare.Ifbothchildrenseemtoseethebehaviorsasofnoconsequence,thenalliswell.Chancesare,bothchildrenrequireopportunitiestosharewhatthebehaviorsmeantothemandthensomeguidanceonhowtorespondinthefuture.
ExamplesofAppropriateorEasilyCorrectableBehaviors
 
Asevenyear-oldgirltellshisfiveyear-oldsister,“Youcan’tplaywithmydollswithoutmypermission.”Thisisolderchildren’sright.Parents,however,canencouragetheirchildrentoshareandcanaffirmappropriatesharingandrequeststouseanotherchild’sthings.
 
Asevenyear-oldgirlandher5year-oldbrothersitonabedandlookateachother’sgenitalsParentscanrespondwithgentlelimitsettingandtheprovisionofadditionalinformation.Example:“Iwantyoutoputyourclotheson.Whenyou’redressed,meetmeinthelivingroom.I’vegotsomebooksI

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