Sibling Teasing and Parental Reactions

As kids learn to assert themselves and figure out where they fit in the family hierarchy, teasing their brothers and sisters is not uncommon. The key for parents is to know when teasing crosses the line into bullying and how to react accordingly.

Key takeaways:
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    Teasing is a normal way for siblings to interact, is often playful, and is a way for siblings to solve conflicts positively.
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    Teasing can be a positive way to show affection and strengthen the bond between siblings.
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    Be aware of the signs of bullying.
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    Set concrete boundaries against bullying, physical and emotional.
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    Understand the signs that teasing has gone too far.
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    Set a good example for your children.

Learn more about recognizing when the lines get crossed and how to react to teasing between your kids.

Sibling Teasing

Sibling teasing is a normal part of growing up. Children tease because it can be fun to provoke a reaction in another person, especially if you are teasing an annoying younger or older sibling. Knowing how to respond when your children are teasing one another can be difficult. On the one hand, you don't want them to think it's okay to be mean to their brother or sister. On the other hand, you don't want to overreact and make a big deal out of something that's just harmless fun. Sibling relationships are complex, but with a little guidance from parents, siblings can learn to tease without crossing the line into bullying. By teaching respect and communication skills, parents can help their kids build strong, healthy bonds with each other that will last a lifetime.

Teasing can be positive

You read that right. Teasing can be a positive way for siblings to build their relationship by showing affection for one another if it is being done in the right context. Teasing is often a playful way for siblings to resolve conflicts and should be playful, non-threatening, and non-aggressive. It should occur between people who already have a strong relationship and appreciate that the teasing is a form of affection. And no one involved in the teasing should look or feel distressed. That is when you know it has probably crossed the line. Here are a few tips for how to handle siblings teasing one another.

  • Try not to take it too seriously. Siblings will tease each other occasionally, but it doesn't necessarily mean there are any underlying bad feelings. If they're both laughing and no one is getting hurt, it's probably best just to let them be.
  • If one child is consistently the target of the teasing, or if it seems like he teasing is getting out of hand, then you may need to intervene. Talk to your children separately and explain that everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
  • Encourage your children to come up with their comeback lines. If they're prepared with a witty retort, they'll be less likely to get upset when their sibling teases them.
  • Finally, set a good example yourself! If you're constantly teasing your partner or making sarcastic comments, your children will think it's okay to do the same. Show them that it's possible to have fun without being mean.


All siblings disagree and quarrel at one point or another. Sibling conduct can go beyond teasing and become bullying in some families. How do you know the difference? Bullying is defined as aggressive and harmful behavior done intentionally, usually by someone older, against a smaller person. Bullying is often done as payback for perceived wrongdoing or to one-up the brother or sister. If you suspect teasing has crossed the line into bullying, you need to react immediately and let your child know that these behaviors are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Set boundaries on physical and emotional aggression, and be clear in your messaging. Teach your child that everyone, even siblings, has a right to feel safe and respected. Help them develop more constructive ways of expressing their feelings or resolving disagreements. If your child is teased, teach them how to stand up for themselves. Empower them with phrases they can use to diffuse the situation or stop the teasing altogether. And always be there to lend a listening ear and offer support. Here are some signs of bullying you want to be aware of:

  • Your children are exhibiting signs of physical aggression.
  • There is repeated and unrelenting teasing by one child against another.
  • One child constantly blames the other.
  • Your child has unexplained physical injuries.
  • Your child is complaining of a headache and stomachache.
  • Your child has a lot of broken belongings.
  • Your child is afraid to go to school or participate in activities because they don't want to see their siblings.
  • Your child misses important developmental milestones because they're avoiding their siblings.
  • Your child is starting to exhibit signs of anxiety or depression.

Parenting is hard work, but it's worth seeing your kids getting along and enjoying each other's company. Understanding the difference between teasing and bullying can help you create the space to nurture the bond between your kids. So, if you're dealing with sibling conflict in your home, hang in there and keep up the good work—it'll all be worth it in the end!

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