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When kids bully younger siblings, does it prepare the younger ones for the real world? My sister allows her two teen-agers to bully an 11-year-old daughter. They call her a wimp, they invite her to places and then leave without her, and they team up to blame her for things that she didn’t do. How does being bullied by family help a younger sibling mature?
Family bullying prepares kids for the real world all right. Then again, so does a broken arm, a bad sunburn, and the death of a parent. In a literal sense, pain prepares us for the pain we’ll suffer later. But some preparation we don’t need, and your sister has no business allowing her older children to torment the youngest. Parents are supposed to prevent their children from becoming bullies and, when possible, protect their children from bullying. It is difficult to understand why a parent would encourage such conduct.
Rather than teaching the 11-year-old to be tough, the mother is teaching the older siblings how to use their age and experience to take advantage of those who are weaker. Fast forward a decade, and you’re looking at the type of people who sexually harass co-workers, cut in front of elderly shoppers in supermarket lines, or release cockroaches into a neighbor’s house because the guy parked in front of their yard.
The younger daughter may well toughen up because of her siblings’ cruelty, but that kind of toughening can lead to resentment against the siblings for their conduct and the parents for allowing it. I see no good coming from this.
My first child turned 3 months old a few days ago. We named him Simon. When my 11-year-old nephew first heard the name, he said, “Like the chipmunk.” For those of you who don’t listen to children’s stories, he is referring to “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” At first, the boy’s comment didn’t bother me. But now he calls the baby Chipmunk. I asked him to stop, and he refused. I’m getting more firm about asking him to stop as time goes on. Now I’m considering taking my sister-in-law aside to discuss the issue. Am I being silly and too overprotective? I don’t see it as a hurtful or insulting nickname. I just don’t like it.
Names are about as personal as it gets. If you named your son Simon and don’t want your family using nicknames, then they shouldn’t. The boy may adopt his own nickname as he ages, or a nickname given by someone outside the family could stick. You can do little to control that. But as long as your baby cannot speak for himself, you as his mother have the right to insist that your relatives call him by his name.
Your nephew’s actions demonstrate a blatant lack of respect for you and your authority, and it is about time you called him on that. Getting more firm obviously isn’t cutting it. Next time you see the boy, speak to him directly, clearly, and without a touch of humor. Explain that you expect him to call his cousin Simon, and if he does not, you will speak to his mother. Then, if he doesn’t change his conduct, speak to his mother.
Be watchful, because a boy who has already shown a willingness to ignore your instructions may obey only in your presence. Your nephew’s ultimatum applies not only if he calls the baby Chipmunk in front of you, but also if he waits until you leave the room.
Whatever you do, do it right away. Nicknames have a way of sticking, especially when more than one person begins using them. Tackle this problem before all of your son’s cousins start calling him Chipmunk.
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