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My oldest is bullying his brothers.

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I have 3 boys ages 8, 6, and 3. About four days ago we went to a motel to visit the kids’ grandparents and to have pizza and go swimming. The kids were all in the pool and playing. I was in the pool with them. When I turned my back my oldest pushed the middle childs’ head under water. I turned around in time to see him coughing and sputtering. I told him that he couldn’t do that because he could drown and if he tried to do it again he would have to get out of the pool and stay out. Less than 5 minutes later, I turned my back again to check on my youngest on the steps of the pool. I turned around to see the oldest holding the middles’ head under the water. He was promptly removed from the pool.

This isn’t the first time he has done something mean to his middle brother. Two days before that all of the kids were outside with their dad playing. Everytime their dad looked away or turned his back. The oldest boy would shove the middle boy into the snow face first, then he would jump on his back and rub his face in the snow. He was also throwing snowballs directly at his face on purpose. When he was doing these things he looked very angry. These are just a couple of recent examples of his behavior. This happens a lot. During play, the oldest will dictate exactly how they are going to play. Telling the middle what he can and cannot do, how he can do it, and when he can do it. If the middle child doesn’t cooperate, he refuses to play with him. He is also getting my youngest child to help in tormenting the middle child. He will tell him to go “get him” and the youngest will either hit, pinch, bite, or do something else that is mean to him. He also seems to try to get the middle child into trouble. Like riling him up and then telling him “shhh, you’re being too loud”.

My middle boy has ADHD and is a little wild and loud, but he doesn’t ever do anything to intentionally to be mean to anyone. His older brother is like his hero. I just don’t understand why he is treating his brother this way.

I set up an appointment to see a psychologist but his appointment isn’t for three weeks, it was the earliest I could get him in.I don’t know what to do with him. I’m even a little scared that he might try to do something to the middle child, because he is angry that he got into trouble for doing something to him.

My oldest is bullying his brothers.

Answered by on -


I don’t know what’s going on either but I do know that you are absolutely right to go for an evaluation. This is not normal sibling competition or boys-will-be-boys behavior. Your oldest is acting like a bully and it has to stop.

I’m wondering if you have ever sat down in a quiet moment and simply asked your oldest what’s up with him. Sometimes young kids surprise us by being quite candid. It’s also possible that he doesn’t know what comes over him to do these things either so don’t get angry if he can’t tell you. Just tell him you’re interested if he thinks of something and let it go.

Meanwhile, the most important thing you and the kids’ dad can do is be in complete agreement about consequences when the kids hurt each other. They are still at an age where parental approval generally means a lot. Sit them all down (yes, even the youngest) and calmly and certainly let them know that the rule of the house is that absolutely no one has the right to threaten or hurt anyone – ever. Be clear what the consequences will be. Messages delivered in a matter of fact, no nonsense tone are generally more impressive to kids than messages delivered in anger. Kids know when we mean it and they usually respond. You may even find that the oldest is relieved to have you assert some control over him. Hopefully, things will settle down at least until you get a full evaluation.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

My oldest is bullying his brothers.

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). My oldest is bullying his brothers.. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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