My Older Son Bullies My Younger Son and It’s Making Him Depressed

Elle Silver

The bullying won't stop until my son stands up to his older brother.
Photo by Rubaitul Azad from Pexels

Sibling rivalry is normal— especially for brothers. They vie for status in the family and also for their mother's love.

This is definitely true for my two sons.

You should have seen how my older son reacted when my second son was born. My oldest was only eighteen months old when I gave birth to his brother.

He toddled into the hospital recovery room to lay eyes on me holding his newborn baby brother in my arms. He took one look at the new small human I cuddled and freaked out.

He understood immediately what had happened: he now had competition for my love. The rivalry began. 

I brought my newborn son home from the hospital and his older brother started in immediately with the bullying. Okay, so he wasn’t too mean at that point, but the dynamic was set in place.

My older son would make a face at the baby and the baby would start crying. It only went downhill from there. 

Now the rivalry between them is so bad that my older son's constant bullying of my younger son is making him depressed. 

My younger son is already depressed because of his autism. 

My younger son already has self-esteem issues. His low self-worth is the result of the difficulties he has in school because of his autism. His poor self-esteem is exacerbated by the fact that doesn’t have friends. He’s been rejected a lot at school because of his autism spectrum disorder. 

My younger son also has trouble scholastically. His autism has impacted his ability to learn. Because he’s so behind on reading and writing, he believes he's dumb.

My older son hasn't helped in the matter.

My oldest is mentally gifted. He incessantly pokes fun at his younger brother's learning disability. 

This has only made my younger son more depressed.

My older son has ADHD.

I should mention something about my older son. He already has behavioral challenges.

He has ADHD. This makes him very hyper and impulsive.

This is part of the reason he’s constantly bugging my younger son. It’s like he can’t stop himself. His brain chemically impels him to lash out against his younger brother.

But it’s driving my younger son crazy. It’s impacting his mental health. My younger son complains a lot about feeling down on himself because of his older brother’s bullying.

He cries to me about it. Often, he cries at night when he’s trying to fall asleep. That’s when he reflects on the day.

He can mostly take his mind off his depression while he’s playing video games after school. But at night, the stimulation is gone and he’s left with his own thoughts. He’s depressed and it breaks my heart that his older brother carries much of the blame for it.

Yes, my oldest has ADHD. Still, he shouldn't pick on his younger brother.

My older son bullies his younger brother.

My older son is constantly putting down his younger brother. My younger son likes to draw and my older son disparages him for his interest in art.

My older son also makes fun of his younger brother's weight. My youngest is chubby. My oldest tells him he’s ugly. My younger son believes this.

Worse, things too often get physical between them.

My older son does literally smacks his younger brother around. Instead of fighting back, my younger son cowers.

It’s brutal to watch. I try to intervene. Sometimes this happens when I'm not looking.

My younger son is a big boy. He’s sturdy. He could easily defeat his older brother in a brawl.

He doesn’t dare. It’s all about mindset. My younger son sees himself as smaller than his brother. He allows his older brother to bully him. 

And worse, it’s making him depressed.

My younger son has no choice but to stand up to his older brother. 

One solution I’ve come up with is to split up my kids. One child comes with me for a few days and the other goes with my ex-husband. My sons’ father and I are divorced and live in separate households.

This has helped somewhat with the bullying but my ex and I can’t continue to split up our sons forever. The boys are just going to have to learn to get along. 

I keep emphasizing to my older son that I do love him. His younger brother hasn’t taken my love away. I just don’t like the way he bullies his younger brother. 

I tell him about the importance of having a relationship with his younger brother. In the end, they will only have each other—at least after I die. 

Still, my older son continues to bully his younger brother. This won't change until my younger son stands up to him.

I’ve been coaching him to do just that. Not that I want my kids to have a serious fistfight, but my younger son has to learn to defend himself. He has to start fighting back.

For the sake of my younger son’s mental health, I hope he stands up to his older brother’s bullying sooner than later. 

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I'm a relationships expert with a focus on post-divorce dating and family. Everything I've learned about love, I've learned the hard way. You can learn from my mistakes.

Los Angeles, CA

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