How to get your older sister to be nice to you

Having an older sibling can be super rough.

As girls with older sisters, it ‘ s taken a lot of struggling and fights over the years to learn a few simple ways to instantly be a better little sis. Find out how you can do the same below!

1. Give Them a Sincere Compliment

Boost their confidence with a genuine compliment before they leave the house in the morning. They ‘ ll totally appreciate it and will start the day off on an extremely positive note.

2. Do Something Nice for Them

Doing something big or small for your sibling is a great way to strengthen your relationship. They ‘ ll remember that and will be way more inclined to help you out next time you need a favor.

3. Forgive Them

If you get into a fight, don ‘ t waste too much time being angry at each other. Not much is ever worth the silent treatment for weeks at a time. Moving on and being the bigger person is always the best way to go when things go a little too far.

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

(Sister, Sister via The WB)

4. Be a Good Listener

At the end of the day, what ‘ s brought us closer to our sisters is how often we ‘ re there to listen and be there for one another. If your older sibling is having a bad day, let them vent and try to offer some uplifting words or advice.

5. Do Something They Want to Do

Compromise is key. If you both have very different taste, do something they want to do once in a while.

6. Be Honest

Honesty really is the best policy. If you ‘ re both upfront about what bothers you, you ‘ ll be able to avoid so many fights.

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

(Sister, Sister via The WB)

7. Support Them

More than likely, your older sibling will have a lot going on and quite a few big decisions to make in life. They ‘ ll need your support and encouragement as they move forward with their goals and plans.

8. Tell Them You Love Them

Even when you fight, you should always forgive each other, because life ‘ s too short to do otherwise. Don ‘ t forget to tell them how much they mean to you and that no matter what, you ‘ ll always love them.

Having a sibling can be both a dream and your worst nightmare. If you do have one, you ‘ ll also definitely relate to THESE memes.

Everyone expects children to squabble. Remember the DEFCON 1–level tantrum you threw when your younger sister gave Barbie a Grace Jones flattop? But as we grow up, most of us hope to achieve détente or, better yet, a meaningful connection with our sisters and brothers. Unfortunately, that’s not always easy. In researching my second book on family dynamics, I interviewed nearly 100 men and women about how they got along with their siblings and found that most people wanted those relationships to improve—whether they were already pretty close or barely spoke. The trouble was, they didn’t know how to make it happen. Here are ten suggestions on how to forge a more perfect union.

1. Childhood is like Vegas: Let what happened there stay there. Don’t guilt yourself over the mind games you played on your brother, and stop accusing your sister of stealing the sweater you bought in Florence, circa 1992. Make a conscious effort to forgive these childhood misdeeds and they’ll soon be water under the Ponte Vecchio.

2. Make a cameo apperance. Sure you’re going to show up at the obligatory, with a capital O, events: weddings, graduations, and Thanksgiving dinner. That’s part of being a family. But showing up unexpectedly at your brother’s 5K run? Or at the family taco night held by your sister’s Spanish club? Now, that means something.

3. Stop being the family mole. Ever-shifting alliances, surreptitious confabs, stealth reconnaissance—you’d think we were talking about The Bourne Identity and not those other people born to your mother. Sibling relationships are often defined by behind-the-back gossiping, whether that means secretly slamming one sib to the other or listening greedily as your parents decry your brother’s latest over-the-top electronics purchase. As expected, all this duplicitous chatter erodes honesty and makes it nearly impossible for you to be as close-knit with your clan as you would like. So cut it out. And if you’re finding it difficult to tear yourself away from, say, Mom’s gripe-fest, remember that she most likely lets loose about you, too.

4. Mind your manners. Would you ever ask a friend, “Have you brushed your teeth this week?” No? Then don’t speak to your brother like that. You don’t have to be formal with siblings, but a petty comment still rankles, no matter how close you are to them. The brothers and sisters whom I spoke to say digs about weight, grammar usage, and your sib’s choice of friends are especially off-limits.

5. Fight typecasting. Growing up, you may have been pegged by your family with a certain role: the responsible one, the loose cannon, the baby. And no matter how much you blossom as an adult, this role sticks. While many men and women credit happy relationships with their immediate kin to this immutability—the comfort of knowing what’s expected of them—others find it stifling. If you’re in that latter group (and think your sibs may be as well), try this: At the next family dinner, tout the fact that your brother, the brain, climbed Mount Rainier or that your sister, the jock, is writing a book. By acknowledging the way that your siblings have evolved from their childhood roles, you implicitly give everyone the green light to see you differently as well—not just as the mercurial one who once threw a plate of peas at Nana Gladys.

6. B gr8 txt frnds. Occasional hours-long chats are nice, but you’re actually more likely to supercharge your bond by having frequent casual contact, many sibs say. Technology can help. Text messaging from a train platform, commenting on a Facebook update, and pinging on your BlackBerry make it really easy to be the thoughtful sister you are.

7. Quit being jealous of other people’s sibling relationships. Maybe your best friend and her sister routinely send each other homemade cookies. Or your husband and his “Let’s have a group hug!” siblings make the Waltons look like the McCoys. When you witness others sharing tight ties with their brethren, it can be easy to devalue your own relationship—if, say, exchanging birthday cards constitutes meaningful contact between you and your sister. Remember, though, that there are different depths to each bond and that somewhere inside that group hug, someone is usually dropping an elbow.

8. Play nice with your brother’s (not so nice) spouse. By doing so, you’ll send the message that this woman—despite her honking voice and inability to bring so much as Lipton soup dip to the family potluck—deserves a chance. And to your brother this will prove your loyalty and acceptance. If they break up, it will be an even greater sign of your devotion if you don’t tell him, “I was faking it the whole time.” Men don’t like to know about women faking anything, it seems.

9. Get out of the Dodge. Back in the day, a family vacation meant dividing the backseat with masking tape. Now a trip with the sibs means choosing your own destination and, thank God, travel arrangements. Wherever you go, skip the spa (bonding is unlikely when you’re swaddled in banana leaves) and try to eat at least two meals together.

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

PeopleImages / Getty Images

Some people are fortunate to have loving, supportive relationships with their siblings that can sometimes be far deeper than friendships. Occasional feelings of anger and hate can be present even in the closest of sibling relationships.

However, others may not be on the best terms with their siblings. If you feel like you hate your sister, you’re not alone. It is common for siblings to fight, which can lead to rivalry and hatred over time.

Hatred for a sibling can set in at any age, in childhood or adulthood. It can intensify over time or dissipate as the years pass. Many adult siblings find it difficult to get along and cannot spend time together without arguing or fighting with each other. Some siblings are even estranged from each other or their families, due to sibling rivalries.

This article explores some reasons why you might hate your sister as well as some coping strategies that may be helpful.

Reasons Why You Might Hate Your Sister

These are some reasons why you might hate your sister:

  • Differing amounts of parental attention: Either you or your sister may feel that your parents favored one of you over the other, which can lead to rivalry and hatred between the two of you.
  • Jealousy: It is not unusual for siblings to be compared to each other, either by others or by themselves. Aimee Daramus, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of “Understanding Bipolar Disorder” notes that this can foster jealousy or a feeling of coming up short, which can lead to conflict.
  • Evolving personalities: As you and your sister grow, your personalities, tastes, habits, and needs may evolve and it may be difficult to see eye to eye, causing you to drift apart. Disapproval of each other’s choices can lead to arguments.
  • Stressors: External stressors can take a toll on your relationship with your sister and may lead to hatred, depending on your reactions to it.
  • Abuse: If your sister has abused you or deeply hurt you in some way it may cause you to feel hatred toward her. “Real hate usually means there’s been some experience of serious abuse from that person or the feeling they’ve taken advantage of you in a life-changing way. People also feel hate sometimes if they’ve been the abuser and they don’t like being confronted with that part of themselves,” says Daramus.
  • Family values: Your parents’ values and the dynamics of your family can also play a role in your relationship with your sister. For instance, siblings with parents who think aggression is normal may be more prone to fighting than those with parents who express themselves respectfully.
  • Lack of family time: Spending time over meals, trips, and weekends can help build strong family bonds. Not spending enough time together as a family can make you more likely to fight with your sibling.
  • Projecting feelings: It’s also entirely possible for you to project feelings onto your sister. For instance, Daramus says you might be raging about something else that you can’t control and take it out on them.

Coping Strategies

Hate is an intense feeling that can be emotionally draining. In addition, you may also experience other emotions such as guilt and shame, for hating your sister instead of loving her or forgiving her.

These are some strategies that can help you cope with the emotions you’re experiencing.

Prioritize Safety

“If you can identify a specific way in which your sister has harmed you, it’s best to get as much distance from her as your circumstances allow, at least temporarily, so you can think your situation through. If there’s still a safety risk, put your safety above everything else,” says Daramus.

If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Understand Parental Behavior

If you think your parents prefer your sister, you may feel slighted by them often. However, it can help to examine their behavior and understand its causes. Your parents may not be favoring your sister intentionally and they may not realize that their actions are hurting your feelings.

For instance, your parents may be closer to your sister because they live close by and therefore see each other more often. Or, they may share common interests with your sister, that they have bonded over together.

Seek Therapy

Aimee Daramus, PsyD

If you hate your sister and can’t really understand why, or if you think that your own issues are the problem, definitely try to get therapy.

“You might have some irrational anger to work through, or you might be projecting something onto them. Either way, hate is often irrational and leads to decisions that make things worse,” says Daramus.

Therapy can be a helpful way to understand why you hate your sister and how you can cope with your feelings.

Avoid Competing

You may have a tendency to compete with your sister. This tendency may be ingrained from a very young age and may be fanned by other members of your family (for instance, they may say things like, “Your sister has such a well-paying job!”).

Avoid competing with your sister and try to accept yourself the way you are. Start seeing yourself as an individual entity who is working hard, not someone who doesn’t earn as much as their sister.

Set Boundaries

It can be helpful to set boundaries in your relationship with your sister, to protect yourself. These can take different shapes and forms, depending on what you’re comfortable with.

For instance, you may feel that discussing certain topics are off-limits, or you may not want to spend time with your sister outside of family gatherings.

Find the Support and Acceptance You Need

Even if you’re not close to your sister, you can find support in other areas. Daramus recommends surrounding yourself with people who care about you and support you. This could include your parents, partner, children, friends, other family members, colleagues, support groups, or other people in your life.

Apart from people, you may even find acceptance and a sense of belonging in spirituality, art, music, books, and movies.

A Word From Verywell

Sibling relationships are often turbulent, and in some cases they can lead to rivalry and hatred. Daramus notes that hating someone is a painful way to live and recommends seeking therapy, spiritual guidance, and the company of those who care about you and support you.

In a perfect world, all sister relationships would look like something out of a sappy Disney movie. Think: sharing clothes, inside jokes and silly but harmless pranks on parents. In reality, though, they can be some of the toughest relationships to navigate. Think about it: This is someone who you’ve known for pretty much your entire life. She knows what motivates you, what makes you tick and what absolutely gets under her skin. And sometimes, if she’s a toxic person, she uses that knowledge against you. Read on for nine signs you might have a toxic sister, plus some methods for improving the situation.

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

9 Signs You Have a Toxic Sister

1. She *Has* to Be Right

Your good old sis has hated every person you’ve ever dated, and it’s starting to feel like no one is going to be good enough. She has similar opinions about your career goals, friends and pretty much everything else. If you’ve articulated that you’re happy with your life and the people in it and she still won’t stay out of your business, then your relationship with your sister could be verging on (if not already) toxic.

2. She’s Manipulative

When you ask someone a question (“Hey, want to come over next week?”), you don’t have any ulterior motives. When a toxic person asks you a question, though, they might be setting a trap. (“Are you free for dinner tomorrow at seven?” Subtext: “If you aren’t free for dinner tomorrow at seven, I’ll be mad at you for the rest of the week.”) “Their modus operandi is to get people to do what they want them to do,” says Abigail Brenner, M.D. “It’s all about them. They use other people to accomplish whatever their goal happens to be. Forget what you want; this is not about equality in a relationship—far from it.”

3. She Doesn’t Respect Boundaries

You love your little sister, but she’s always had a hard time knowing her place. She’s made a habit of showing up at your house, unannounced, expecting to be able to stay for dinner. Because you love her, you give in, but even after asking her to stop popping in without calling, she continues to do it.

4. She Insists on Playing the Victim

Sometimes, family members can’t help but guilt trip each other. (“What do you mean, you aren’t coming home for Thanksgiving?”) But there’s a difference between expressing disappointment and creating a toxic environment by blaming everyone else for their feelings. If your sister refuses to talk to you for a week because you’ve decided to spend next Thanksgiving with friends, you could be in toxic territory.

5. Her Apologies Are Never Sincere

Have you ever expected an apology from someone and ended up apologizing to them? This is a classic red flag. Let’s say your sister blew off the brunch plans you had last Saturday. Then, when you confront her about it, she delves into this long story about how she got into a huge fight with the guy she’s dating that morning and she doesn’t think she’ll ever find her soulmate, and it’s all your parents’ fault for getting divorced when she was five. You feel for her, and you want to be there for her if she’s having a crisis, it’s just…she’s always having a crisis. And weren’t you just talking about brunch? Shifting tactics and turning herself into the victim is toxic territory.

6. Everything Is a Competition

Every time you call her to talk about a promotion at work or a potty-training breakthrough with your kid, she inevitably steers the conversation to be about her illustrious career or her parenting wins. Any healthy relationship should be a two-way street, and if you’re your sister is incapable of celebrating your wins—big or small—it’s a sign that there’s an issue.

7. Spending Time with Her Is Draining

Do you feel totally spent every time you interact with your older sister? We’re not talking about feeling like you need to be by yourself for a little while—something that can happen even with people we love being around. Interacting with a toxic person can leave you feeling defeated since their dramatic, needy and high-maintenance tendencies can suck the energy right out of you.

8. Everything Is Always About Her

You just got off a 45-minute phone call with your twin only to realize that she didn’t ask you a single question about your life or how you’re doing. If she was dealing with an important issue or had some exciting news, that’s one thing. But if this happens pretty much every time you talk, then this relationship could be toxic.

9. There Are Always Strings Attached

Sure, your sis will pick up your kids from school, but you’ll never hear the end of how lucky you are to have her help…followed by an immediate request to reorganize her closet. We’re not suggesting our family members should do every little thing for us, but you should be able to ask for a favor without having her hold it over your head or immediately ask for something unreasonable in return.

4 Ways to Cope If You Have a Toxic Sister

1. Pick Your Battles

Sometimes it’s worth agreeing to disagree. Though sisters are often similar in many ways, you have to remember that you’re each your own person. You and your sister might have totally different ideas about careers, relationships and parenting, and that’s fine. It’s important to identify the areas where neither of you is likely to change your mind and agree to respect the other’s opinion without judgement or hostility.

2. Try the Grey Rock Method

We first discovered this handy trick on psychologist Nadene van der Linden’s blog, Unshakeable Calm. In a nutshell, it’s a tool to prevent toxic people from escalating a situation. Act as boring, uninteresting and disengaged as possible and toxic people will find it less exciting to try to manipulate you and choose another target. It takes some acting chops, but you don’t have to be Meryl Streep to master it. During every interaction with the toxic person, the trick is to speak in a neutral voice, talk about boring subjects, don’t make eye contact and give short, generic answers. And if the toxic person tries to get a rise out of you, don’t engage emotionally. Find out more about the Grey Rock Method here.

3. Have a Go-To Phrase on Standby

We get it—dealing with a toxic family member is tough and you never know what’s going to set them off. That’s why it’s useful to have a phrase or two handy that you can repeat whenever they give you unsolicited advice or ask you to do something. For the former, we like the phrase, “You may be right.” And for the later, try “I have to think about it.” Here’s how it works:

Sister: I need you to plan a birthday party for me.
You: I have to think about it. I have a lot of things going on in the next couple of weeks and need to see if that’s doable for me.

4. Recognize If Your Relationship Is Beyond Repair

Every sibling duo has the occasional argument (she totally lied about stealing your favorite sweater—and getting a stain on it). But if you’ve always felt like you become your worst self when you’re back at home, your family could be treading on toxic territory. “Toxic people are draining; encounters leave you emotionally wiped out,” Brenner says. “Time with them is about taking care of their business, which will leave you feeling frustrated and unfulfilled, if not angry. Don’t allow yourself to become depleted as a result of giving and giving and getting nothing in return.” Sound familiar? While it can be incredibly difficult to cut a toxic sibling out of your life, there’s no shame in doing so—especially if it feels like you’ve tried everything.

By Julia Ditto

Published on: December 02, 2021

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

When we were kids, my brothers and I routinely produced “Julia’s Workout,” an imaginary exercise show filmed in our parents’ basement. I was the leotard-clad talent, my older brother was the cameraman, and my younger brother did whatever we told him to do.

I’m sure we sometimes balked when our parents shuffled us down to the basement together, but their effort was well worth it. To this day, “Julia’s Workout” is the source of laughter and fond memories.

“Doing things together is what makes the attachment between [siblings] grow,” says Judy Dunn, a child development expert and author of “From One Child to Two.”

“Younger siblings learn a lot from older siblings and model older siblings’ behaviors,” says Tawny Sanabria, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Buckley, Wash. “When they’re able to play together . the learning process of the younger siblings is just greatly enhanced.”

So how can parents make sibling play appealing? Here are five useful tips:

Let the older child know your expectations

Whether in a family meeting or an informal conversation, express your desire for her to spend time with her siblings. “I asked my older children to give me a gift of service: one hour of play time with a younger sibling,” says Marilyn Every, a Seattle mother and grandmother.

Make sure you give your older child enough one-on-one attention

“Chances are, after Johnny has had you so completely to himself, he will be more generously disposed toward his siblings,” write Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish in their book “Siblings Without Rivalry.

Tell them how much their younger siblings look up to them

Seattle mom Erika Gardner’s parents used this tactic to get her to play with her younger sister. “My ego was really flattered, so I took it upon [myself] to teach her all I knew,” she says.

Provide them with time for unstructured play

Marni Campbell, a high school principal and mother of three in Seattle, recommends that parents “don’t prioritize peer-to-peer socializing, such as classes, day camps, etc. . over just having [their] kids hang out with each other.” Be willing to show them how to enjoy unstructured play together. If you ask an older child to take her little brother outside to play baseball, it might seem boring. But if you come along and get them started, it’s suddenly a fun event.

“They won’t be able to play together properly unless you’ve taught them how,” says Jo Frost, author of “Supernanny: How to Get the Best from Your Children.” You may even need to provide the older child with an actual list of activities that would be fun.

Don’t force too much togetherness with siblings

Encourage sibling play when your older child is in a good mood and not preoccupied with something else. Then watch for cues that the kids have had enough. “My older child usually lets me know when it’s time for alone time because she starts getting frustrated more easily, she gets short with her younger sibling, and she irritates more easily,” says Jennie Stanfield, a Seattle mother of two.

“Different children at different times in their lives are better off with less ‘togetherness,’” say Faber and Mazlish. “With enough time apart, siblings might even begin to look good to each other.”

Activities for all ages

“Just as we like to share the fun things we did as kids with our children, the oldest siblings like to ‘play’ like they are littler once in a while, too,” says Beth Smith, a Seattle mother of three. Her children, ages 13, 11 and 3 years old, enjoy art projects, because “they can do their own thing in a parallel-play type of situation,” she says.

Find something the older sibling enjoys and put them in charge of teaching it to the younger child, whether it’s making a movie, hosting an informal preschool or playing Frisbee.

Other ideas? Set out a puzzle and have the younger sibling find all the straight-edged pieces while the older sibling puts it together. Pull out toys the older child had when he was his sibling’s age. Get him to talk about how much fun he had with them while he shows the younger child how to use them. Let them play board or card games, “things that are going to bring them around the table,” says Sanabria.

Encourage them to build a fort, put on a play, dress up in old Halloween costumes or just goof around outside.

“Playing outside . is always easier than playing inside,” says Smith. “They all can find their place out there, on neutral territory.”

Getting older and younger siblings to play together may take a little extra work at first, but it will pay off. After all, in my family, a world without “Julia’s Workout” would be a dark one indeed.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2009 and updated in 2021.

In our family of four, my 9-year-old daughter is the only one in our household that has an older brother. I have a younger sister, my husband has an older sister, and obviously, my 12-year-old son has a younger sister.

The older brother/younger sister dynamic is a concept that’s been pretty foreign to me. I’ve always pictured the older brother/younger sister relationship to be like it is on television shows. She’ll have a crush on his friends. He’ll take her under his wing. She will look up to him. He will be her protector. She’ll ask him for advice. They’ll bicker, battle and fight, but it’s all love in the end. One second they may be arguing, but the next minute they are each other’s biggest supporters – and joining forces against me.

Over the last nine years I’ve seen that a lot of that older bro/younger sis dynamic is true; I’ve witnessed the “don’t do say that to my sister” or “what about my sister?” when they’ve played with a group of kids in the neighborhood. And my daughter? When my son played little league baseball, she hated when his team lost. She’s hardly the cheerleader, but when his team lost, she’d refer to those opposing teams as “cheaters” for the rest of the season.

As the big brother, my son tries to teach her right from wrong – sometimes a little too much! When my husband is away on a business trip, as if my daughter isn’t listening or behaving and he simply looks at me and says “What are we going to do with her?”

My, daughter, as the little sis, was always so excited if she saw her brother at school. Her kindergarten teacher would tell us that when she saw her brother in the hallway, her eyes lit up and she beamed a major smile. Almost like she spotted a movie star in the hallway. Even now, more often than not, she only wants to play/do what he’s doing, which obviously isn’t always a thrill to him. But this girl will absolutely tell him like it is. She doesn’t take any snide from him just because she’s younger.

I realize that they are still young and their relationship is still developing, but from what I’ve observed, “so far, so good.” Unless they are trying to fool me, it does appear that they enjoy one another’s company. Often you can find them hanging out, making each other laugh or playing video and computer games together. When one makes an achievement they’ve been trying so hard for in a game, who do you think is the first person they call for? Each other. Shh….don’t tell anyone, but I THINK they like each other.

I don’t think I realized how special the sibling relationship was until I had children of my own.

I’ll close with a message to them: As you get older, I hope you stay close. Life will take you in different directions, but I hope you stay the best of friends. Take care of each other. Support each other. Be more than siblings, be each other’s lifelines always. You, My, Dears, are the best parts of me and your dad.

This post first appeared on Suburban Misfit Mom and has been republished with permission.

My name is Melissa – I’m a native New Yorker and the mother of two school-aged children. My son is in middle school and my daughter is in elementary school and they are both Bright Horizons alumni. I love working for an organization that has meant so much to our family. As an Enrollment Counselor, I assist families with the enrollment process for our centers in NYC. What a way to pay it forward! Having been through the incredible Bright Horizons experience as parent, from infants all the way through Kindergarten Prep, I’m so happy to be able to share some of my views and experiences with The Family Room community.

What to Read Next: Read more posts about siblings from The Family Room bloggers including Sibling Rivalry: How to Teach Kids to Be Kind and Children’s Birthday Parties: Is It OK to Bring Siblings?

Have You Ever Wondered.

  • What is sibling rivalry?
  • Does sibling rivalry have positive or negative effects?
  • How can you be nicer to your rivals?

Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by zion. zion Wonders, “Why do siblings fight each other?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, zion!

Do you have a brother or sister? If so, then you know all about today’s Wonder of the Day already. The backseat bickering . The endless one-upmanship ! What are we talking about? Sibling rivalry , of course!

Sibling rivalry is the fighting, jealousy , and competition that takes place between brothers and sisters. And it’s very common. If a family has more than one child, you can bet that there’s some sibling rivalry going on.

The effects of sibling rivalry can be felt beyond the siblings themselves. Often, they affect the whole family. Parents, in particular, feel frustration and stress when their children fight. Constant bickering can take its toll on everyone close enough to hear it.

Of course, not all the effects of sibling rivalry are negative . Healthy competition can have some positive outcomes. It might lead to better grades and athletic performance. Sometimes, these rivalries push siblings to do their best.

It’s a different story when siblings compete for attention or resources from their parents. The effects can be harmful. Parents must be sure to attend to the needs of each child. That way, everyone feels loved and cared for equally.

When this happens, siblings are free to grow close and become the best of friends. The unconditional love of a sibling can be as strong as that of a parent or spouse. Some of the closest relationships in the world can be found amongst siblings.

Brothers and sisters — and their parents, too — can reduce the negative effects of sibling rivalry . It helps to keep a few things in mind:

Children are different! Brothers and sisters are unique people with different needs. Treat each person as an individual. Seek to understand their needs. This will make sure each individual gets the attention he or she needs.

Always practice respect! Differences of opinion will happen. What matters is how those differences are dealt with. Work to resolve differences peacefully. It’s very important that members of a family respect each other.

Do things together! Alone time is important, but it’s also a good idea to do things as a whole family. This helps everyone feel like part of the family. It also gives family members a chance to practice making others feel respected and included.

Do you have any siblings? Even if you’re an only child, you may know what it’s like to have a rivalry with another person your age. Remember, friendly competition can be healthy. But it’s important to maintain respect for others, even those you may disagree with.

Standards : CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.4

  • How to get your older sister to be nice to you
  • How to get your older sister to be nice to you
  • How to get your older sister to be nice to you

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for contributing questions about today’s Wonder topic!

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  • positive
  • negative
  • jealousy
  • competition
  • unconditional
  • rivalry
  • bickering
  • one-upmanship
  • adolescence

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Try It Out

Ready to fight? Grab a friend or family member and go at it! Just kidding! Instead of fighting, cooperate with each other by checking out one or more of the following activities together:

  • Who is your school’s main rival in sports or academic competitions? What about your favorite professional sports team? Sit down with an adult friend or family member and make a list of all the professional teams in your favorite sport. Once you have a complete list, go through and figure out who the main rival is for each team. Of course, some teams have several rivals. Have fun learning more about the best rivalries in sports!
  • Could a rivalry ever have positive consequences? Sure, it could! If you strive to be better at something, that extra effort can pay off in many beneficial ways. Talk with an adult about how rivalries can be helpful. Also discuss the negative consequences of rivalries and how those can best be avoided.
  • Do you have a brother or sister that you fight with regularly? If you’re an only child, you might still have a rival. Is there a friend, relative, neighbor or classmate who you see as a rival? From time to time, we all have rivals in our lives. Sometimes, someone else might see you as a rival — and treat you as one — even if you don’t feel the same way. Even such a one-sided rivalry can have negative effects on your life and interactions with others. Today, take some steps to make amends with any rivals in your life. Pick one and brainstorm a bit to think of all the good things about him or her. Try hard to make a list of good qualities you appreciate. Can you even admit to yourself those things that this person can do better than you? After you have made your list, do the hard part next. Share your list with your rival. Tell him or her that you realize that there may have been mean things said or done in the past, but that you want to put the sense of rivalry behind you. You never know when your rival will become your best ally!

Whether you’re the eldest, the middle child, or the baby of the family, birth order never stops being fascinating. That’s why this poll from YouGov is so interesting. For the poll, 1,783 British adults were asked to rate different aspects of their personality based on where they fall in their family order. As we previously reported, the results revealed that youngest siblings are more likely to think they are funnier than their older brothers and sisters—with 46% believing they are the funniest ones in the family—the study showed something else, too. Younger siblings may be the most laid back out of all the siblings, too.

There’s a good reason for that, too: by the time the youngest kid enters the picture, parents aren’t nervous first-timers anymore and tend to have given up their strictest rules and anxious hovering. After all, if their older children survived childhood bike accidents, Play-Doh eating, and playground misadventures, their youngest probably will as well. That means last borns usually can get away with more than their siblings did, too. “Parents are more lenient,” says Catherine Salmon, Ph.D., a coauthor of The Secret Power of Middle Children told CNN after looking out the survey results. “Youngest kids tend to be less rules-oriented, yet still get lots of attention.”

Their parents’ relaxed supervision tends to make youngest children turn into more laid-back adults, who are less concerned with rules, deadlines, or strict adherence to codes of conduct that others consider good manners, like when your younger brother shows up on your porch at dinner time, every night. Other studies have shown that the baby of a family tend to be more social and fun-loving and generally more creative than their older siblings.

While first-born children have, on average, a slightly higher IQ (yes, your older sister will hold that over you forever), younger siblings tend to have the creative edge, according to birth-order expert, Frank Sulloway, PhD, author of Born to Rebel. That’s partially because last-born children have to be creative in order to find their own place in a family, especially when older siblings have already staked their claim to certain behaviors and interests. Youngest siblings “are eking out alternative ways of deriving the maximum benefit out of the environment, and not directly competing for the same resources as the eldest,” Sulloway told the New York Times in 2007. “They are developing diverse interests and expertise that the IQ tests do not measure.” That is part of the reason that the youngest in the family is often attracted to creative jobs, such as design, architecture, writing, or art.

WATCH: The Youngest Sibling is the Funniest, According to Science

While older children may dream of growing up with less strict parents hovering over their every move, youngest children may wish they had a little more of their parents’ boundaries. “Some babies resent not being taken seriously,” Linda Campbell, a professor of counseling and human development at the University of Georgia, in Athens told CNN. “They might become very responsible, like the oldest, or social, like the middle.”

The biggest take away from this study is that wherever you fall in your family, you’ll most likely turn out fine—and find plenty of ways to tease your siblings either way.

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

  • How is my child likely to react to a new baby in the house?
  • What can I do to help my child accept a new sibling?

How is my child likely to react to a new baby in the house?

Your firstborn may react to the addition of a new family member by testing you or regressing (sitting in the baby’s seat, wanting a diaper, or asking to drink from a bottle). He’s likely to want your attention most when you’re nursing or changing a diaper.

He may even try to express his feelings by yanking the baby’s arm or snatching her toys. You can respond by saying something like, “I want you to be gentle with the baby. It can hurt her to pull on her arm. If you need to pull on something, you can pull your wagon.” Show your toddler how to touch his sister gently. (See our piece on aggression for more tips on dealing with this behavior.)

It’s important to empathize with what your firstborn might be feeling and help him put those feelings into words. You could say, “It feels unfair that mommy is so busy with the baby now. You miss having me all to yourself. It’s hard to wait your turn for me to play with you.”

Most likely your child will also be eager to show his new sibling affection and connect with her. Read on for tips on how to help your toddler accept and even enjoy the new baby in your lives.

What can I do to help my child accept a new sibling?

Give him special jobs. Let your firstborn help out – he may surprise you with how much he can do. When you bathe the baby, he can help soap her legs. He will probably be happy to fetch diapers or a new set of clothes. When the baby cries, ask him to gently pat her back or talk softly to her. If he wants to hold his new sibling, set him up next to you and share the baby across your laps. Or have him sit in a chair with pillows on either side of him, then prop the baby in his lap. Stay nearby and be alert. He may be done after a few seconds and try to dump her off his lap. (He isn’t trying to hurt her. He may just think of her as a toy.)

Ask his advice. Ask your toddler: “Do you think the baby would like to wear the blue shirt or the yellow shirt?” or “Do you want to help me tell a story?” Toddlers often have a natural flair for entertainment – singing, dancing, or just making faces – and a baby is an appreciative audience. Not only will your child enjoy the attention, he’s likely to take pride in bringing a smile to his sibling’s face.

Watch the baby together. Invite your child to observe the baby with you. Hold him close and ask him to describe what he sees. “Look at her hands. They’re so little. Can you see her kicking her feet? Can you kick your feet like that?”

Read stories about his new role. Reading stories about babies or about new siblings can help your toddler adjust to his new situation. Stories that show children enjoying and taking pride in their little sibs present positive role models for your child. Joanna Cole’s gender-specific I’m a Big Sister and I’m a Big Brother are good places to start.

Let him tell the story. Make a simple picture book of your family. Ask your toddler what pictures he would like to have in the book or include some of your favorites together. Once the pictures are in the book, you can ask him what words he’d like on each page or add a simple text yourself.

Acknowledge his feelings. It’s normal for your toddler to feel a range of feelings about this new change in his family. After all, he suddenly has to share you with someone who requires an extraordinary amount of your time and attention. Rather than scolding him, acknowledge his feelings: “It seems like you’re feeling sad right now. Do you want a hug or a story?” Or “It’s hard when you want me to do something and I need to help the baby.” He may just need to know you understand his feelings and that you can take a minute to listen to and hold him.

Spend a little time alone with him. Spend some time each day with just your toddler, even if it’s only a few minutes of drawing or building with blocks. This time makes him feel special and reminds him that you’re his mommy as well as the baby’s.

Let him do his own thing. If your toddler doesn’t want to be involved with the new baby, don’t push it. A lot of kids cope with the change by “ignoring” their tiny siblings – at least for a while. So you don’t need to expect him to play a greater role than he wants to. He’ll come around in time.

Check out our collection of Parents’ Voices to see how other parents helped their older children adjust to a new baby in the family. See our piece on solving sibling rivalry for more tips on helping your children bond.

NOTE: This piece was reviewed by Janis Keyser, parenting educator, co-author of Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, and a member of the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board.

In this article

  • Let your children care for one another
  • See each child as an individual
  • Make time for your toddler
  • Embrace conflict
  • Listen to grievances, acknowledge concerns
  • Go from conflict to conciliation

When you discovered you were pregnant with another child, your first thoughts probably focused on the benefits a brother or sister would bring to your firstborn – not scenes of sibling rivalry. But tug-of-war toy spats, backseat pinching, and dinner table bickering often go hand in hand with having two or more children.

Helping siblings to get along as they grow up is one of the toughest tasks mums and dads face. To help your children develop close bonds that will last a lifetime follow these six steps to sibling serenity.

Let your children care for one another

Encourage your children to nurture one another: let your older child read a bedtime story to his little sister or ask your toddler if she wants to rub her brother’s back before his afternoon nap. Or suggest that your younger child give your older child a kiss when she’s crying because she’s fallen and hurt herself.

Whenever possible, take a step back and allow them to look after each other. If your three-year-old accidentally kicks his baby sister, rather than run to comfort your crying infant, let your toddler try (assuming she isn’t hurt). This way, your toddler will see himself as a compassionate person rather than a troublemaker. And your baby will be able to perceive her big brother as a gentle, caring person.

See each child as an individual

It’s not unusual for your kids to ask who you love the most. While it’s tempting to tell them you love them equally, the truth is children don’t want to hear that – they want to be loved uniquely.

Instead, you might say something like: “You are my only Amy. In the whole, wide world there is no one quite like you.”

Another way to help each child feel valued as an individual is to be specific in your praise: “You ate your cereal very well”; “You tidied up your toys like a big boy”; “You were very kind when you shared your cake with your sister”.

But be careful not to compare. Nothing breeds resentment like piling on praise at the expense of another child: “Why can’t you be tidy like your sister?” or, “Your baby brother has better table manners than you, and you’re three!”

Even complimentary comparisons risk stirring up hostility. Your intentions may be good when you tell your toddler: “You’re such a big boy dressing yourself – not like the baby.” But your older child may become so interested in outperforming his sibling that he’ll feel threatened when your baby grows into a toddler who can dress herself.

And try to avoid pigeonholing your children into certain roles, such as the Brain, the Beauty, the Nice One, the Difficult One. Growing children need to experiment with lots of different roles, and you risk ensuring that the Troublemaker becomes forever just that and resents the siblings whose roles he wishes he could try.

Make time for your toddler

A newborn can be all-absorbing, but try to find time when you can be alone with your firstborn – even if it’s just a few minutes at bedtime or taking the time to really listen when he’s talking to you.

Think of ways you can help your older child not feel left out when you’re caring for the baby. If you’re about to breastfeed, you might say, “I’m going to feed the baby now. Do you want me to read to you or do you want to rest?” Let your child know you’re thinking of his needs, too.

And don’t forget to put your older child first from time to time. Once in a while, when the baby is crying, instead of saying, “The baby is making a fuss, hold on,” try saying, “Hold on, baby. I have to tie Charlie’s shoes.” The baby can wait a few more minutes and your older child will see that sometimes he’s your top priority.

Embrace conflict

Some sibling rivalry is an inevitable fact of family life when you have more than one child. It’s probably unrealistic to expect your children to love and support each other all of the time. Some experts say that sibling conflict is an opportunity for your children to learn the skills they will need in their future relationships.

Help your children understand that it’s normal to feel frustrated and upset, sometimes even with the people you love, but it doesn’t mean you care about them less. Then you can start to help them find positive ways to express their feelings and work out their differences.

Listen to grievances, acknowledge concerns

Listen to your child’s grievances against a sibling rather than dismiss them, and encourage them to listen to one another.

You’ll be tempted to play the part of judge (“You’re always being mean to your little sister!”), jury (“I take Emily’s side because you steal all her toys”), and jailer (“Until you can share your robot with James, go to your room”). But sometimes it’s best not to solve the conflict for them.

If you simply listen when your child says how jealous, angry or hurt he’s feeling because of a sibling, he’ll feel supported by you, which in turn will reduce his resentment toward his brother. You don’t have to agree with him. Your role is to be a calm mediator who listens to each child’s side of the story so they both feel heard and understood.

Go from conflict to conciliation

Help your children identify their feelings (“You two sound so cross with each other!”), or wishes (“Henry, you really want to play with the fire engine – Sam, you wish you could play with it, too”). Then you can guide them towards a peaceful resolution (“Do you want to pretend there’s a fire and play with it together? Or do you want to take turns?”).

For your toddler who is stomping his feet and screaming with rage, you can help by voicing what he’s feeling, such as: “It made you really angry when the baby knocked down your blocks. Let’s find a safe place to play with them so it won’t happen again.”

If the fighting has already come to blows, separate them and give them a chance to cool off. Then help them begin to start expressing their frustration in a more positive way – through talking, listening and deciding on a compromise.

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She’s also a psychotherapist, international bestselling author and host of the The Verywell Mind Podcast.

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

Do your children have a good sibling relationship? Or are they more likely to fight than enjoy each other’s company?

Parents can play a key role in helping nurture a good sibling relationship and reduce sibling rivalry and conflict. By encouraging activities that foster teamwork, setting kids up to have fun together, and giving kids the tools to work out conflicts in a constructive and respectful manner, parents can help siblings develop a good relationship that will carry them through the rest of their lives.

Research has shown that sibling relationships often play a major role in how we will interact in other relationships with friends, romantic partners, and others later in life.  

Tips to Encourage Good Bonds

No matter how different your kids are from one another, sibling bonds are important. As a parent, there are several things you can do to foster the bonds between your kids, which will hopefully be lifelong.

Do Not Compare Your Kids

First and foremost, try not to say things like, “Why can’t you listen as well as your brother does?” or “Your sister doesn’t talk back to me.” Comparing your children to each other is a sure-fire way to stoke the fires of sibling rivalry and build resentment.

Figure Out What’s Behind Sibling Conflicts

Do your kids tend to squabble when one is trying to get the other’s attention? Are they competing for your time and attention? Do they fight more when they are tired or bored?

Once you see a pattern that might explain this behavior, try to address those issues to minimize sibling squabbles. For instance, you can try spending one-on-one time with each child or try to help your child find better, non-antagonizing ways to get a sibling’s attention.

Teach Siblings to Appreciate Each Other’s Differences

Do you have one child who loves to sit and read quietly and another who likes nothing better than loud games and constant activities? When children have very different interests and temperaments, conflicts can naturally occur.

The important thing is to teach kids how to respect those differences, and how to keep an eye on what’s really important: Loving each other. If one child wants to choose a family activity that incorporates a lot of action while another child wants to do something quiet and low-key, you could set up a system where they can work together to plan how to take turns or find other common interests that can be fun for both siblings.

Have Them Team Up for Chores

One of the ways companies build a sense of teamwork and cooperation among their staff is by having employees engage in exercises and activities that encourage working together. Parents can do something similar with their children, either by having kids work together on a project or assist each other with chores.

Come up with a project, such as painting a spare room or cleaning out the garage, and have kids work together to get it done. You can also have kids take on chores that are best for their age and abilities, such as sweeping or helping prepare dinner and have them race against the grownups in the house to see who gets their chores done faster.

Making the kids one team and the grownups another can encourage kids to work together toward a common goal beating their parents.

Build Their Listening Skills

The ability to really listen to what someone is saying is an important skill for kids to develop, and one that helps them learn to empathize with others and see things from someone else’s point of view. Make it a point to have siblings listen and try really hard to understand each other’s opinions and thoughts.

Teach the Importance of Respect

Listening is one way to show respect for each other, and respect is essential to building good relationships, whether it’s between friends, partners, or siblings. Remind kids that they should treat others the way they want to be treated, with kindness and concern for their feelings.

Respect can include talking to each other using a nice or at least not unpleasant tone of voice, even when disagreeing; not putting down a sibling’s opinions; and being mindful of someone else’s space and belongings (not going into a sibling’s room without permission or touching their things, for instance).

Show Them How to Respectfully Disagree

People who love each other can disagree sometimes — that’s just a fact of life. But it’s how we handle those disagreements that matter. Teach your children that they may not always see eye to eye on things, but that they must not call each other names, let arguments affect their positive interactions, and most of all, engage in physical fighting.

Emphasize Family Bonding

Explain to your children and remind them periodically that family, and especially siblings, can be the kind of unshakable love and support that cannot easily be matched.

Remind your children that while they may often prefer the company of friends over a brother or sister now, they will become more important to each other as they grow up.

While they may not completely understand the importance of sibling relationships yet, this is a message that is worth repeating, and one that they will eventually grow to realize as they get older.

Make Time for Fun

Families who have fun together will be less likely to have conflict. Try to choose games and activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family, such as riding bikes or watching a great new movie for kids.

A Word From Verywell

If your kids don’t seem to be bonding, it’s not usually a problem. But, if they really seem at odds and it’s creating problems for your family, talk to your pediatrician. A physician may be able to offer some ideas about how to get them to develop a closer bond.

By James Lehman, MSW

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

Q: What do the other children in the family experience when they have a brother or sister who’s hostile or acts out chronically?

James:
It’s traumatizing when something hurtful happens to you, and you can’t control it, you can’t stop it, you can’t predict how hurtful it’s going to be, and you can’t predict when or whether it’s going to happen. Children who grow up with a chronically defiant, oppositional sibling grow up in an environment of trauma. They don’t know when they’re going to be verbally abused. They don’t know when their things are going to be broken. They don’t know when there’s going to be a major breakdown in the kitchen, and someone’s going to be restrained as they’re yelling and screaming.

Often, acting out kids target their siblings as sources of power. It makes them feel powerful to say mean or abusive things or to hurt their siblings. They like that feeling of power, so they do it over and over again.

Several things happen in the mind of a child who lives with this kind of trauma. First, the siblings of acting out kids become used to witnessing outbursts, and it has a negative effect on them in the long run. These are people who grow up willing to accept higher levels of abuse in their marriages and their friendships. They become desensitized to disrespect and abuse. They become numb to how it really feels to be called a name. They tolerate higher levels of disrespect and abuse in other areas of their life once they become adults. Their ability to be assertive also diminishes.

Inevitably, parents stop setting the limits. The result is the other children in the family wonder who’s really in control, and they identify the acting out kid as the person in charge. As the defiant child acquires more power, the siblings challenge him less and give in to him more.

However, if a parent does tell a kid, “Stop that. It’s not acceptable” and turns around and walks away, and the kid says, “Screw you,” the siblings don’t see him as powerful; they see him as primitive. That’s the important thing. If the parent holds the child with the behavior problem accountable and takes away his “power,” the siblings see the parent as in control and see the kid as out of control. Most important, the parent reduces the environment of trauma for the siblings. Instead of wondering when the pain and chaos will erupt next, they will know the parent is in control and nothing will erupt.

It’s also important to have a “safety plan.” Just as families are encouraged to have a plan of action if there’s a fire (where to meet, how to get out, what to do), I have always encouraged families to sit down and talk about how they can help the acting out child. Do this without the child being present.

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

I have taught parents to say this: “If Johnny starts acting out, I’m going to deal with him. I’d like you go to your room for five minutes. The best thing you can do to help Johnny when he’s acting out is to leave him alone. Don’t feed into him. Don’t fight with him. Just let me know.” When parents set up this structure, the siblings have a plan for what to do when this kid starts to melt down. When they know what to do, it reduces their feeling of panic and helps them to ease the trauma.

The plan should be framed as how can we help Johnny. Parents should say openly, “We’re going to help Johnny by holding him responsible for his behavior and setting limits. But Johnny doesn’t always respond to that, and sometimes it takes us a while. The best way you can help Johnny is to stay out of it and go inside.”

Remember that trauma comes from not feeling that you have any control over the situation. If the children have a plan for what to do, then it’s not traumatizing because they have some control. The situation may be annoying and frustrating for them, but it’s not traumatizing.

About James Lehman, MSW

James Lehman, who dedicated his life to behaviorally troubled youth, created The Total Transformation®, The Complete Guide to Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™, from a place of professional and personal experience. Having had severe behavioral problems himself as a child, he was inspired to focus on behavioral management professionally. Together with his wife, Janet Lehman, he developed an approach to managing children and teens that challenges them to solve their own problems without hiding behind disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior. Empowering Parents now brings this insightful and impactful program directly to homes around the globe.

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Hi my 20 year old grandaughter bullies her younger 17 year old sister constantly. Yesterday it was over a bottle of water . The younger one did try to walk away but the older followed with punching and pinching until the younger one was conered and could not get away . I tried to intervene but these children has been ta

ught not to value my opinion. After 15min the Father stepped in and continued the abuse on the younger one for another 15min . At this stage the older sister quietly walked away and phoned her mom. The younger one is becoming aggressive and moody as a defence mechanism , but the parents sees this as anti social and will side with the older sister all the time .I spend most of my time at home and witness this daily. It can be the remote for the TV the seating the food . How can I make the parnets see this for what it is , or how can I assist with the younger one . Please help .

Responses to questions posted on EmpoweringParents.com are not intended to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.

We value your opinions and encourage you to add your comments to this discussion. We ask that you refrain from discussing topics of a political or religious nature. Unfortunately, it’s not possible for us to respond to every question posted on our website.

  • Biggest mistake Being quiet when your sibling really needs to hear the truth, especially if your sibling is leaping before thinking.
  • Growth tip – Be sure that your honest opinion is truly desired before giving it.
  • Biggest mistake – If you don’t have time to listen, schedule a time with your sibling when you can. Pretending to listen or seeming impatient may prevent your sibling from sharing thoughts with you in the future. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your sibling wants advice just because she wants to talk.
  • Growth tip – Be honest about the amount of time you have to listen and then be attentive during that time. Asking questions can also let someone know that you’re interested.
  • Remember important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries. You don’t have to send expensive gifts or flowers to let siblings know you love them. With the wide array online card and gift options, remembering those special days is easier than ever. A simple text message or e-mail demonstrating that you’re thinking of your sibling works well.
  • Understand your siblings’ love languages and respond to them in those ways. To learn more about love languages, check out Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The Heart of the Five Love Languages. Basically, the premise is that we all respond best in one of the five love languages: Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch. By learning your siblings’ love languages, as a good sister, you can respond in ways that mean the most to them. For example, if you have a sister that values quality family time, taking her to lunch on her birthday will mean more than sending her a gift card. People who communicate through physical touch may simply need to be hugged rather than given a gift. Words of Affirmation simply means saying positive and encouraging words to your sibling.

A good sister demonstrates qualities of honesty, loyalty and trustworthiness. She communicates with her siblings and doesn’t forget what’s important to them. As a sister, she’s there in times of need and in times of celebration. Even from afar, simple acts can demonstrate your desire to be a better sister.

By James Lehman, MSW

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

Q: What do the other children in the family experience when they have a brother or sister who’s hostile or acts out chronically?

James:
It’s traumatizing when something hurtful happens to you, and you can’t control it, you can’t stop it, you can’t predict how hurtful it’s going to be, and you can’t predict when or whether it’s going to happen. Children who grow up with a chronically defiant, oppositional sibling grow up in an environment of trauma. They don’t know when they’re going to be verbally abused. They don’t know when their things are going to be broken. They don’t know when there’s going to be a major breakdown in the kitchen, and someone’s going to be restrained as they’re yelling and screaming.

Often, acting out kids target their siblings as sources of power. It makes them feel powerful to say mean or abusive things or to hurt their siblings. They like that feeling of power, so they do it over and over again.

Several things happen in the mind of a child who lives with this kind of trauma. First, the siblings of acting out kids become used to witnessing outbursts, and it has a negative effect on them in the long run. These are people who grow up willing to accept higher levels of abuse in their marriages and their friendships. They become desensitized to disrespect and abuse. They become numb to how it really feels to be called a name. They tolerate higher levels of disrespect and abuse in other areas of their life once they become adults. Their ability to be assertive also diminishes.

Inevitably, parents stop setting the limits. The result is the other children in the family wonder who’s really in control, and they identify the acting out kid as the person in charge. As the defiant child acquires more power, the siblings challenge him less and give in to him more.

However, if a parent does tell a kid, “Stop that. It’s not acceptable” and turns around and walks away, and the kid says, “Screw you,” the siblings don’t see him as powerful; they see him as primitive. That’s the important thing. If the parent holds the child with the behavior problem accountable and takes away his “power,” the siblings see the parent as in control and see the kid as out of control. Most important, the parent reduces the environment of trauma for the siblings. Instead of wondering when the pain and chaos will erupt next, they will know the parent is in control and nothing will erupt.

It’s also important to have a “safety plan.” Just as families are encouraged to have a plan of action if there’s a fire (where to meet, how to get out, what to do), I have always encouraged families to sit down and talk about how they can help the acting out child. Do this without the child being present.

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

I have taught parents to say this: “If Johnny starts acting out, I’m going to deal with him. I’d like you go to your room for five minutes. The best thing you can do to help Johnny when he’s acting out is to leave him alone. Don’t feed into him. Don’t fight with him. Just let me know.” When parents set up this structure, the siblings have a plan for what to do when this kid starts to melt down. When they know what to do, it reduces their feeling of panic and helps them to ease the trauma.

The plan should be framed as how can we help Johnny. Parents should say openly, “We’re going to help Johnny by holding him responsible for his behavior and setting limits. But Johnny doesn’t always respond to that, and sometimes it takes us a while. The best way you can help Johnny is to stay out of it and go inside.”

Remember that trauma comes from not feeling that you have any control over the situation. If the children have a plan for what to do, then it’s not traumatizing because they have some control. The situation may be annoying and frustrating for them, but it’s not traumatizing.

About James Lehman, MSW

James Lehman, who dedicated his life to behaviorally troubled youth, created The Total Transformation®, The Complete Guide to Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™, from a place of professional and personal experience. Having had severe behavioral problems himself as a child, he was inspired to focus on behavioral management professionally. Together with his wife, Janet Lehman, he developed an approach to managing children and teens that challenges them to solve their own problems without hiding behind disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior. Empowering Parents now brings this insightful and impactful program directly to homes around the globe.

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Hi my 20 year old grandaughter bullies her younger 17 year old sister constantly. Yesterday it was over a bottle of water . The younger one did try to walk away but the older followed with punching and pinching until the younger one was conered and could not get away . I tried to intervene but these children has been ta

ught not to value my opinion. After 15min the Father stepped in and continued the abuse on the younger one for another 15min . At this stage the older sister quietly walked away and phoned her mom. The younger one is becoming aggressive and moody as a defence mechanism , but the parents sees this as anti social and will side with the older sister all the time .I spend most of my time at home and witness this daily. It can be the remote for the TV the seating the food . How can I make the parnets see this for what it is , or how can I assist with the younger one . Please help .

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How to get your older sister to be nice to you

If you have siblings, you may feel this innate protectiveness over them—even if they’re older. With this in mind, it makes sense that when they introduce you to someone who may potentially break their heart, you may be a little tougher on their new partner than you would be on, say, their new co-worker. Even though it’s coming from a place of love, try to ease up a bit because their new S.O. is probably already intimidated and nervous about meeting his or her partner’s sibling.

Even if your sibling’s new partner isn’t exactly your cup of tea, being rude or standoffish won’t do anything except upset your sibling and give their partner a bad first impression of her significant other’s family. Our advice? Be as nice as you can (without coming across as fake), and if they aren’t the right person for your sibling, they’ll realize that on their own in due time.

Do: Welcome Them

Nothing puts people more at ease than a warm and inviting host. If your sibling and their new partner are coming to stay with you, talk to them and find out what sort of things their partner is into, so you can make a concerted effort to bond with and get to know him or her. Of course, you don’t have to go too big and grand; just keep it simple. If they love Italian food, make a restaurant at your favorite pasta joint. If they are into exercising, sign the two of you up for a spin class. Your sibling will also be so glad to see two important people in their life getting along.

Don’t: Throw Your Sibling Under the Bus

Of course, a little fun-poking can lighten the mood, but make sure your jokes are appropriate and don’t paint your sibling in a bad light to her new partner. Stay away from anything that your sibling may be ashamed of or wouldn’t want to talk about, like a drunken night or an embarrassing sexual encounter.

Do: Read the Room

If your sibling’s new partner is coming to the extended family’s big holiday brunch, keep an eye on them. Notice that they’ve been talking to your pretentious and politically-charged uncle for the past 20 minutes? Jump in and save them with a family story of your own.

If the vibe is much more intimate, like a couples dinner at your place, keep the conversation flowing so that there aren’t any awkward silences. Maybe come with a few stories prepared just in case, if on-the-cusp witty banter isn’t exactly your strong suit.

Don’t: Pry

You may be curious about your sibling’s new love interest, but try to keep your questions at bay. After all, you don’t want them to feel like they are at a job interview. Be engaging and inquire about their interests, childhood, college experience, and profession, but definitely don’t ask about them any of their former relationships.

Some safe questions to ask: Where did you two meet? What did you do on your first date?

Do: Be on Your Best Behavior

Cocktails and red wine may help ease any pressure for this meeting to go well, but try to limit your consumption so that you don’t end up getting drunk and doing or saying something you may regret. On that note, be extra cautious of any potentially hurtful comments. Your sibling’s new partner may have a different sense of humor than yours, so what you deem hilarious, they may take as rude. When in doubt, air on the side of caution and be considerate.

Don’t: Embarrass Anyone

This goes hand-in-hand with being on your best behavior. Deferring to your sibling may not come naturally to you, but for this particular occasion, try to avoid doing, wearing, or saying anything that you know will bother them. If you want to be extra considerate, ask them if there’s anything they’d rather you stay away from.

Do: Make an Effort

Even if you don’t see this relationship lasting a lifetime, make an effort to get to know your sibling’s new S.O., and make them feel welcome. As we said, they are probably already feeling a little nervous about meeting you, so acting like you’re happy and excited to finally meet them (even if you aren’t) will make both them and your sibling so happy.

Don’t: Judge

It’s hard not to judge a book by its cover, but do your absolute best not to be openly judgmental. Unless they say something downright offensive, try to keep quiet and just nod politely. On a similar note, they and your sibling may be annoyingly public about their displays of affection, but it’s only because they’re so happy and want to express their love for each other. You may have been the same way when you and your partner started dating and were probably relieved that no one made you feel bad about it.

Do: Give Them a Chance

Keep in mind that everyone doesn’t always give off an excellent first impression, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad people. Before you write your sibling’s new partner off as someone you don’t like, give them a chance and consider the circumstances. Maybe their luggage got lost at the airport and they’re feeling a little stressed; maybe they and your sibling had a little spat in the car on the way to your home and are trying their best to be amicable until they’re in private; or maybe they just got bad news from a friend or family member and is trying not to be a downer. Give them the benefit of the doubt and be open-minded.

Those of us who work with children can sometimes forget how important sibling relationships are to the healthy development of children and teenagers. We tend to focus more on parent relationships, which while incredibly important, are only a party of the family system. Yet 82 percent of children live with a sibling, and relationships with our siblings may be the longest of our lives.

Siblings are important for many reasons. First, given their closeness in age, kids may be more likely to tell their siblings things that they might not tell their parents. This might include typical topics such as friendships, relationships and school – but it may also include more worrisome topics, such as abuse, drug use, pregnancy, self-harming behavior or suicidal thoughts.

Second, given that children and teenagers are more likely to confide in their siblings, they may also turn more readily to their siblings as a source of support. This piece is critical, because we know that one of the biggest risk factors for developing youth is suffering in isolation. The ability for young people to express their feelings to anyone – sibling, parent, or friend – can be highly therapeutic and can prevent a worsening of depressed mood or anxiety. Finally, siblings can serve as a sounding board for one another before trying things out in social settings. There is evidence to suggest that healthy sibling relationships promote empathy, prosocial behavior and academic achievement.

While healthy sibling relationships can be an incredible source of support, unhealthy and toxic sibling relationships may be equally devastating and destabilizing. Siblings sometimes say things to one another that parents would never say to their child (termed “sibling bullying”), and thus siblings can be even more emotionally abusive to one another than adults typically are to children.

Another source of stress can be when adults compare one sibling to another. This has the dual effect of shattering the self-esteem of the sibling who feels judged, while driving a wedge between the siblings and pushing them further apart. Also, when one sibling is suffering medically or emotionally, it can be a considerable stressor for the entire household including other siblings.

A sibling who is engaging in unhealthy behavior could model this behavior to other, typically younger, siblings who follow suit. For example, teenager girls are more likely to engage in sexual activity at an earlier age or get pregnant in high school if they’ve had an older sibling who has done the same. Toxic sibling relationships have been linked to increased substance use, depression, self-harming behavior and psychotic experiences such as hallucinations and delusions in adolescence.

To get the most out of sibling relationships, parents and child professionals can do the following:

  1. Both parents and child professionals should ask about how sibling relationships are going, ways that they are healthy and also ways that they could be improved.
  2. Celebrate sibling differences and avoid comparing siblings. This will promote self-esteem and prevent wedges from being formed between siblings.
  3. Encourage siblings to work together and support one another.
  4. Have both siblings earn rewards for cooperating with one another, but have neither of them receive this reward when they are not cooperating with one another. This will create an external incentive for them to work with one another until they are old enough that it becomes second nature.
  5. When one child is suffering from a medical, developmental or emotional problem, try to ensure that other siblings also receive enough attention even thought his may be difficult. It is very common for children to develop their own emotional difficulties when their siblings are struggling.
  6. In cases of sibling conflict where parents feel stuck, encourage families to seek out family counseling or family therapy in which a professional can help siblings to get on the same page with one another.

The power of sibling relationships can be life-changing in a positive way, and a little bit of maintenance can go a long way in ensuring that these relationships stay healthy in the long run.

For those who have brothers or sisters, or have watched your children play with their siblings, you know sibling relationships are unlike any other!

About 4 in 5 children grow up with at least one sibling, and most likely spend more time around siblings than their peers. This time together can help in forming a special bond.

Kids learn to play together! Here are some tips to encourage sibling play.

Allow them to have unstructured playtime.

While making sure they stay safe, let them make the rules of their time together. Try out make-believe play or let them pick the game of the day. Encourage unstructured play by enjoying some time outdoors.

Note the activities they enjoy and try your best to replicate them.

If you notice your children get along best when they’re doing a certain activity, find ways to replicate it. For example, do your children like tossing a ball back-and-forth? Try changing up the object they toss, or adding an extra challenge.

Let your children see you play with and care for their siblings.

Lead by example. Let your children see how you treat their siblings, so they understand how special their sibling is—and how special they are, too!

If you make a mistake, that’s ok! Let your children see how you apologize or make amends. This helps to set a good example of how they can interact with each other.

Encourage communication between your children.

Even if it’s as simple as goodnight and good morning! Communication is an important part of bonding, and setting the building blocks will benefit them in the long-run.

A great time to foster communication is at the end of the day. Here are some great wind-down activities to strengthen their bond.

Give them opportunities to be on the same team.

Play games that are siblings vs. parents, or siblings vs. friends, so they get a chance to be teammates. Try some of these games that they can play together in the car!

Emphasize kindness between siblings.

How to get your older sister to be nice to youSiblings can have a way of knowing what makes the other one tick. While fighting is natural, when possible, encourage and emphasize compliments and kindness. Ask them to say something they like about playing with their sibling to that sibling, or if they give their sibling a compliment, point out how nice that was of them to say!

So why is sibling playtime important in the first place? Well it turns out playtime is more than fun—it’s key to building social-emotional skills! In fact, sibling relationships help in all areas of development, including communication and strength.

Check out what else to expect from your children. Follow their milestones here!

Here is just some of the good that can come out of siblings playing together.

  • Siblings get to see each other’s behaviors—and learn from each other. Younger siblings often see and learn from older siblings, while older siblings have a chance to practice responsibility, teaching, and leadership.
  • They motivate each other. Children tend to be more into an activity when a sibling is present. Many siblings watch and imitate each other, and they will push each other to do better.
  • They learn a healthy sense of competition. Playtime can often take the form of game play, which involves winners and losers. But losing can be hard. Games help children practice and learn how to handle winning and losing, so there are better outcomes for everyone!
  • The benefits long outlast childhood. As children grow older, they will experience more benefits from their sibling bonds. They will have someone who shared the same home as them and can relate to them.

If your child has siblings, playtime with their brothers or sisters can be very beneficial. So help them go get playing—together!

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

Growing up, all I ever wanted was an older sibling. An older sister, to be specific — but beggars can’t be choosers. Being half-adopted myself, I realized that this wasn’t totally impossible, but also that it wasn’t highly probable.

Knowing how desperate I was for an attentive older sibling, you would think that as soon as my parents had more kids I would become the greatest and most awesome older sibling this world had ever know. The superhero of kinfolk — Super Sis! — with my sidekicks Seanboy and Bemma Face. But being thrust into sibling-hood isn’t totally failproof.

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

I love my siblings. And although I haven’t always been the best sibling in the world — one time my brother was following me around while I was trying to work on my posture by balancing a phone book on my head and I let it fall back and hit him, insisting it was an accident. It wasn’t. He got a black eye. I still feel awful about it — I’ve tried to be the fantastic older sibling I always wanted. And I’ve learned quite a few things along the way.

This is key to getting along with any human is respecting them, but goes doubly for your siblings. You get to an age where you realize that every one has different areas of expertise: it isn’t necessarily impressive to be smarter than someone who is younger than you. Odds are they just haven’t gotten to that area of learning yet. As you get older you’ll realize all of the facts you stored in your brain for quizzes and tests will have left you and soon all that will be left are the specific areas of schooling that you cared about (and probably some Shakespearean sonnets). You will get trivia’d under the table by a high school student studying for her SATs or a middle schooler in an advanced math class.

Respect Them

To your younger siblings, you are a saint — you can do no wrong in their eyes. Don’t ruin that! Don’t disillusion them any sooner than you need. Best case scenario? They think you’re the best thing since microwaveable rice until the end of time, even after they’ve seen your flaws, insecurities, doubts, and read your emo Tumblr posts. They look up to you so much, despite any mistakes you may think that you are making. It’s kind of like early training to become a parent, as weird and scary as that thought may seem.

Be Compassionate

Act as a role model for them. Being a role model is equal parts simple and terrifying. Simple because if you do it right no matter what you’re doing with your life, your younger siblings will find it cool — I guarantee it. And terrifying because it’s a huge amount of pressure. You don’t want to disappoint them or let them down. You don’t want to make a mistake that will not only negatively effect your life, but be a bad influence on your siblings’.

Be Their Friend

A truly awesome older siblings treats their siblings as their friends — because that’s what siblings are: instant friends! Friends with which you’re stuck, sure, but if you do it right, it won’t feel that way at all. Sure, you’ll get into fights and disagreements and run and tell your parents that your sister is the spawn of Satan, but at the end of the day you’ll all sit down and watch The X-Files, or Crashbox, or play a game of Sorry (…or maybe Family Sorry where no one gets sent back to start, because, yanno, fighting) and you’ll all realize how lucky you are that you have each other.

Being an older sibling is hard, I’ll admit. You’re the guinea pig. Growing up, you’re allowed to do much less and you most likely got your first cellphone at a much older age than either of your siblings did. But think of all of the things you got to do and they didn’t. It’s important to remember this: don’t assume that you’re better than your younger siblings. Don’t assume you’re smarter or have better taste or are in anyway superior. Treat them with respect. Come at them with empathy for their own unique experiences. Allow them some compassion when they make a mistake. Do that and you’ll be the greatest older sibling in their eyes.

Do you have any tips or tricks about handling being an older sibling? Let’s discuss in the comments.

I recently asked my friends and family, “When you think about instilling kindness in your kids, what do you mean by kindness?” They had many different responses: compassion, generosity, empathy, justice, alleviating suffering. But every answer involved an underlying consideration for others, rather than acting only out of self-interest. It makes sense that this is also the definition of humane, because kindness is the most fundamental expression of what it means to be a human being.

Kindness is about “seeing with your heart,” explains Angela C. Santomero, author of Radical Kindness: The Life-Changing Power of Giving and Receiving and cocreator of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. For our littlest kids, this might mean patting the back of a worried friend, waving to an elderly neighbor, or breaking a cookie in half to share with a younger brother. For older kids, kindness might be inviting a lonely classmate to join their lunch table, comforting someone who’s sad or scared, or donating some of their allowance to a cause they care about.

Whatever it means to you, it’s important to help nurture it in your children from a young age. Making our country a kinder place may seem daunting these days, but fostering compassion in your family is entirely doable. Just focus on the considerate habits of daily life, a few concrete actions, and a little reflection thrown in for good measure. Here’s how to step up and commit to raising the next generation of truly good people.

  • RELATED:7 Random Acts of Kindness Ideas for Kids

Help Them Understand What Kindness Means

Even before your kids are old enough to act kindly, you can start talking about it. Empathy is hardwired in us from birth through what’s known as the mirror-neuron system, and we intuitively feel what others feel, explains psychiatrist Kelli Harding, M.D., author of The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier With the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness. It’s why your 2-year-old may burst into tears when she sees another toddler fall at the playground, and it’s a perfect opportunity to articulate that experience for her: “You feel sad because you care about your friend and she hurt herself.”

If empathy is understanding, then compassion is acting on that understanding. Kids’ ability to do that develops a bit later. “As a child’s brain develops, he can better separate you from I, and that’s when compassion forms,” says Dr. Harding. “Toddlers are very focused on me and mine, but you can gradually help your child think about we and us by using inclusive we language yourself,” says developmental pediatrician Damon Korb, M.D. “For example, you might say, ‘What can we do today that will be fun for all of us?’ “

When kids are 3, 4, and 5, it’s a good time to start having discussions about kindness, suggests Dr. Korb, and the Golden Rule is a perfect conversational launchpad. “We treat other people the way we would hope to be treated ourselves,” you can explain to your preschooler. “You wouldn’t want someone to tease you about your mosquito bites, so you shouldn’t tease your cousin.” Once she seems to grasp this, you can move on to the Platinum Rule, which is that we treat people the way that’s best for them, even if that’s different from what’s best for us.

  • RELATED:3 Golden Rules for Great Behavior

To show what that means in real life, you might say to your 5-year-old, “Your brother’s going to be tired after a whole day of second grade. Should we bring him a special snack?” When she says, “Yes! Raisins!” you can remind her that’s her favorite snack and encourage her to remember his. She’ll feel both kind and proud to hand him a bag of cheese crackers, even though she herself is not a fan. At the beach, you can say to your kindergartner: “We know you like to be buried up to your neck in sand, but your sister cries when she gets sand in her sandal. Do you think she’ll like getting a bucket of it dumped over her bare legs?” To a child who’s using the baby’s foot as a microphone while shouting the alphabet song, you can point out, “Look at your brother’s face. Does he look like he’s having fun?”

Inspire Their Imagination

Thinking “What would that feel like?” is one of the most powerful habits we can instill in our children. “You can’t be a compassionate person unless you have an active imagination—you have to be able to step into someone else’s shoes,” says Katherine Applegate, author of award-winning children’s books, including The One and Only Ivan and Wishtree.

Pretend play is a great way for young kids to practice empathy. You could say to your child, “Your doll fell down and bumped her head! What do you think we should do for her?” As your kids get older, you can ask them to imagine more complicated real-life scenarios as you encounter them. “I point out differences to my kids without making any judgment, so they’re able to form their own opinions,” says Dr. Korb, a father of five. “I might say, ‘I wonder what it would be like to sleep outside when it’s cold.'” You can offer all sorts of similar opportunities for reflection: “Imagine being a kitten that was stuck up in a tree and wasn’t able to climb down.” “Imagine how hard it must be to get on the bus in a wheelchair—and how grateful you would feel that a smart engineer invented the lift to make that possible!”

  • RELATED:The Benefits of Pretend Play

Over time, this type of thinking becomes automatic, and so does a child’s response to it. When she sees a kid who forgot his lunch, she knows he’s hungry, and she offers to share hers. She volunteers at a soup kitchen. She writes a letter to the firehouse, thanking firefighters for rescuing kittens. She makes eye contact with people in a wheelchair, and she offers them a smile.

Reading a book together is another easy way to connect with your child and experience someone else’s life that might be very different from your own. “When we read, we imagine with our heart and soul and not just our brain,” says Applegate. “Characters in a book often share their feelings in an even deeper way than they might if they were sitting right in front of you.”

Model Kindness Everywhere You Go

When it comes to raising thoughtful kids, this is the most important thing we can do, says Dr. Harding. “We can’t control their behavior, but we can look for ways to demonstrate kind behavior ourselves.” Fortunately, kids are eager to copy us from a young age, so you can model kindness from the time they’re babies. “After all, you want your 18-month-old to imitate hugging someone who’s sad,” says Dr. Korb. As they get older, your kids will watch how you treat people, from subtle interactions, such as putting your phone down to make eye contact and say thank you, to more tangible acts of kindness, like inviting a lonely person to share a holiday, bringing a meal to a sick neighbor, comforting the bereaved, and donating time and money to take care of people in need.

Of course, it matters how we treat our children too. As Dr. Harding puts it, “Our intuition tells us a lot about kindness.” This means trusting empathy over whatever parenting “shoulds” are in your head. That might look like keeping your baby in your arms because she just wants to be held or like returning to the store to buy a little someone that Lion King pencil after all—not because your son is crying, although he is, but because you genuinely hadn’t realized how important it was to him. Kindness also means giving your children, especially when there are siblings in the mix, a feeling of abundance—that there is enough love, praise, laughter, and attention to go around.

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

Inside: Sisters have a special brand of magic. Here are 18 things to do with your sister before you turn 18 to honor that sister magic. But if you’re older than 18, it’s not too late.

Nine years ago this month, I lost my sister. Too early. She would be turning 51 this month.

When I think of Lisa and the last few years when I could have spent more time with her, the regret sticks in my throat.

She left this world before my kids entered it. She never got to meet them, and I never got to ask for her advice on being a good mom.

She took me to my first professional baseball game. To my first pro basketball game, too. On my first roller coaster. I never took her to do something new she hadn’t done before. Not even to a new restaurant.

She always gave me two birthday cards. A sweet, heartfelt card, and one to make me laugh. After I left home for college, I don’t think I remembered to send her a single card.

The Things That Sisters Do

On the icy day that I was born, when the ambulance couldn’t get to our home in time, 13-year-old Lisa was on the phone with 911. They told her what to do, and she did it. She was there from the very first second I entered this world.

She used to make us nachos in the microwave. The best freaking nachos. And I’ve never been able to get mine to turn out as good as hers.

When I was 13, she had me watch Nightmare on Elm Street. I wouldn’t take a bath for years afterwards because I was afraid Freddy Krueger would come up through the drain. But she also let me watch Dirty Dancing before my mom would let me. And then a few months later when my mom decided I was old enough, I had to sit there and pretend it was my first time watching it.

Sisters have a special brand of magic, and now I see that same magic sparking between my girls.

Watching them grow up together fills my heart to the brim. Watching their sister magic – even when they’re driving each other crazy – I can’t help but smile.

But the regret. It sticks in my throat.

I wish I could go back in time and do all the things I never did with my big sister.

And so I made myself a promise. I will nurture this beautiful, sometimes volatile sister magic between my girls. I will set the stage for my girls to do all the things that sisters should do together.

18 Things to Do With Your Sister Before You Turn 18

If you have daughters, look for opportunities to support and encourage these activities so your girls can deepen their bond of sisterhood.

And if you’re an adult with a sister and you haven’t checked off all these awesome sister-bonding activities quite yet, I promise you it’s not too late.

  1. Stay up late in bed together, whispering made up stories to each other.
  2. Try out new hairstyles on each other. (As long as no scissors are involved.)
  3. Sneak the younger one into a movie she’s technically too young for.
  4. Have a knock-down-drag-out fight over something stupid. Then apologize to each other, without anyone forcing you to.
  5. Admit your deepest, darkest fears to each other – whether she’s afraid her nose is too big for her face or you’re afraid you’ll never understand chemistry.
  6. Borrow each other’s clothes or jewelry.
  7. Do a 1000-piece puzzle together.
  8. Share inside jokes that no one else understands.
  9. Bake something together and get batter everywhere, even the ceiling.
  10. Hear a new song on the radio, fall in love with it, and go on an all-day binge listening to all that artist’s music.
  11. Play a prank on your parents.
  12. Teach the younger one what to do if someone touches your body in a way you don’t like.
  13. Give yourselves matching pedicures.
  14. Spend all day in your jammies watching your favorite movies.
  15. Ride a scary roller coaster together.
  16. Read out loud to each other.
  17. Go to each other’s sports games, concerts, and plays.
  18. When she’s fighting with her friends, listen and take her side – because she’ll return the favor one day.
Before you go, get my FREE cheat sheet: 75 Positive Phrases Every Child Needs to Hear

Your Turn

What ideas do you have for things to do with your sister? Share in a comment below!

Judith Cameron lost her brother 30 years ago when he cut his family out of his life – he never explained why. At their mother’s funeral, she didn’t even recognise him. Now he’s gone and it’s too late to reconnect, but does it matter?

Judith Cameron … ‘I couldn’t condone his behaviour, but I did acknowledge that during his early life he wasn’t treated as an equal.’ Photograph: Adrian Sherratt/The Guardian

Judith Cameron … ‘I couldn’t condone his behaviour, but I did acknowledge that during his early life he wasn’t treated as an equal.’ Photograph: Adrian Sherratt/The Guardian

T he fourth of five children, I was born into a loving, working-class family, where our sibling rivalries surfaced daily. But, like most families, for important things we were a strong team. As we grew up, some remained closer than others but we kept in contact, and there is a photo of us linking arms on my wedding day in 1980. Smiling at the camera, there is no inkling that just a couple of years later, we would in effect lose our younger brother, Malcolm, who would no longer wish to meet our parents or us.

We didn’t know why, and although he agreed to limited phone contact, he never tried to justify his decision. Invitations were turned down and, should any of us drop round, he was friendly but firmly refused entry. Malcolm and his wife lived within a 10-minute walk of the family home, and so our mum and dad sometimes saw their youngest child when shopping.

We expect siblings to have an automatic draw, but usually we would never pick them to be our friends

Initially, we all tried to persuade Malcolm to meet up but he always found an excuse. Increasingly I felt the pain his absence caused our parents and after a few years, brought our phone contact to an end. When my mum died in 2006, he attended the crematorium and I didn’t even notice. We hadn’t met for more than 20 years and I’d almost forgotten him. But how had I let that happen?

Dr Alexis Johnson, a clinical psychologist, says that while most adult siblings have feelings of loyalty, a form of love, this is not because they necessarily like one another. “On personality scales, adult siblings are no more alike than any two people of that age. So we expect siblings to have an automatic draw, but usually we would never pick them to be our friends.”

Johnson explains that each sibling is in effect born into a different family with diverse experiences and opportunities. “Parents have a story about each child before its birth, including how welcome or unwelcome it is, whether it’s a boy or a girl and with very high expectations for the firstborn.”

Other variables that affect personality are parents’ ages, health, wealth and characters. And each additional child affects the dynamic. “Our siblings can be as formative to our sense of self within the family system as our parents,” says Julia Jameson, a London-based counsellor. “It is in these intense relationships that we begin learning to play, share, imagine and communicate, as well as compete, protest and avenge.”

Even when parents strive to be open and fair-minded, it is a challenge to deal with the many demands of bringing up a family. But if unresolved, difficulties in childhood relationships can become frozen in time and reappear in later life when the victim feels safer if separate. Jameson says that while we are often brought up to believe that we should like our family and remain close, it is an idealised perspective that rarely matches reality.

Johnson says that for adult loyalty to survive, it has to endure a lifetime of “transitions”, or fundamental shifts in family structure. Birth, death, marriage, retirement, elderly care, and inheritance issues are all transitions that can prompt discord and eventual estrangement. Although feelings of resentment, unfairness or difference may go back to childhood, the desire to escape happens during a period of transition much later and is not unusual.

This was the case for Jane, 45, and a much older brother. “We were never close as children,” she says, “and he rarely visited. We haven’t spoken since our parents died and the house was sold three years ago.” The age gap ensured very different childhood experiences – indeed Jane was privately educated although her brother attended the local comprehensive. This alone could be a major cause of resentment, while there may be others. And the parents’ deaths appear to have created an ideal opportunity to break all ties.

Claire, 48, has initiated two periods of estrangement from her younger sister. “I don’t really get this ‘blood is thicker than water’ thing. My parents would say: ‘But she’s family, you need to make an effort.’” Claire, the middle of three sisters and a brother, previously enjoyed a good relationship with them all and only developed problems with her sister in adulthood. “I had come out to my parents and was living with someone they had met. My sister was getting married and said only I could come to the wedding.” This exclusion of Claire’s partner prompted the first rift, but the underlying problems remained unresolved. “There were a number of triggers for the current estrangement, including really bad behaviour toward my mum after my dad died,” says Claire. “The last time I spoke to her was years ago.”

As for me, I never sought reconciliation with Malcolm, but Johnson explains: “Probably, in his inner world, he carried a storyline that he was always the outsider … always different … that it was safer to get out of the family than to maintain close connections.” Certainly, Malcolm had serious health problems as a baby and developed slowly, experiencing learning difficulties at school later on. He was cossetted and treated differently by the rest of us – even as an adult. Only after leaving home to live independently with his wife did the opportunity arise to rid himself of what he probably felt was an overbearing and condescending family – albeit a loving one.

Sadly, Malcolm’s departure meant he missed many happy family occasions over the decades as well as the pleasure of knowing his nieces and nephews. He escaped the deaths of his eldest sister and my eldest daughter, but when our mum was terminally ill, he returned. It was too late to build bridges with her, but he then met regularly with my dad and elder brother. Until a few months ago, I chose not to see Malcolm despite knowing he had developed cancer. But, late last year, when my dad asked that his four surviving children gather to celebrate his 91st birthday, I agreed.

How to get your older sister to be nice to you

She may be your blood and perhaps even your only sister, but that doesn’t mean the two of you are ready to ride off into the sunset like you’re twin sisters in a gum commercial.

The fact is, sisters aren’t always best friends and even when you deeply love and care for your sister, there may still be some ugly, competitive, or resentful feelings between the two of you that are impossible to let go of.

Sometimes, though, it’s hard to confront or face this bad blood because the tension your sister may emit when with you may be so incredibly passive-aggressive.

This means there will never, ever be a sit-down discussion about the two of you, nor will she ever whisper a word about the real ugly feelings that lie beneath your sisterhood.

Here’s how to know for sure you and your sister are toxic siblings.

1. She doesn’t cheer you on.

If your sister never roots for you or calls to say “Congratulations” when you’ve accomplished a big goal, guess what? She’s most likely jealous of you and harbors ill feelings towards you. Sad? Yes. Your sister should be on the sidelines, but sometimes our sisters simply won’t be there to cheer us on.

2. She always has something to say about your life choices.

My sister comments on every single one of my life choices and it’s usually to tell me how it’s wrong. Or in an extremely passive-aggressive manner, she will tell some “story” of how someone she knows did exactly what I chose to do and how it blew up in this person’s face. But of course she’ll add, “I’m sure it will be different for you.”

Yeah, sure. Sisters that harbor bad blood will be inspecting your life as if you’re right under her personal microscope. From my social media statuses to my expenses, “Sister” has something to say and it’s usually negative.

3. She blames your success on pure luck.

When your sister is forced to acknowledge something you’ve done well, it will never be because you put in the hard work and elbow grease; no, it’s because of luck. Of course, your dear sister is never lucky.

4. She’s constantly complaining about her own misfortunes.

If your sister is constantly talking about her misfortunes and comparing them to your life repeatedly, she’s resentful of you and is putting her anger about her situation onto you. Oh boy, is this toxic! Been there, been through that.

5. You’re rarely seen together.

Does your sister ever show up at events, holidays, your birthday, or go out with you anywhere? If the answer is no, then why? Is she really that busy or does she simply not want to be around you? You know the answer and it hurts.

6. You’ve been fighting since you can remember.

Have the two of you fought since childhood? This is a battle that will never die. It doesn’t matter that the two of you are related: you simply don’t mix and no genes or DNA will let this battle die.

7. You scoff when people say you look alike.

When people say the two of you are similar in any manner, do you or your sister choke on your spit and gasp, “Absolutely not!”? There’s no doubt about the bad blood between the two of you.

8. She only speaks about herself.

When you two do spend time together, does your sister go on and on about herself, never pausing to ask how you are? She doesn’t care how you are, and if she does care she doesn’t want to hear it because your life may make her feel bad about hers.

9. You’re always competing with one another.

Is it a competition between the two of you? Is everything and anything a game to win? From how you raise your kids to how much you weigh, do one of you or both of you find yourself running to a metaphorical scoreboard? If you said yes, the two of you are sister with some serious bad mojo.

Sisterhood isn’t all daisies and tampon-commercial happiness. Sisters can be wonderful but they can also be the first person to figuratively push you down the cliff when you’re down or to throw stones at your trophies when you’re excelling in life.

Whether it’s due to her own feelings about her life or old childhood battles gone wrong, bad blood between a sister and you can be emotionally painful.

Sharing Between Siblings

Witnessing your children argue over a toy—which hasn’t been played with by either child in months—it becomes clear why seasoned parents of siblings like to joke that when it comes to having multiple children you have to buy two of everything.

Sharing is challenging for all children—and siblings are no exception. This week, we offer tips for helping siblings learn to take turns and share.

You’ll be relieved to know that buying two (or more!) of every toy isn’t the most practical solution. Sharing is a skill that needs to be taught, especially during toddlerhood. Toddlers are just beginning to learn about ownership and can be possessive about their things. They think everything belongs to them, so they may be possessive about their sibling’s things, too. Fortunately, with time, children’s patience grows and they learn to sort “mine” and “yours” and to take turns. However, there are going to be a few years where struggles over toys is going to be par for the course.

The way you approach teaching how to share will be different with each child. It’s good to look at the situation from each of child’s perspective.

Your Older Sibling’s Feelings

Think back to when your first child was a toddler: All the toys in the home were theirs; they didn’t have to share or wait their turn; they also had you all to themselves. They had it made, until they had a friend over to play and suddenly they were confronted with the concept of sharing. They had to learn to take turns.

It’s a big shift for children when a sibling enters the picture. Suddenly, this taking-turns concept seems to be expected for nearly everything. It can be hard for your older child to suddenly have to share you, space, and their belongings. When it comes to sharing toys, start the conversation early—around the time that baby can start grasping or grabbing for toys.

  • Explain that babies learn about their world through exploring and touching things.
  • “We can help your sister learn to take turns by letting her touch your teddy bear for a few minutes.”
  • “Sometimes babies might try to put a toy in their mouths. It’s another way they learn and it can also help when their mouth hurts from growing new teeth.”
  • Have a container with baby-friendly toys nearby. Ask your older child to pick a toy from the bin for little sister or brother to play with.

As your youngest grows from a baby through toddlerhood, they will become more assertive when it comes to sharing. As parents, it can be easier to give in to the toddler’s demands by letting them have the toy because we know our older children are less likely to go into meltdown mode. But that isn’t always fair to them. It’s important to respect your older child’s feelings and autonomy. In addition, your toddler eventually learns to take turns.

  • If your older child is playing with a toy that your toddler wants, ask your toddler to be patient and wait their turn.
  • Explain to your older child that “toddlers are still learning the rules of sharing and it’s hard for them to be patient.” “It’s our job to teach them how sharing works.”
  • “Your brother is still little and has very big feelings. Yes, he wants your toy but he needs to wait his turn. Maybe you could pick another toy he can play with.”
  • Set an age-appropriate time limit: “Since you both want the toy, how about I set the timer and you play with it for 10 more minutes, and then it will be your sister’s turn.” Then use words to tell your toddler the plan.

Your Younger Child’s Feelings

Why is it that toys look so much more fun when big brother or sister is playing with them? If you have siblings, you’ve seen this scenario many times. Toddlers aren’t usually shy when it comes to asking for what they want. They may grab a toy out of your older child’s hands or push them away from a toy they want.

  • Act quickly if you see that grabbing is about to happen.
  • Gently hold your child’s hand and patiently remind them to say “please” and wait their turn.
  • If they continue to keep taking the toy or get overly upset, remove your child from the toy and ask them to have some quiet time to settle down. “Shawn, you are still grabbing the ball. Lucas can have another turn for 5 minutes while you have some quiet time to calm down.”
  • Use distraction and offer a choice for something he can play with while he waits.

Rules for Both Children

There may be times when your children fight over a toy, and it’s unclear who had the toy first or how the problem started. The following suggestions can be helpful in this situation:

  • Avoid giving in to the youngest child when they protest or get upset.
  • Don’t assume your oldest did something to upset their younger sibling.
  • Decide who can play with the toy first and set a time limit. Use a timer.
  • Notice when they are sharing or taking turns. Lay on the praise, “You are playing so well together taking turns. Doesn’t that feel great?”
  • If they continue to squabble over the toy, even after you have set them up to take turns, give the toy 5 minutes to “rest.” Then the 5 minutes can start again.

One of the most powerful tools you have is Praise. Sing it loud and often! Over time, this can encourage your child to choose sharing over fighting—making playtime more enjoyable for the whole family.