Sibling Rivalry

The Do’s and Don’ts of Staying Cool

By Jennifer Hadley, Btweens Intern

If there is anyone on earth who really knows how to push our buttons, it is probably our siblings. Brothers and sisters can cause unwanted frustration and annoyance, whether they are snooping through your room, calling you names or following and copying your every move. Believe it or not, there are ways to avoid and deal with fights so that you don’t go crazy.

Katherine is 9-years-old and has experience dealing with sibling disagreements because she has a 6-year-old brother named Luke. One day Katherine wanted to watch television, but Luke wanted to play the Wii. “We decided to take turns,” Katherine said. “So one person would play the Wii for a certain amount of time, and the other person would watch TV for a certain amount of time.”

Katherine’s advice for other tweens who find themselves in disagreements with siblings is to try to talk it out. “If that doesn’t work then you should both take some quiet time alone and try it again later,” she said.

Advice on how to keep your cool when your brother or sister is pushing your buttons.

How to resolve a disagreement:

  1. If you are so angry that you want to yell or call your sibling a name, take a break from the situation to calm down. Go to your room or get some fresh air outside after asking permission from a parent. Doing this will help you avoid a more severe conflict.
  2. Once you are calm, tell your sibling to stop in a firm and direct way without yelling. Make eye contact, use a serious tone of voice and you can even say, “I’m serious.” Be specific about what you want your sibling to stop doing. Remember, if your sibling cannot make you super angry, then their behavior will probably stop.
  3. If you go through these two steps and your sibling continues to bother you, then it’s time to ask a parent or adult for help.

How to express yourself the right way:

  1. Make sure you and your sibling are calm enough to have a discussion.
  2. When you tell your sibling what’s bothering you, don’t start your sentences with “you.” For example, “You always follow me around like a lost puppy,” will probably make your sibling defensive because it sounds like you are accusing them or blaming them.
  3. Instead of starting sentences with “you,” use “I.” When you use “I,” you are taking responsibility for how you feel. It is not fair to blame someone for the way you feel when they don’t know what they did to bother you. Say how you feel, what behavior is bothering you and then give them a solution. For example: “I feel frustrated when you follow me and I would like you to give me space.”
  4. Don’t use absolute words like “always,” “never,” “should” and “must” are unfair to describe people’s behaviors. For example, if you say “You always interrupt me,” that would be considered an unfair statement, because no one always interrupts.

The important thing to remember is that despite all of the disagreements, your sibling will most likely be your best friend for life.

Resource: Kylene Halliday, Psy.D, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at the Miri Center in California, works with school-age children, pre-teens, and teens.