How to Deal With Big Sisters
Having an older sister can often mean having a go-to confidante, mentor, and friend. However, relationships between siblings are often difficult to navigate, and conflicts arise pretty frequently. If you find yourself wishing that you had a better relationship with your older sister, you and your sister can work together to get things back on track. It just takes a little effort.
Dealing with Conflict
Explain your feelings.If you’re upset with an older sister, it’s usually best to be honest and explain what’s bothering you. Keeping it to yourself usually causes your hurt and anger to grow, leaving you more likely to blow up at her at some point. Because she’s older, your sister will hopefully be mature enough to listen to your side without getting too defensive.
- Stay calm as you’re discussing your feelings. Your sister is unlikely to listen to you if you start yelling and shouting.
- To keep her from feeling defensive, use “I” statements. Instead of saying, “You never listen to me,” say “When I feel like I’m not being listened to, it hurts my feelings.”
- If your sister raises her voice or speaks to you harshly, politely ask her to stop. Make it clear that you want to have a conversation, not an argument. For example, you might say, "I don't want to fight. Let's try to calm down so we can actually listen to each other."
Let her express her emotions.If your sister is upset with you, ask her to explain her feelings so you can understand where she’s coming from. Try to be patient, and really absorb what she’s saying so you're better able to address the problem. Avoid interrupting her and trying to defend yourself while she's talking too.
- Don’t be afraid to ask her to clarify what she’s saying to ensure that you really understand her feelings. For example, you might say, "I really want to understand what you're saying. Do you mean that you feel disrespected when I borrow your things without asking?"
- If you find that your mind is wandering while your sister is venting, bring the focus back to her by repeating what she’s saying in your head. Make sure to put it in your own words, so you're sure that you understand what she’s saying.
Avoid getting physical.When you’re upset with your sister or she’s upset with you, it’s common for both of you to get frustrated. If that happens, anger often boils over, and someone may be tempted to do something physical, such as shoving, hitting, or kicking. You’re never going to resolve a conflict with violence, though, so it’s important to do everything you can to prevent it.
- If your sister becomes violent during the course of your discussion, walk away immediately. Don’t be tempted to fight back, or your conflict will only become worse.
- Tempers may occasionally flare, but if your sister often resorts to hurting you because she’s bigger and stronger, you’re dealing with sibling abuse. Tell someone that you trust, such as your parents, grandparents, or a teacher.
- When you feel yourself losing your patience and contemplating hurting your sister, try counting to 10 in your head. That can often give you enough time to get your anger under control, so you don't wind up doing something that you’ll regret.
Come up with a compromise.The best way to resolve a conflict is to find a solution that satisfies both parties, which means comprising. For example, if you’re upset because your older sister never lets you borrow her clothes and she’s angry because you sometimes take her clothing without her permission, see if she’ll identify a few items that you’re allowed to occasionally borrow as long as you promise to ask first. Whatever solution you come up with, make sure that you’re meeting each other in the middle.
- You have to be willing to give something up when you compromise, so don’t expect your sister to do all the giving. The goal is to find a way for both of you to get a little bit of what you want.
- You might introduce the idea of a compromise to your sister by saying something like, "Maybe we can find a way for both of us to be happy. What if we try this?"
- When you’re arguing with your older sister, it’s usually best if the two of you can resolve the situation with your own compromise. If you involve your parents, one or both of you may wind up punished.
Establish boundaries.In many cases, conflicts will arise with your older sister because one or both of you don’t understand the other’s limits. For example, you might get annoyed when your sister calls you names, while your sister may not like it when you mimic her and repeat everything she says. To avoid problems in the future, sit down and explain your boundaries to your sister -- but you must be willing to accept hers as well.
- Your boundaries don’t just have include behaviors that you don’t like during an argument. You and your sister should discuss all of the things that you don’t like, such as entering one another’s rooms without knocking or borrowing one another’s belongings and not returning them.
- Be direct when you're explaining your boundaries, so your sister knows what will happen if she crosses them. For example, you might say, "If you call me a loser, I'm going to walk away from our conversation."
- It may be a good idea to actually write down a list the boundaries that you’ve discussed. Make two copies so you each have one, and neither of you can claim that you didn’t know or understand any of the things that you’ve discussed.
Bonding with Older Sisters
Don’t make comparisons.Because your sister is older, she’ll have done many things before you, and it’s only natural that you’ll sometimes compare yourself to her. For example, you’ll compare your B+ in Algebra to her A-, or the fact that played first chair in orchestra while you were third. Comparing yourself to her in that way is one of the surest ways to create resentment and conflict between you, so do your best to remind yourself that you’re your own person and avoid those comparisons.
- You shouldn’t make your sister feel bad about herself by making comparisons either. Whether the comparison makes you look good or not, it can cause trouble in your relationship.
Give her space.Everyone needs time and space to be by themselves sometimes. To make sure that the two of you get along, it’s a good idea to give her time alone on a regular basis. Remember that you don’t need to spend every minute together to have a good relationship.
Respect each other’s belongings.Most people are protective of their things, such as clothing, jewelry, books, and headphones, so if you and your older sister aren’t respectful of one another’s belongings, it can be a major source of conflict. Part of being a good little sister or brother is making sure that you never borrow your sister’s things without her permission, and always return them in the same condition. You should also make it clear to your sister that you expect the same from her.
- If you’re not sure whether you’re being respectful of your sister’s things, just ask yourself, “Would I want her to treat my stuff like this?”
- Respecting one another’s belonging doesn’t just involve the things that you borrow. Don’t go snooping through her stuff to read her diary or take her phone to see who’s texting.
Make a date.If you want to have a good relationship with your older sister, it’s important that you both make time for one another. That’s why it helps to set up a weekly or monthly “date” that you set aside to spend time with one another. You might go for a hike every Sunday afternoon or plan a movie night every Thursday. Even a regular trip to the mall can be fun with your sister.
- Working on a joint project together can be a good way to spend time together. For example, you might agree to make dinner for the family together once a week.
- It’s also a good idea to set aside some time each month just to support one another. You might go to your sister’s soccer match, while she attends your dance recital, so you’re both taking an active interest in the other’s life.
Involving Your Parents
Push for ground rules.While you probably want to leave your parents out of conflicts with your sister whenever possible, they can play an important role in maintaining harmony between the two of your. Ask your parents to establish ground rules so both you and your older sister understand exactly what sort of behavior is tolerated in your home. Even more importantly, though, make sure your parents establish what the consequences are for breaking the rules.
- If you're not sure what how to ask your parents for comprehensive rules, you might say, "I want to make sure that we all know what behavior is acceptable and what isn't. Could you please set down some ground rules?"
- You may want to ask your parents to establish a procedure for how to report rule violations too. You don’t want your sister to accuse you of tattling every time you try to alert your parents to her behavior.
Ask to limit hand-me-downs.One of the worst parts of being a younger sibling is having to deal with hand-me-downs. Whether it’s clothing, sports equipment, or electronics, it’s no fun when you’re always getting your sister’s old things while she gets new items just because she’s older. Explain to your parents how you feel, and see if it’s possible to limit the number of hand-me-downs that you receive.
- It’s important to be mindful of the fact that money sometimes plays a role in how many hand-me-downs you get. Don’t expect your parents to buy you all new items if your sister’s are still in good condition.
- If you're unsure how to broach the subject with your parents, you might say, "It really makes me feel like an afterthought when I have to wear all of my sister's old clothes.May I pick out a new shirt/dress/pair of pants for the party next week?"
Suggest family meetings.The best way to ensure that everyone in the family gets along is to set aside a specific time to address concerns and problems. Ask your parents if you can hold weekly or monthly family meetings where everyone can talk about what’s bothering them. That way, if there’s an issue with your sister that she’s not aware of or vice versa, you have neutral ground to discuss it, with your parents on hand to moderate.
QuestionWhat if your older sister is so mad that she doesn't even want to look at you?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIn a case like that, it's best to give her some time and space. You won't be able to have a productive conversation when she's that angry, so let her cool off before you try again.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I stop my sister from telling me what to do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf your sister is routinely bossing you around, it's probably something that you should discuss with your parents. Sometimes, they may leave her in charge when they're not home, which means that you should listen to her. However, if she's telling you what to do even when they're around, they should make it clear to her that they make the rules for the house, not her.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if your sister is very sarcastic and won't listen?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt can be very frustrating when it feels like your sister belittles your feelings and doesn't listen to what you have to say. In that case, it's probably best to have your parents or someone else that you trust moderate between the two of you to increase the chances that your sister will listen.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if your older sister yells at you for no reason?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerEven when it doesn't seem like it, there's almost always a reason why your sister is yelling at you. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that it might not have anything to do with you. For example, she might get a bad grade on a test or have a fight with a friend, and take out her frustration on you. Try to talk to her and see if she'll open up about why she's so upset.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if you're home alone and it's just you and your sister?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt's very important that your parents establish who's in charge when you two are left alone. If they tell you that you must listen to your sister, then you should try to do what she says. If she abuses her power by being mean to you, calmly tell your parents about it, so they can re-evaluate whether she should be left in charge.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if my sister is really tired and she is very mean to me when she is?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf there are situations where you know your sister is difficult to be around, such as when she's tired, do your best to avoid being around her at those times.Thanks!
QuestionWill being funny make your sister like you more?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on your sister's personality, but finding ways to bond with your sister is definitely a good way to strengthen your relationship. Try to find ways to have fun with her -- if telling her jokes does the trick, keep it up.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if your parents talk to her every day about this issue and she keeps being mean?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAsk your parents to establish clear consequences for your sister's behavior. For example, if she calls you names, she won't be able to watch her favorite show that night. If your sister knows that she'll have to pay for her bad behavior, she should be more likely to stop.Thanks!
QuestionMy sister never behaves nice with me. She always says mean things to me which hurt my heart. What shall I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMake sure that you explain to her exactly how much her behavior and words hurt you. If she continues to be mean to you, it may be time to talk to your parents.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if your parents don't care that your older sister bothers you?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you've honestly tried talking to your parents and they won't intervene between you and your sister, you may want to talk to another trusted adult in your life, such as a grandparent or school counselor. They can hopefully talk to your parents on your behalf, so they realize how serious the situation with your sister is.Thanks!
- Try to avoid negative situations with your older sister. For example, if she tends to lose her temper when she’s stressed, make an effort not to start an argument with her when she’s studying for a big exam.
- If your older sister has done something to hurt your feelings, don’t bottle it up inside. You’ll probably blow up eventually and turn what might have been a simple discussion into a big fight.
- It’s normal to look up to an older sister, but remember that she’s only human -- she makes mistakes, gets upset, and loses her temper just like anyone else.
- No matter how frustrated, angry, or upset your sister may make you, remember that she’s always going to be your family. The older you get, the more important that relationship will likely become, so it’s important to try your best to get along with her.
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