How To Deal With an Annoying Younger Sibling!
How to Stop Your Little Sister from Annoying You
Sibling rivalry has been around for as long as there have been siblings. If you're an older sibling, you likely find some of your younger counterpart's behavior frustrating. Little sisters can be annoying. Sometimes they are still learning how to behave with maturity. Sometimes their behavior tempts you to use immature tactics yourself! Fortunately, you can lesson the annoying impact of your little sister's behavior by remembering one important fact: she looks to you as a role model.Respond to your sister's annoying qualities with maturity, and encourage her when she behaves well. Soon you'll find that she annoys you less -- and you'll enjoy your sibling relationship more.
Addressing Conflicts With Maturity
Communicate calmly.When you are having any kind of conflict with another person, it’s best to to avoid dealing with the problem while you are feeling angry, frustrated, or upset.You will probably not communicate well, and may just make the situation worse.
- If possible, remove yourself physically from your little sister. Talk about what happened when you both feel calmer.
- If you can’t get away, try to keep your head. Blowing up at her will only make things worse. Take a breath and count to ten before responding.
Express your feelings to your sister using "I" language.Instead of saying, “You are such a brat!” or or “Why won’t you leave me alone?” try telling her, “When you do that, I feel sad/hurt/disrespected/upset. It hurts my feelings. Do you like it when people hurt your feelings?” This helps your sister understand the impact of her behavior and teaches her that her actions have consequences.
- Using "I" language rather than blaming, criticizing, or accusing your sister will also show her that you respect her. She will be much more likely to treat you with respect in return.
Listen to your sister's side of the story.How is she experiencing your conflict? Even if you continue to disagree, understanding where she's coming from will help you both move toward a solution.
Remember what it was like to be your sister's age.Were you always totally rational, or did you sometimes do ridiculous or embarrassing things? Do you think you ever annoyed people? Do you remember how it felt when people you loved or looked up to were mean to you? Your sister’s brain is still developing, and she needs patience as she figures out how to interact with others. The more empathy you show her, the more she will learn, and the less annoying she will become.
Consider your sister’s motivations.If you want to change her behavior, you have to understand why she acts the way she does.Although it may not always seem like it, your sister looks up to you. She wants to spend time with you, and to know that you love and respect her.If you show her that you do, your relationship with her will become much easier.
- Consider the consequences of your own actions. For example, if you give your sister the silent treatment she will become desperate for your attention, which may make her even more annoying. On the other hand, if you make sure that the two of you spend a little bit of quality time together every week she will be much more likely to accept it when you say, “I’m sorry, I can’t play with you right now, I’m doing something else.”
- Learn to compromise. Your sister's needs may be different from yours, but objectively speaking, they are just as important as your own. You cannot always meet her demands, and sometimes her youth will mean her reactions aren't as mature as you'd prefer. If you strive to meet in the middle when possible, however, you'll eliminate considerable conflict on both sides.
Tell a parent or caretaker what is happening.If your sister is getting on your last nerve, reach out to an adult for help.
- Remember, people will be less inclined to help if you get personal, or if you overreact: “She’s so annoying! Make her stop!” or, “You always take her side!”
- Instead, focus on the problem: “She’s come into my room without knocking every day this week, and I feel like I can’t get any privacy. Could you try talking to her about it?” or, “She starts screaming every time I say no to her, and I’m having a lot of trouble handling it. Do you have any ideas?”
- Ask your parent or guardian for regular "alone time" to talk about life in general -- and your relationship with your little sister. Checking in on a regular basis will give your parent or guardian the knowledge they need to monitor your interactions with your little sisterbeforethey hit the crisis stage of serious irritation. Your parent or guardian should take similar time to talk with your sibling(s).
Teaching Your Sister How To Behave
Establish family rules.Sit down with your parents at a time when you're both calm and set ground rules for interacting during conflicts. These rules will help you handle conflicts fairly and set expectations for how certain situations will be addressed.
- For example, you might set a rule that distinguishes between "tattling" and "telling" -- "tattling" is done just to get someone in trouble ("Jane tracked mud in the house!"), while "telling" is done to keep someoneoutof bigger trouble ("Ann is standing on the counter and I'm worried she'll fall off!").
Be a good role model.Even though it may not always seem like it, your little sister looks to you as an example of how she should act.If you blow up over small things, pinch her, or raise your voice, she will copy that behavior.
- When you interact with your little sister, ask yourself, “How would I feel or react if she treated me this way?”
- If you mess up and raise your voice in a moment of anger, apologize to her later, when you’ve calmed down. She will learn from your example, and may start to return the favor when she messes up.
Be kind.When you are angry it can be tempting to lash out physically at your little sister, but it is never okay to hurt her on purpose, even if she hurts you first. Remember, you are bigger and stronger than her, and it is unfair to take advantage of that.Hitting her won’t change much, either; she is more likely to resent you than to regret her actions, and if she’s mad at you she’s more likely to be annoying.
Be clear about your expectations.Explain what you want, what will happen if she doesn’t do it, and what will happen if she does.
- If you don’t want your sister to come into your room, for example, say something like, “This is my space, and you need to respect that. If you come in here without asking, I’m going to tell Mom, and I won’t play with you that night. If you respect my privacy for a whole week, though, you can come sit on my bed this weekend, and we’ll play any board game you want.”
Follow through.If you tell your sister a certain behavior will earn her a certain reward, make sure she gets that reward if she behaves. On the other hand, if you tell her a certain behavior will have a negative consequence, make sure that consequence happens if she doesn’t behave. If she expects you to lie to her or trick her, she probably won’t listen to what you say.
- This also means that you should avoid saying things like, “If you don’t leave me alone, I’m never talking to you again!” You sister knows that you will have to talk to her again at some point, so your threat will be meaningless, and she will have no reason to listen to you.
Reward good behavior.This is especially important when your sister is behaving well without being told to.
- If your sister goes a whole evening without pestering you, tell her, “I really appreciated how well you kept yourself entertained while I was doing my homework tonight. That was awesome.” Give her a high-five, or better yet, spend a little time hanging out with her. It will mean the world to her that you noticed that she was being good, and she will want to impress you again in the future.
Walk away from bad behavior.Saying, “If you need to be upset for a while, that’s okay, but I can’t talk to you while you’re like this,” and then calmly disengaging yourself, can be far more powerful than yelling and screaming at your little sister to leave you alone.It may lead to a tantrum at first—your sister is desperate for your attention, and being annoying is one of the easiest ways to get it.
- Don’t leave your sister alone and unsupervised if she is very small, but don’t try to calm her down or reason with her while she is kicking and screaming. Negative attention is still attention, and if you respond to her tantrums by engaging with her she will learn that throwing tantrums is a good way to get you to interact with her.
- Once she's calmed down, be ready to re-engage.
Remember that in the end, you aren't your sister's parent.As an older sibling, you are a valuable role model and even a teacher. Establishing strong expectations and following through on what you've said are important ways to exercise these responsibilities.
- Avoid, however, the temptation to "parent" your sibling. Ultimately your parent or guardian is responsible for guiding your sibling's behavior. If you're a firstborn sibling, in particular, you may feel that everyone depends upon you.Younger siblings, on the other hand, can feel like they're being given less attention or are treated like babies.Let your parent or guardian be the head of the household.
Taking Care of Yourself
Breathe.Concentrating on your breathing is a tool many psychologists use to help teach people to manage anxiety. Inhale slowly through your nose for about 4 seconds, hold your breath for about 2 seconds, and then exhale slowly for another 4 seconds. Pause for a couple seconds, and repeat. This will work best if you are breathing from your diaphragm—this means that your stomach should inflate when you inhale, rather than your chest.
Get plenty of sleep and eat well.You have probably noticed that you tend to be crankier when you are tired or hungry. Taking care of your body will help you stay sane when your little sister starts annoying you.
Keep things in perspective.Remember that a big part of what makes your sister annoying is that she is still little. While it may feel like she’s always going to make you angry, it may help to remember that she is growing and learning every day. She won’t always be this aggravating. Remind yourself that you love her, and that this moment won’t feel very important in another week or so.
- Remember the many positive aspects of having a sibling. You and your sister will always have each other. It's highly likely that the person you find so annoying at this stage in your life will grow into a lifelong friend.
- Make a list of kind, helpful, or loving things your little sister has done for you. Keep it for future reference to remind yourself of her good qualities when you're finding her especially annoying.
Get some space.While giving your sister the silent treatment will only make matters worse, you'll cope more effectively if you take some time for yourself. Visit a friend, go for a walk, spend some time doing something you love, or sit in your room with your headphones on for a while.
Sources and Citations
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