Is This Ever Going to End?

Updated on August 20, 2008
G.S. asks from Hopatcong, NJ
21 answers

Since the birth of my youngest daughter who will be 5 in Nov, my oldest who is 10 is so mean to her little sister. Especially when she has a certain friend over. This totally breaks my heart considering the fact that we moved from our house when our oldest was 4 because of a horrible neighbor situation. Lastnight I was so fed up that I took my youngest to the park and something hit me, that I was protecting her just as I had my oldest from bullies. We have taken almost all of her priviledges away, but I just feel so hurt. My four year old isn't completely innocent, but she doesn't deserve the way her sister treats her. I know the age difference has a lot to do with this and the fact that she sees her friend getting all of the attention because she doesn't have any brothers or sisters, but my parents didn't sit us down and take a vote as to whether or not we minded another sibling around. My husband always sides with my oldest, as a matter a fact the two of them are going to Massachusetts overnite for something with his job. I don't mind her going & being there, but I told him that I don't think that it's fair they go to a hotel with a pool because she's been rubbing that in her little sister's face all week. Lastnight I truly felt as though I wasn't cut out to be a mom.

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answers from New York on

My sister and I are 5 years kids we HATED each other. Now we are best of friends. Sorry no advice, but there is hope:)



answers from Buffalo on

Hi G.,
I recommend you bring this problem to a family psychologist and just get some ideas from a professional. All the responses you got may be reasonable but I think you will be able to come to grips with this faster via a professional.
P.S. I am a Mom of two boys who are best friends today!

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answers from Binghamton on


There is an easy way to tell if this is just normal sibling rivalry or the older one with a bigger issue: what does the 10 year old do if someone is picking on the little one? If her tendency is to protect her little sister if someone who is not family is picking on or trying to hurt her, then you're ok...if she joins in and picks and tries to hurt too, then you've got a bigger problem.

Even though this is normal, it doesn't make it right. We may not be able to stop this kind of thing, but we can set clear expectations and consequences for when it does happen. We have to be the adults, even though kids do certain things "normally". Make sense?

mother to 1 step child and 4 biologicals (ages 16, 9, 6, 3, and 20 months) and yes, they fight! (but not all the time)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I can't say that I agree with the back off and it will work itself out. I do think that some things need to be left for the kids to deal with. The problem with where you are is the line between when parent intervention in needed and when the kids can do it themselves has been blurred.

First and foremost - you and your husband need to have some serious sit down time and agree on certain house rules that everyone follows. The discipline for breaking any rule (unless it comes to actual physical violence - the discipline format really should not change all that much). But you two NEED to be on the same page. It sounds like there is a bit of animosity between you and your husband. Overstepping slightly - but if there are issues between you two - your children are feeling that even if it's not discussed in front of them. Even if it is just the 'taking sides' like you say - they know when things aren't really good between their parents. So - maybe you guys need to work some things out - maybe not. But deciding on house rules - discipline, etc is must!

Then you need to step back a little bit. If a rule hasn't been broken - let them figure things out alone more. If it has - address the broken rule. I think there is a time and place for stepping back - but not if you are feeling this way and not if things are moving in the direction they are. Certainly - your 4yo is no angel - and your 10 yo isn't creating every fight - but they both need boundaries with you, with your husband, with each other, and for themselves. I agree with you that she shouldn't go to the pool if she hasn't been handling it properly - maybe she'll need to do something extra nice for the 4yo when she gets back b/c of the way she's handling this (I would set it up beforehand though - "If you continue to treat your sister this way, x,y, & z and say ..... to her about going away with your dad, you are going to need to make up for it when you get back by doing x,y, & z"). Not ideal - she's still getting rewarded by going away, but if that isn't going to change - she's still being held accountable.

My brother and I are almost 5 yrs apart. He stood up for me when other people treated me badly, wasn't always awful and I actually liked spending time with him thorughout childhood, but he really was abusive at times and it shaped who I was as an adult. Address it now - husband first - get on the same page and work together - it's too tough to not. Good luck!!



answers from New York on

I tend to think your oldest has been feeling left out since your youngest was born...getting less of your attention. She believes her youngist sister has taken her place. The fact is all children need to feel and it needs to be reinforced that they have an important part,important place in the family unit. Your husband probably sides with the oldest to try to balance out the given situations. (as in taking the part of the under-dog.)))

I tend to think you need to spend quality alone time with the oldest child not only in the house but out side as well. Do things with her that she might enjoy.
Let her know how special she is to you not only with words but also with your actions.

When in a situation with both...start dealing with acting on what is right, what is wrong with fairness to both children instead of re-acting in protection of the youngest.

You need to start dealing with your childrens emotional selves...their inner feelings...

I tend to think the trip with her Father, having special alone time with him will be very good for her.
I don't understand your attitude about them staying in a hotel, having a pool etc....where should they say, on a park bench???? The point is you should be showing how happy you are for her to have this special time with her Daddy, in a hotel and yes with a swimming pool. How are your children going to learn how to be happy for one another if you aren't. When she's pushing it into your youngist face, what she's really saying is, "See, I am special, I am #1 somewhere in this family." This is not a behavior that needs punishment, it's an inner emotional problem that has to be delt with and can only be turned around if you work on it with her in a loving way..



answers from New York on

First, let me tell you that my sister who is (2)yrs older than myself hates my guts up to today and we still do not speak. She turns 40 in October.

Your first problem is you and your husband are taking sides.
It doesn't sound like you guys are a united front.
Until you both get together and decide how you guys are going to run the household (both of your children will run it for you)

You are protecting the youngest like your oldest is an evil villin.
I will tell you now her way of getting your attention is to attack what you are protecting.
You have to stop protecting the youngest and stop over punishing the oldest.
Your oldest should be able to go to a hotel and into a pool with her father unless she is on punishment. That is her daugther & father time and don't ruin it for her.
There should be rules that apply across the board - like no teasing, since they are both at a reasonable age.
And their should be rules that apply according to age.
Your oldest gets more rights - period.

You also have to be honest about how you are personally feeding negatively into the sibling dynamics. A parents role is 100% going to dictate if siblings get along well or hate each other - not the age between the siblings.
The drama is addictive and you as well as your husband are apart of it. You can't blame the kids as they are just - kids. They learn from example.

Lastly, you must, must find something that the girls both love to do and let them do it once a weak. Their love for each other is not automatic as you have found out, but seeds must be planted into their hearts and those seeds will blosom into a full blown love. You must waters said seeds as their mother. Your job is to teach them how to love each other - not react negatively when they tell you by their negative actions that they don't know how.

Love is taught by example.



answers from New York on

It sounds that your husband may "favor" the 10yo and you the 5yo. It can put them in a very weird position of "mom/dad loves me more.

My husband and his brother are still not friends because they always felt like rivals rather than brothers. They too are 5 years apart. My brother and I (5 years apart too) on the other hand were told right from the start that we were the only family we will ever get and became playmates and friends. Believe me we had our fights but in the end we are still friends.

Find activities they must do together :plant a garden or flowers, create a stepping stone, make a poster for you or a sick friend just to name a few. Get the older helping the younger and be prepared to intervien.If they work together they will create a good bond that someday may prove to be a life saver. As for the teasing about a pool make a special date with the 5yo and take her somewhere special. Not a one upsman just a special day with mom. Make it clear if there is teasing there will be consequenses (no tv or whatever you use as disapline). Then when they get back you make a date with the 10yo and have Dad make a date for a special activity or outing with the 5yo.

Our children learn how to treat each other from how we parents treat them as siblings and individuals. I have seen life long enemies that were siblings because parents often unknowingly create tention between them. A.



answers from Albany on

Hang in there it will work itself out I am sure just try to support each of them and not take sides! Your 10 year old is propbably just really excited to go with dad , so let her have fun and swim. Then make a great one on one with your 4 year old, something that is age appropriate and just for her! Good Luck



answers from New York on

Oh Gerri! Don't ever doubt yourself as a Mom! It sounds to me like you're a wonderful mother because atleast you're concerned about the little one's feelings. So many parents just pass it off as "sibling rivalry" but I don't agree with that. My parents always used to tell us "we're a team, we're a family, we do not side against eachother, period." To be completely honest, you need to sit the 10 year old down and lay down some ground rules! That kind of behavior should be completely unacceptable. And you need to get the husband on board with you.
In the meantime, please don't doubt yourself! We're Moms, we're all in this together! We have your back!
Good luck to you, let us know how it goes.



answers from Utica on

She shouldn't be allowed to go on the trip at all if she doesn't know how to behave at home. You said you took away almost all her priveledges but this mini vacation with her dad. She probably could care less about those other things because she is still getting that.

Also you and your husband don't seen to see eye to eye on this situation and that doesn't help any. You are a stay-at-home mom who is dealing with this issue all day and all week and he comes home at night and is not backing you up with your oldest daughter and that will just make you look like the bad guy. But honestly it seems like you all are a split family. You are overly protective of the 4 year old so maybe he feels like he has to think about the 10 year old. I found myself doing that that everytime my 2 year old cried and my 4 year old was around I would say Michael cut it out and he may not have been doing anything.

Another suggestion I think you need to have some individual time to the 10 year old. Maybe on a Saturday or Sunday take her out for a mommy/daughter day where it is just you and her.



answers from Rochester on

I am not there, so I don't think I have a full picture of the situation - so what I am giving you is based on what you have given for info. I don't know what you are doing for discipline in this situation. Mostly I think you need to look at the situation of what goes on and why.

Why is your husband giving the older child the trip when he sees that she is using it irresponsibly, (and meanly, I might add) against her sister? This is a reward for bad behavior and is fostering animosity between the two children, and can't come to any good.

Are you both on the same page with your children? Do you agree with what happens when they misbehave?

You are not the only one here! You can do this!

Sit down and look at the situation from all sides: Are you and your husband reacting out of guilt that the oldest is unhappy with a sibling (still? It's not like you could ever send her back!)?

I've been reading from other moms - discipline out of love and respect for the child's need to learn is good, lack of discipline out of guilt is not good. Use that as a guide, and I think you will see what your situation needs.

I wish you luck.



answers from New York on

It will end, but maybe not until your oldest goes to college and they each get to reestablish their own separate identities.

In the meantime, be fair to your oldest, YES she is the oldest and should know better, but like you say the youngest isn't innocent in the whole interaction. Make sure your oldest understands though that bad behavior will not be tolerated or rewarded. If she continues to tease your younger one, her privileges should be taken away - no trip, and tell your husband he has to back you on this (so that the threat holds weight). Let her know that if she and her friend continue to tease the younger one, that friend will not be welcome in your house. BUT, make sure you pay attention to and punish the taunting that comes from your younger child as well. My brother and I were only 3 years a part, so I got that "you're older you should know better" line a lot, and I assure you there were dozens of times my brother would be on one side of the room and I would be on the other, but my mom would be in a different room and he'd start crying and claim I did something to him JUST to get me in trouble. Like the saying goes, it takes 2 to tango. Your oldest has to find a way, without being nasty, to let the younger one know that sometimes she's too little to have the ability to play with her and her friend, there is a big age gap and they won't always play together. You should support the older one in having her time with her peers, but you also must insist that she handle it "in a big girl manner, and not act like a 5 year old". If you do that, and maybe find things you can all do together when her friends aren't around, they'll build more of the relationship you dream of and less of the one you dread.
Best of luck!



answers from New York on

hi gerri, this is also one of the hardest things for us, my 2 oldest fight so much, though it has gotten better. i think that what really changed things for us was when we realized how much the little one was getting away with. i can still remember my oldest sons reaction the first few times i punished my daughter for being mean to him, i actually saw his shoulders relax in relief and he looked at me with such thankfullness and surprise that i knew he had been feeling so bad and rejected all the time. he just wants things to be fair. and my daughter was 2 at the time, and she was already instigating and being sneaky to get him in trouble, i guarantee your 5 year old is a pro at it. now, i have a 1 year old and i already scold him if he hurts either of the older ones, even though he doesnt really get it. they both love him like crazy. live and learn, right? and by the way, what you and your husband are doing is creating a horrible situation, you are creating teams in your home, a sense of rivalry within the family. children learn what they live. it doesnt matter what you tell them if what you show them doesnt support it,you teach by example. best of luck, i know how hard it can be..... oh, and by the way again, my sister and i are almost 4 years apart, and we were never really friends. the bond was there, i would have killed anyone that messed with her, but we fought over every stinking thing, it must have drove my parents out of their minds. i got in trouble for everything, she got away with everything, and i was mean to her for it. so she has always had this competition thing with me. now, we are best friends, thank G-d, and hopefully the same thing will happen with your girls. but i feel so bad that we lost so much time. try to even things up in your home, the little one isn't a baby anymore. and the only team in your home should be the 2 of them. actually, some of my best memories with my sister were times when we "teamed up" against my parents, in a playful way, but it did create a bond. good luck, D.



answers from New York on

I feel for you, my older 2 are only 15 months apart and argue all the time, they can be truly mean to one another. Because of this they are usually nice to their little brother (who is 5 years younger than my middle one), but not always. I often use the house cleaning as a punishment too instead of taking things away. It teaches them useful life skills. I also seperate them in the house so they cannot play or see one another the whole day. When they are mean to their brother I give them hell for being a bad example, but I also then give them all time apart. Then I am the little one's playmate while the older two play. OTher times I let them know they need to play something they can all play together for an alloted amount of time. Maybe giving the older one space and time alone with you will make her more willing to spend a apecific amount of time with her little them with ideas of what and how to play together, even model it for them.
Good luck!



answers from Syracuse on

Gosh G., that is a tough situation. I'm not sure of details as to what is going on, how is she being mean? Physically? Not knowing any of that stuff makes advice hard to offer.

Why don't you take your youngest to a hotel with a pool for the night? Just you 2, have dinner out somewhere, maybe go to Build-A-Bear or a movie, then go back to your hotel, if you don't go out to dinner, order a pizza and have it delivered (my kids love that) and then go to the pool and swim...just the 2 of you...You'll still have the issues when you get back, of course, but it may give you a little down time to think of suggestions and just plain give your youngest some alone time with you.

You also don't mention how you handle your 10 year she punished for being mean to her little sister? Why does your husband take her side? Maybe if she mentions the trip one more time in a nasty way she doesn't get to go...and if you threaten that - FOLLOW THROUGH WITH THAT!!




answers from New York on


I feel for your oldest girl. I am 5 years older than my little sister and I was sooooo jealous of her. I felt abandoned and unloved thoughout my childhood. When I acted out, I was punished, as I deserved. My parents were very loving and didn't do anything wrong, except maybe how they handled the family dynamic. In retrospect I wish they had spent more time with me and explained that they still loved me even though my little sister required more of their attention. I wish they told me that she and I share a unique bond and we will always be sisters. Today, I wish I was closer to my sister. We get along well, but I think I pushed her away when we were kids and this probably effects her trusting me.

Good Luck and give that older sister a hug. Tell her being an older sister is very important. She will teach the little one all kinds of things, new games, how to put one over on mom, ect...



answers from New York on

Hi G.,

I think that your 10 year old has the right to enjoy private time with her friends, without the interuption of her pesky little sister.

After all she is 10, and the little one is only 5,

I think that you need to create situations where the 2 children can enjoy eachothers company,

For instance, tell the little one to color a picture for big sister, or ask her to clean her room,

After a trip to the grocery store have the little one give her big sister a candy or cookies.

TRY to create a bond,

Right now all the older one is getting is punished and admonished.

WHY because of her little sister, who mommy now loves more than her, and who is the sole cause of ALL her problems
( it doesn't matter what your reality is , only how your oldest sees it in HER reality)

As for the oder sister create situation where your entrusting the little one to her care, and praise her when she is successful, tell the little one she needs to listen to her big sister.

my 2 youngest are 2 and nearly 4 , I tell the big one he is in charge of his brother and he must listen,and he DOES

I also have a 12 year old ( all 3 boys) and he sometimes finds his brothers annoying and he gets jealous,
in situations where he is mistreating them I send him to his room, afterwards, when he is thru and improves his attitude and behavior I offer a reward of some sort, like choclate.

I DO NOT offer it to ONE child and not the other.
ONE child is not better than the other, Just diffrent, each child needs more of one things and sometimes less of another.

It my job as a mother, to create a BOND between the brothers.

My oldest has chores, while the little ones do not, When he is angry about that I remind him that one day there will be 2 of them to split to chores, while he relaxes. he will be old enough to pay them 3 dollars a piece to wash his clothes and clean his room. And he really seems to like this.

I also create special time for each of my kids, eg.. take a day off from school and go to the lake.with my eldest.
NO BABIES-----For little guys we go to the Zoo or a Farm.

MOM, I know its hard, but its you who has the problems,
you need to stop taking sides, labeling things and just teach them to love each other, allow them their own space and identity, create situations where they can bond,


Last little bit of advice, MOM,
I am a firm believer that a punish ment for a child should NOT punish the MOM.

So Return all of her "THINGS"

and instead make her clean the house as a punishment.
THIS has worked wonders in my home,

make her vaccum, load the dishwasher, put clothes away, wash and dry laundry .
, the little one can clear the table, both can clean up toys ,and one can take out the garbage. and clear up the Yard

good luck MOM




answers from Albany on

I am soooo sorry that you're going through this but understand hope this of some comfort to you, you are not alone and understand that it has nothing to do with you as a mom. Don't feel that you're not cut out to be a mom and there are times I have felt that way. I have prayed to God, I told Jesus how I felt, that I didn't feel that was cut out to be a mom either and you know what? He made me realized that our children did not come with an instruction manual and we need to ask Him for His Wisdom in how to deal with certain issues and He is the Creator of our children. Believe it or not, He loves them more than us and if we think how much we love them and He loves them more and the same measure He loves us, how incredible that love is!! You may need to take your oldest aside and talk with her what you have seen and heard and how much it hurts you and her sister and that you know that your youngest isn't perfect, but the things that she is doing is not called for regardless what the actions the youngest one is doing. You may also want to point out that she will not have a friend over again because you are tired of her actions and that is not acceptable. You may want to sit down with both of them afterwards and talk out what the situation is and what is not acceptable in the house and you may want to talk to your husband alone about this situation. Explain that you don't mind her going with him, but it's not fair for the youngest not be part of it and you understand the age too taht she's too young. But, point out to him that the oldest one is taking the advantage of this and hurting the youngest one through that and it's not right. I have three boys real close in age and I believe that on shourt not go without the other one going too. Unless one of them donj't want to go and that is fine too. I want all of them to have the choice if they want to go or not. I will pray for you G. and I will pray for your whole family and that if you ask Jesus for his Wisdom, that He will and ask Him to help you and your husband to make sure that neither of your girls get favoritism over the other. I will pray that your talk with your husband will be peaceful and that no one gets offensive in the conversation. I will pray for all of you.



answers from Buffalo on

There are some things that you can not have control and interfere in.
And Sibling rivalry is one.
Someone once gave me this analogy...
Whenever you introduce a new child, to a situation....a class, a team or a family...
They are like a cage of parokeets. They have to determine on their own, which one gets which perch. Because, no matter what you try to do, they will peck and chirp and find their own pecking order that will be constantly evolving and changing. All you can do is sit back and watch that there are no family rules broken. The oldest will always be oldest and the youngest will always be youngest. They can not grow up as exact equals...the youngest will always seem coddled to the oldest...the oldest will always have more privelages.
All you can do as far as what you described, is explain to the oldest that she is not using a tone you like. If she wants to have respect as the oldest sibling, she has to earn it. Big sister should be allowed to have 'big sister' rights. If she wants little sister to leave them alone, she has to earn the right to have you defend her by using a polite tone to ask her to to leave her things alone, or to leave them alone to play. When little sister in invading her privacy, she has to nicely say no to little sister.
If she is nice in the way she asks and the little sister is not respecting her space, then you can remove the little sister as sign of appreciation for the way she is changing her attitude. You then need to redirect the little sister to something age appropriate. Her own toys that are her But, do not take her and do something special because you will be rewarding little sister for not respecting her sisters space.
When there are 2 children, parents start to rely on them entertaining each other. When your oldest has a playdate, you are going to now be responsible for entertaining the younger and teaching her how to play alone...or find her a playdate also.
She will begin to earn her rights as big sister nicely when she sees the freedoms and responsibilites that will be her reward for handling it maturely.

The trip was planned...
but big sisters actions will get her into trouble, and let her know this.
Because if she is being immature and mean to her little sister about what she is getting, why will little sister be nice later? Why will the big sister be given the privelage of an older sister right later on? It is ok for big sister to have rights the little one doesn't, but it is not ok for her to cause envy. She needs to be told that it is hurtful. She should be talking to the little sister in a tone that shows sympathy that her baby sister can not do these things yet, but will be able to when she is older.....or she may not get to go do something like this again because she is too immature to handle it without being nasty.
If she wants to do big girl things, she has to behave like a big girl.
Good luck!
I hope you get a lot of great ideas and answers.



answers from New York on

This will end when you and your husband, as a team, regain control of your home. Right now, your 10-year-old is running the show. I do not agree that they should settle it themselves; the age difference ( to say nothing of the size and intellectual capacity difference) make that very hard to do. First, you and your husband should go out for dinner or take a long walk and talk about what's important to each of you and how you are going to change a situation that is making some of you unhappy. Your husband should care enough about your life at home that he backs you up even if he disagrees. After all, he's not there all day, you are. I recommend a website called The creator of it has lots of free, simple, usefull advice. He also sells a whole dvd series. I like his one-minute transformations. Your 10-year-old is old enough to have a one-on-one conversation with you about what she wants and needs and what's bothering her. I suspect this has been going on since your younger child arrived on the scene. You have to stay calm and listen first, then include your husband. Some of what she wants and needs can be earned; some can be given. Some she may have to learn to do without. You are a family, a team, not her personal wishgranters. You can make a list. You will even be able to practice some of the techniques on your four-year-old. Rudeness and disrespect (that's what this is) is NEVER to be tolerated. You ARE cut out to be a mom. You would not have reached out if you didn't care. Your daughter should go with her dad. While they are away, do something fun with the younger one. She's only 4, so this will pass quickly in her mind. And ask that dad and older sister bring back something special for younger sister. It doesn't have to be big and expensive, just something that shows they were thinking about her, even just stickers or crayons -- it would be nice if they did the same for you. Good luck.



answers from New York on

Hi G., I know how difficult this is. I have raised 5 and some just have more resentment towards siblings. My fourth (son) said so often "I did not want a brother. Why did you have him???" They were only 16 months apart. Now at 25 and 26 they are best of friends and have a band together. I had the school councellor speak to them. She said "You feel what you feel, no one can change that. He is your brother and you cannot be mean to him" There was a lot of competition between them. I always tried to remind them that each one is special to me. Each with different gifts and skills. I know it will get better some day. Try to keep positive and even at 10 she can have a time out for being mean. Best wishes, Grandma Mary

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