Siblings and Playing Together

Updated on May 24, 2012
S.D. asks from Peoria, AZ
12 answers

I would love to hear from moms that have a teenager and a 8-10 yr old. Does the two siblings play a lot together ? Is it right to help the teenager give the younger one attention . I am afraid that this summer will be a bit trying to have the older child pay attention to the younger child. They do play well together for the most part . 2 girls 9 and 12. But I can see some issues with the 12 yr old. My way or the high way. I thought that was not being fair. Of coarse the younger one will play whatever just so there is attention given to her, but she would like her big sis to do things she wants to play and not always be the one to give in.
So I was setting up a odd and even day thing............ Even days, the older one plans and they play for 2 hours and then on Odd days, the younger one plans and plays for 2 hours. Is that asking too much from the older one ? When is it time to say, sorry sweet young daughter...........big sis is not intrestead in you anymore and it is okay that she does not want to play ???????
thanks for your advice.

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So What Happened?

I totally agree with what your all saying, but let me add..........they want to play with one another. They ask for it and want too. the 12 yr old is a little bit immature for her age by the way. The thing is......... the 12 yr old only wants to play when she wants to and what she wants to do.....the younger one never gets a say. So the 12 yr old won't play with the 9 yr old if it is not her way......

Yes they are busy and have separate activities and separate friends...this will just get less daily as we have the summer....can't be with friends every day, so they will have eachother but how do I keep it even so it is not all the 12 yr old point of view and decision....or do I let it be.

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answers from Dallas on

My mom forced me to play with my younger sister all my life, we are only 14 months apart. even as teenagers she would force me to go to my sister's parties to "keep an eye on her". I was always the chaperone and I was freaking 15 years old! that backfired in so many ways so many times.
This completely destroyed my relationship with both my sister and my mother and I resent my mom to this day for destroying my relationship with the only sibling I have. And my sister resents me for sticking my nose in her business and being compared to me all her life.

now I'm 36 and I'm always the third wheel and my mom lives with my sister and her family, helping her raise her children and always there for her. she might as well have only one child because we don't see or talk to each other that much. I'm ALWAYS left out of the loop...

whatever you do, don't force playtime. good luck,

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answers from Spokane on

Don't force it! You don't want your oldest to resent you and your youngest for making them play together.

Instead of scheduling each moment that they "play together", why not just plan activities that you all do together? Maybe go to the beach, a park, the zoo, shopping, etc. That way they're still spending time together, but it's not about forcing the older one to pay attention to the younger one.

I still think you should let them figure it out on their own. If you feel it's necessary, let your 8 year old know that she doesn't *have* to play what big sis wants to play....maybe your 12 year old will get the hint that she needs to comprimise and sometimes give in.

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answers from Dallas on

Siblings won't always be playmates, friends, or have things in common. That's reality. You can't force relationships, nothing good comes from it. Having children, does not mean they will be playmates for life. The 12 year old probably is doing this (the only doing what she wants,) because she doesn't like doing what the 9 year old does. She probably doesn't enjoy it. You can't plan playtime, that's not fair. If they don't want to play, then they don't want to. 3 years might not seem like much, but those are significant years. One is a teen, and one is a kid. There is not likely to be much common ground.
Let it be. let them figure it out. If they want to play, they will. If they don't, they won't. They should be allowed to say no.

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answers from San Francisco on

Ugh. A 12 year old has very little in common with a 9 year old, and I PROMISE you the 12 year old will resent forced playtime with her little sister. I know from personal experience :(
Your girls need to be involved with friends and activities that are appropriate for their individual ages.

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answers from Phoenix on

I think the "siblings as playmates" things only lasts so long. Once the kids are old enough to have their own set of friends and/or are in different age/development/interest brackets, I don't think it's fair to make them play with each other.

Don't they have friends, or activities, where they associate with kids their own age? It seems kind of odd to make kids at such different stages/ages play with each other day in & day out and have a forced schedule set up.

Plan playdates, activities, etc.

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answers from Reno on

When my sister and I were that age(she is older) we still played together and she, too was immature. Mom never set a time limit or had any structure similar like what have. You may have to discuss compromising on playtime but also understand and make sure the youngest understands that any daay now the oldest might start pulling away. My sister was in 8th grade when we stopped playing together and started fighting-we never were really friends until after high school again:). Now we are besties-like old times!
Just had a thought-maybe the oldest daughter's attitude toward the younger one regarding playtime is her starting to pull away? Maybe she shouldn' feel compelled to play with younger sis-not saying you are forcing the issue but maybe the oldest percieves that she is being made to.

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answers from Phoenix on

I think you are trying to manage their relationship too much and be the fairness police, which I also have a tendency to want to do. My husband is always encouraging me to let them work things out on their own more, but I still do try to use my judgment and step in when I feel the little one is being taken advantage of. What is your end goal, and what do you want to happen between your children? I'm not sure that your approach of trying to micromanage everything will achieve the desired result. Things will be fair, sure, but they won't have learned anything. Even if they don't end up resenting you, they will be doing things for the wrong reason -- because mom made them -- and not learn valuable relationship skills.

I have a similar dynamic between my children who are two years apart. The older is dominant and sometimes manipulative, and they love to play with each other. I'm sensitive to what I see between them because my younger sister was very dominant and has a strong personality and I felt I lived in her shadow (but we still always got a long well and are neighbors as adults. I point out to my kids what wonderful friends siblings can be). I sometimes wish my parents had stepped in a little and offered some parental guidance. So I step in sparingly, mostly by private conversations, teaching them individually how to interact with others. If I give both my kids a piece of licorice, the older one gobbles his up and then talks his little sister into giving him half of hers that is left. So I've pointed out to my son that he is taking advantage of her and talked to him about being less greedy and more generous with others. And I've asked him to back off when she says no and stop trying to talk her into everything, that that it isn't kind and respectful. He has responded well since he has a very sweet heart and wants to be good.

I teach my extremely caring and generous daughter very differently, since she already has the compassionate thing down. I tell it's nice that she's sweet, but it's important to stand up for herself and not let people take advantage of her. It's good to be concerned about others, but I've taught her to respond to her brother when he's acting/talking nicely, and to ignore his behavior if he's throwing a fit (she is easily influenced by tears). It's okay to want to keep her candy for herself. It's not selfish to consider your own needs. It's okay and very important to take care of yourself and not let other people push her around. I've taught her things she can say to her brother to tell him she needs respect and it's her turn for something, and I've taught him to try to recognize that on his own. When I hear her occasionally stand up to her brother, I love knowing that she does have a voice, a little fire inside her, some boundaries she will enforce when she feels she's being violated. She just has very few boundaries and is accommodating by nature, so it's not often that she feels the need to stand up to him. I wanted to manage things too much but I've realized, with my husband's help, to just accept the fact that she's okay with many of the things I wouldn't be okay with. We are all different, and it's a good thing we've got the movers and shakers and a good thing we've got people who are perfectly content going with the flow.

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answers from Missoula on

My younger sister is 4 years younger than I am. I did NOT always want her around, and I definitely resented it when I was forced to play with her. ESPECIALLY when I had to take her with me when I went with my friends. Ugh. I hate to admit it, but I started bullying her quite a bit out of that resentment, until she didn't WANT to hang out with me any more. I actually traumatized her on a few things (like, ditching her in a graveyard right before dark, after telling her that souls of dead bodies could take over her body... Yeah, that was pretty messed up. lol.)

The funny thing is, after my parents stopped forcing the issue, we had a lot more fun together. We would play 'my level' games AND 'her level' games. One thing that may help is to buy things they can both be interested in... like board games or nail polish and makeup... stuff like that. Some of our best times were had were of giving each other makeovers. ;) (As long as they aren't wearing it out of the house... I see no problem with kids that young wearing makeup. I know some parents disagree, but it's just for fun.) Let them direct their own relationship... even if it doesn't seem like they are playing 'fair' to you.

My sister and I are now fairly close. I don't think we would even be friends now though, if we had been forced to continue on the path our parents initially tried to force us on.

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answers from Dallas on

My boys are 8 and 14, but they are very close. I think it has more to do with personality than age difference, although age certainly plays a part. My boys play together quite often, jumping on the trampoline, playing with the dog, running around outside, playing video/board games, etc.

They also play separately, but in the same room where they're talking periodically to each other. I don't care if they're together or not, they just like being around each other. The older one might be reading a book, and the younger might be playing Legos. That is a very common scenario in our home. They aren't always together, but they enjoy each other's company. I attribute it mostly to personality.

Often my oldest has a friend over, or goes to a friend's house, and then my youngest is perfectly happy entertaining himself. It works out just fine. Other times the youngest plays with friends; you get the picture.


answers from Jacksonville on

From where I am sitting, you are way over-thinking this. I have kids with the same spacing as you, except mine are boy/girl. My son is 13, and my daughter will turn 11 just 18 days before son's 14th birthday.

I have never forced them to play together. They do so on their own. Like yours, they WANT to play together. Sometimes my older one wants the younger one to do things with him (go outside, ride bikes, ride scooters, whatever) and she isn't interested. (she is much more introverted than he is, he is very social). I don't force her to play with him. They work it out on their own. Always have. They have learned to negotiate with each other.

Sounds like you need to teach your daughters the art of negotiation as well. It will help them in their other relationships later on, be they social relationships or business ones.

I try really hard not to step in when they are negotiating their "hanging out" time. When they were smaller (he was maybe 5 and she was 2) I had to be a bit more involved, and I was. I explained to him how to include her and how it feels to be excluded. And I explained to her (as she grew and could understand) the same things. Even when they have friends over, they are not allowed to unnecessarily exclude their sibling, just for the sake of excluding them. However, that doesn't mean that everything they do, that the sibling gets to do also. They both would get a "lecture" before the guest(s) arrival, so that they knew how to behave respectfully to each other.

I think you can have separate conversations with the girls and explain things easily enough. Big sis, I know you don't always want to include your little sis in everything you do, and that's ok. It's ok to want to be alone or do things that don't include her. But be aware that she really looks up to you and loves it when you spend time with her or include her in what you are doing. So it is really nice when you DO include her when you can.
Little sister, I know how much you enjoy spending time with big sis, but understand that everyone likes to have time to themselves once in a while, and if big sister wants to do something on her own, that's okay for her to do that. It isn't to hurt your feelings, and really has nothing to do with you, but with big sis needing some alone time. You'll understand it more as you get older. Maybe you already like having time to think or just 'be' without someone else always right there. Your big sis needs that sometimes, too. When she is feeling that way, give her some space and find something else that you can do on your own or with someone else besides her. She'll be available later probably, and she'll let you know.

Mom, you don't have to "drop the hammer" (lol) and tell her "she isn't interested in you". That is so harsh sounding. And it just isn't true. She is interested in her, but only on her terms. And when little sister figures out how to negotiate, they can both get what they want. That's the real art of negotiating----everyone gets a little of what they want, and has to give up a little of what they want. But everyone thinks the end deal is "worth it". :)


answers from Portland on

I can tell you, as the older sibling to a younger sibling, this is going to bite you in the behind.
My parents used to try to make us play together.
They would lament and harp on "When you two were younger, you used to be so sweet to each other, and used to love each other, and used to spend time together."

We would get alone, away from my parents, for "play time" and we would FIGHT, like actually hurting each other physically.
It was around the time that I purposefully ditched my younger sibling in a place where they could have been kidnapped and I flat out told my parents my sibling was a pest and I didn't want them there that it finally stopped.

When we both got to be in high school, we HATED each other, hated that we couldn't get away from each other.
We got in even bigger fights, hitting, breaking each others stuff, screaming and yelling...

Now we are both grown with our own kids and we live in Oregon, they live in Texas.
We can't stand each other.
We end up getting into an argument EVERY time we spend more than a couple of hours around each other.
I have met my nephews exactly ONE time.

PLEASE do not try to MAKE siblings be friends!

This experience growing up was ONE of the main reasons I will only ever have one child, never having another.



answers from Denver on

Some of the responses here surprise me a bit. I have a 12 yo, a 10 yo, a 5 yo, and a 2 yo. I often make the 12 yo "play" with the 5 yo. (same sex children). Why? Because it helps them develop a relationship. Because if I didn't, the 12 yo wouldn't even know his younger brother. B/c when left alone to "figure it out" the 12 yo says awful and mean things to his brother that are hurtful and change who he is as a person. It is my way of helping all parties involve see that we have to think outside ourselves sometimes, and the world doesn't revolve around our wants and wishes 100% of the time. I constantly remind the 12 yo that he is the role model for the younger ones' actions and attitudes. I do it b/c my parents DIDN'T, and I grew up being bullied by my older sisters, b/c I still wanted to play with them, be accepted by them, but b/c there wasn't a parent facilitating a relationship between us, they were free to act as they pleased toward me, and they did. I was lonely and isolated. They called me names, and screwed with my self-esteem. And my parents assumed we would "work it out". Well, guess what? We didn't exactly work it out.
Playdates and age-appropriate activities are great once in a while, but come on. Let's be real here. Is she really going to plan 8 hour playdates for each girl every day this summer? No. No parent has the time or patience to do that. We're not talking 2 kids in daycare here where the work is done for you, we're talking about 2 kids home with a parent for the summer, and there is nothing wrong with carving out some together time for them. If all she is doing is telling them to go spend 2 hours together and then leaving them out of earshot, then yeah, that could blow up in her face. But if she is giving them structured time, and listening for cattiness, unkind words, or fighting, then she is doing her job as an involved parent trying to hlp her girls develop a loving relationship and learn about giving of one's time to please another.

Next question: 11 Year Old Wants a Closer Relationship with Her Older Sister.