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ASK RENE: I’M SICK OF MY SISTER!

Love the site – and all the great advice you’ve given out over the last few months! Now I wonder if you could help me…

My sister Carly has always been competitive – but now that we’ve both got kids she’s taken it to a whole other level.

Every time she comes to visit Carly is also bragging about her children – how well they’re doing in school, how many friends they have, how popular they are… and it’s really starting to drive me crazy. Plus she subtly makes digs at my own kids – and criticizes the way my husband and myself are raising them.

I’ve tried to talk to my sister about her attitude – but Carly gets really defensive and says I’m being over-sensitive. The thing is I know her kids are far from perfect (her daughter got a detention just the other day) – and would love to use this information against her – but my husband says I’d just be stooping to her level.

What can I do Rene… I’m so sick and tired of my snobby sister… Please help…

Thanks

Alice, Ohio


Hi Rene,

Love the site – and all the great advice you’ve given out over the last few months! Now I wonder if you could help me…

My sister Carly has always been competitive – but now that we’ve both got kids she’s taken it to a whole other level.

Every time she comes to visit Carly is also bragging about her children – how well they’re doing in school, how many friends they have, how popular they are… and it’s really starting to drive me crazy. Plus she subtly makes digs at my own kids – and criticizes the way my husband and myself are raising them.

I’ve tried to talk to my sister about her attitude – but Carly gets really defensive and says I’m being over-sensitive. The thing is I know her kids are far from perfect (her daughter got a detention just the other day) – and would love to use this information against her – but my husband says I’d just be stooping to her level.

What can I do Rene… I’m so sick and tired of my snobby sister… Please help…

Thanks

Alice, Ohio


Hi Alice:

I was just talking to my daughter, Casey the other day and the topic of conversation was about how some people never get out of high school; egotistical children become egotistical adults. She looked at me like I was crazy, but it’s true; some people never grow up. You can go ahead and add your sister Carly to that category.

The crazy part is that while she would like you to think that you are chasing her, it’s quite the other way around. You mentioned that Carly has always been competitive, have you ever wondered why that is? Not that it matters; I doubt you could do anything about it as this is very definitely her issue, not yours. The trick is to figure out how to deal with her and her imaginary competition. Here’s what I would suggest:

1. IGNORE THE BEHAVIOR YOU WANT TO EXTINGUISH: This works with pets, kids, spouses, and the guy who runs the corner store. People do what they do because they get some sort of reward for the behavior. Whether negative or positive, attention is what they crave. Your sister is no different. One of the reasons she does this is because she gets a rise out of you. Time to deprive her of that.

2.  NO MORE TALKING TO HER ABOUT THIS: This is actually one of those matters that, when said aloud, sounds so ridiculous you cannot believe you’re actually wasting your breath on it. That does not mean that it’s not just coursing beneath the surface of civility and that is what I believe to be the case here. For whatever reason, your sister is very envious of you, what you have and what you have accomplished. The only way she can make herself feel better is by putting you down.

3. NO TIT FOR TAT: Your husband is absolutely correct about this; if you tell her that her own daughter is screwing up in school (which she already knows, trust me) you are doing nothing but stooping to her level. Your relationship will then become a game of one-upmanship with hurt feelings as the collateral damage. It’s not worth it. Leave Carly to play the game by herself, with no reward (i.e. attention) it’s no fun and she will ultimately quit. Even if she doesn’t and she persists with her juvenile behavior, it won’t matter, as you will have moved on. Adopting that attitude is going to make her crazy (not that that’s the goal) and save your sanity in the process.

Carla’s got some growing up to do and she will have to do that on her own. But you are far too mature and quite frankly, busy with your own family, to try to figure out her issues. I know it’s hard when it’s people close to us but sometimes we have to give them as my husband says “ a good dose of the leave-‘em-alones.” Ignore her snide remarks and put a little space between you until she learns to play nice.

Good luck!

Rene

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8 Comments

  1. M.E. Johnson

    October 18, 2010 at 11:55 am

    You are right, Rene. Un-rewarded behavior is not repeated. You just have to know what the reward is (or isn’t). For instance, you send your child to his room as punishment. But he has his music and/or games, computer, etc there or maybe just likes his alone time. Also, negative attention is better than none to those who crave it.

  2. Smarty P. Jones

    October 18, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    As the sister with no kids, I will say that sibling rivalry never goes anywhere. There is always the need to one-up each other for whatever reasons. The problem here is that it will probably extend to the children and the cousins will be engaging in unmerited, unnecessary feuds. I’ve seen it happen.

    Stop engaging in it. Stop paying attention to it. This may be hard as you don’t want anyone to insult your children or talk about them in any negative way, but think of it as doing this FOR your children.

    I think parents teach, lead and parent by example. What better way to teach your children about being mature than to be mature yourself? Just my $.02

  3. Rene Syler

    October 18, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    this is such a simple concept and yet people have a hard time grasping it. People who want attention literally do not care if it is positive or negative. The thing that KILLS them is NO attention, which is precisely what she should give to her sister’s undesirable behavior.

  4. Rene Syler

    October 18, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    EXACTLY! Stop engaging.. don’t even mention it.. ignore it.. it will go away.

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  6. Shay

    October 18, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    I used to do daycare, and had an obnoxiously unruly boy I was caring for. When I say unruly, I don’t mean “oh, isn’t it cute how he pounts and throws sand”… this is the “he takes his diaper off and pees on the floor while looking you right in the eye and flings his dish of food across the room for no reason” kind of unruly.
    The thing that worked: attention depravation. And not just the sit in the corner and be quiet kind. This was total human interaction depravation. He would be isolated, and a sheet or large piece of paper would be hung so he couldn’t see other people’s faces. Because just seeing my face, and knowing I was at least listening to him was enough to encourage the attention getting behavior. By removing that link, he began to get the hint that there was no reward for bad bahavior.
    Sounds to me, like your sister needs a nice quiet, dark corner to sit in for a while.

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    October 21, 2010 at 6:16 am

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  8. Mary

    October 27, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Oh goodness, I have such a different take on this. So bear with me as I suggest a different point of view. Carly, is there any chance you ARE too sensitive? Is it possible your sister isn’t bragging about her children? Maybe she’s just proud of her children and wants to share their successes with you.

    And, as someone who comes from a family where every single one of us brings our own hang-ups to every single conversation, isn’t there a slight possibility that things she says innocently are interpreted by you in a more malicious manner?

    The one comment you made that sorta tipped your hand to me was “now that we’ve both got children…” Aha. Did you love it when only you were the mother and she didn’t yet have children, and so now that she has children, it’s you feeling jealous about not getting all the “I’ve got children” attention?

    I feel like I’m attacking you and that’s not my intention. I’m just saying, we all have our sides and she is entitled to her side too!

    I wonder if you’ve ever given her a compliment or praised her children? Maybe she’s desperate for you to say something positive. Rather than ignoring her, try taking the true high road and give her some positive feedback. Next time she tells you about something her children have done well, tell her “that’s awesome, sis.” “I’m so proud of my nieces and nephews.” “Isn’t it fun to watch them grow and mature.” etc. etc.

    Something tells me that if you ever threw her a bone of praise, maybe she’d reciprocate and both of you could feel better!

    Take care and good luck.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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