Advice Column: Response to Lu

Dear Hailey,

I feel so horrible. My sister is always yelling at me and being in my room – her excuse, ‘ The cat is in there.’ I ask her to get out of my room, ‘Get out of my room. This is my room, and you have yours. Please get out.’ But she starts raising her voice, yelling at me, and acting like I said the most insulting thing in the world. So then she starts screaming at me- she’s 10 by the way and I’m 13, acting like I never spend time with her. I don’t spend my days sitting in my room on my phone constantly. Every time this happens, she always says the same things, “Why is the cat the only person you let in here? Why are you always so mean? (By the way, ‘mean’ is telling her to get out of my room). Why don’t you ever let me be in here?” My answers are also the same.

I say, calmly (yes really I don’t say I say things calmly when I’m yelling), “This is my room, and my space. You have your own room, and this is mine. Please get out. I know the cat is in here and you want to be with him, but it’s not my fault he likes my bed.” And when I tell my parents they say, “Aww that’s so adorable she wants to spend time with you. Oh, (My name), can’t you see she looks up to you? She just wants to be with you that’s all.” 

But the thing is she’s the younger sibling, they’re both younger siblings, and they really don’t understand that it’s scientifically proven that younger siblings get more attention and care because the parents view them as the baby of the family. She knows better. And whenever my parents do tell her to get out, they say, “Your sister just doesn’t like having people in her room but she still loves you. That’s just her, but you know you can come into our rooms anytime if the cat is in there, okay?” It’s like I’m some antisensitive, antisocial person! And whenever she starts crying because I told her, calmly, to get out of my room, they think I’m the most harsh person ever. It’s really unfair, and she makes me feel like I’m a really bad, horrible, horrible, mean, stingy, scrooge-like, person. (I love Christmas by the way) I hate that she makes me feel that way, and I know I’m sensitive, but I don’t think I’m overreacting. 

Am I really a bad person? She knows her boundaries, yet violates them anyway. My parents aren’t helping, and I don’t know what to do. It’s not like I can leave the situation, there is no way she’s going to be in my room alone. She does this at least twice a week. She also screams and yells at people to get her way (including my parents), and still cries and moans when told she has to eat her vegetables. What should I do?

Lu

Dear Lu,

There is nothing wrong with having boundaries, and you are not a horrible person, or overreacting. Sisters are absolutely wonderful, but you are not wrong, they can be a pain. I have 2 little sisters myself, I remember the days when they would come sit in my room uninvited, follow me around, take my stuff, and do another frustrating things. It will get better when you are both adults, but I know that is of little comfort right now. 

Parents are generally more “in the know” on what is going on in a household than kids realize. However, there will always be events and dynamics that they don’t know about. Because her behavior isn’t limited to just you, (she yells at your mom and dad as well) they are well aware that this isn’t only between the two of you. But they likely don’t know about everything. 

If you haven’t told your parents how distressing that her behavior is to you, then do so. And I mean beyond how it is annoying that she invades your space and ignores your boundaries. Make sure they know that this is causing you significant stress, that her reaction makes you feel like a mean person. I guarantee that your parents don’t think you are being mean or unfair to your sister, and it’s completely ok to ask for them to tell you directly that they understand what you need and why you need some space for yourself.

Just like any other situation, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. If it isn’t known that there is a problem, then they can’t help. Parents do their best to meet all of their kids needs, but it is a lot of needs to be met when there is more than one child (and honestly, a lot when there is only one child!). And sometimes, the kids who make the biggest fuss are the ones who get the help, love, and attention that they need. So do what you can to “squeak” and communicate your needs and emotions. 

It is really wonderful that you mentioned boundaries in your letter. That makes my therapist heart very happy, because I talk about boundaries with almost every single person that I meet with for counseling. You have set them, made them known, done your best to stick to them, and been ignored. Reiterate these to your parents. 

One last suggestion: To get your sister to leave you alone when you need alone time, you could consider scheduling “sister time”. This could be at home doing an activity you both enjoy (doesn’t have to be in your room) or maybe even a walk or trip to get ice cream. Then she will get the time she wants with you, and will be less likely to force you to spend time with her later. 

As an oldest child myself with 3 younger siblings, I understand what you are experiencing, and I want you to know that it does get better. And as the oldest child, I have the largest collection of embarrassing stories from my siblings’ childhood years. So that’s a pretty big bonus.

I wish you luck,

Hailey

Posted in Q&A

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *