How can I deal with my 9 year old sister?
September 16, 2012 8:28 PM   Subscribe

How can I deal with my 9 year old sister?

My sister seems to always do something that gets me mad... Here are a few of the many things she does: In the days that my mom goes to work, she wakes me up by yelling at me to take her to school. Every single night she wants to sleep in my room even though she has her own room. While working on my homework she bothers me like every 5 minutes because she wants to use my computer or something.

It feels like she does things on purpose to get me mad. She is the youngest child so my parents often say things like "she is little and you're older so you know better" and bs like that. Sometimes my mom even blames me for the mess that my sister does and it drives me crazy!! So most of the time she gets away with things, unless it is my parents having to deal with her doing something to them...

(One thing that I've done is to avoid her is going to the library, which my mom seems to take as me not liking my sister, which is not the case.)

Anyways... enough of my complaining.. What things can I do so my sister will stop from doing this to me? How can I keep her distracted so she won't distract me?
posted by kiralee to Human Relations (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you nice to her? Does she feel like you don't like her? I'm guessing she just idolizes you and wants to spend time with you, and she feels hurt and rejected so that's how she acts out.

You should be nicer to her.
posted by discopolo at 8:32 PM on September 16, 2012 [12 favorites]

Are you supposed to take your sister to school on those days? Do you say yes to your sister when she wants to sleep in your room? Where are you studying that she can come in and bother you? Do you spend actual time with her when you have some, so she knows that every other week you guys will go together and get ice cream or whatever else?
posted by jeather at 8:32 PM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Have you sat down with her without any distractions and had a talk to tell her that you love her very much but she's got to quit this crap? Most kids work best with a reward so tell her that if she gives you 30 minutes without interrupting (maybe start with 10-15 and work your way up) then she gets to watch youtube videos with you for 5-10 minutes or something like that.

And, if you can help it, don't let her sleep in your room. You need a break and you'll be a better sibling if you have one.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:33 PM on September 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

You could try spending some time with her doing something fun. Sounds like she wants your attention and to be close to you, and bugging you always works. A little kindness goes a long way.
posted by Linnee at 8:34 PM on September 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

Negative attention (to her) is better than no attention at all. Why not try giving her attention before she acts out?
posted by jaimystery at 8:35 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

And in your other post, you indicated that you're at least a college freshman, so either you move into the dorms or treat her nicely. She's just a kid, and you should really act more like an adult. She shouldn't have to feel rejected and unliked by her own sibling who is a lot older than her.
posted by discopolo at 8:36 PM on September 16, 2012 [31 favorites]

This episode of This American Life talks about kids that are closer to the same age, so I don't know how relevant it is to you, but basically what it boils down to is that (1) if you spend more time with her, she may be easier to be around, and (2) if your parents usually intervene, they should lay off a bit and let the two of you figure out how to work things out.
posted by amarynth at 8:43 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

From your previous question, I gather that you are in college. 9 to 18 or 19, which I assume you are, is sort of an awkward age difference. At 18 or 19, people are often in a hurry to grow up and become independent, and I can see how feeling responsible for your little sister could be aggravating in that situation.

I suggest setting aside an hour or so a few days a week to do something fun with her--play a game, take her out, or even just talk to her about her day. Then, set aside whatever time you need to study/have personal time and assert those boundaries. If she bugs you, remind her that at such and such time you will be able to hang out, and you're looking forward to that, but right now you're working on your homework. Reminding her you love her also goes a long way.

It might work to set her up with a project--art or otherwise--in the time that you're working. That way each of you can "work" on your own thing, and then hang out a bit afterwards. Get her a book of crosswords or some glitter pens.

She is the youngest child so my parents often say things like "she is little and you're older so you know better" and bs like that.

This is not BS. You are older and you should know better. She's trying to connect with her big sister before she leaves home for good. She loves you and wants to be a part of your life. Please remember that she is doing these things for your attention, not because she's a monster that wants you to fail at school/have a bad morning/get in trouble with your parents.

Sometimes my mom even blames me for the mess that my sister does and it drives me crazy!!

This is something between your mom and you, not you and your sister. Try talking to your mom to see if she can come up with any suggestions that will help you get your work done and be a good sister at the same time. I'm guessing that if she sees you trying a little harder with your sister, next time your sister makes a mess and you get blamed, she'll be a lot more likely to believe you when you calmly say "Sorry mom, but this is not my mess. I'll help sister clear it up to make things a little easier, but I need you to see that I am not responsible for it. I love you, and thanks for understanding."
posted by dysh at 8:47 PM on September 16, 2012 [29 favorites]

What is your sister's life like? Does she have friends her own age? Does she have any other people around your age (I'm assuming older teen years) to look up to? Does she have passions or interests, activities of her own? I ask because, if the answer to any of these is no, she's probably bored and rudderless and sees you as a source of all of these things.

My relationship with my older brother improved drastically when he began to spend time with me in a focused way. We'd do things together that neither of our parents enjoyed, like eat spicy Indian food or watch anime. I got to know him much better, as an individual who should be respected, instead of just a person with a car or a source of familial comfort, and he did the same for me. He was studying theoretical physics and learned best by teaching, so to study for tests, he would try to teach me his subjects. It was fun because I felt like he valued me as someone with a brain, (and because physics is super awesome,) and I knew that it was something special that he wouldn't be able to do with anyone else. These days, my brother is actually my boss! Despite all the numerous pressures between us, we have a really strong foundation of friendship, respect, and mutual interests. None of those things existed when I was 9 and he was taking college classes. We hated each other. It changed when he started considering me as someone worth his time, and I learned that he had feelings.
posted by Mizu at 8:55 PM on September 16, 2012 [12 favorites]

Don't feel bad for being irritated! I would be irritated too. Also, if you are in the middle of an electrical engineering program you need to be able to sleep and study without interruptions. It is ok to set some limits. Remember that you don't set limits on another person, you set them with yourself -- for example, you can tell her that if she can't stop interrupting you while studying you're going to have to go to the library. Then it's up to her if she cuts it out or not. It's up to you if you leave for the library or not.

And also encourage the behavior you want to see - "Thanks for letting me study, I really appreciate it - do you want to pick out a movie to watch together." I wouldn't wait till she acts out to "be nicer" - that will basically reward the wrong thing. Reward what you like, remove yourself from what you don't like and hope it gets better! Good luck. It's hard.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:08 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

In case the previous answers didn't make it clear: Your sister wants your attention.

She's expressing it in a way that annoys you, so first, try to set aside some time for just you and her (which will make it a lot easier to say no when she asks for attention in an annoying way), and second, teach her how you want her to behave. If she wakes you up by yelling at you to take her to school, and it is actually your responsibility to take her to school, say, "Sorry I'm not up yet, but please don't yell. I feel cranky when I wake up like this. Tomorrow I'll set my alarm, but otherwise please knock gently." If she bothers you while you're doing your homework, say, "I need to concentrate right now, but when I'm done I'll come find you and we can play a game together." Repeat as necessary (or, "I need to concentrate, so I'm going to shut the door,") and when you are done, actually go find her and make an effort to spend some time with her.

You might want to go to the library and ask a librarian to help you find a book that will give you some advice -- which is likely to be a parenting book, given the age difference between you and your sister.
posted by chickenmagazine at 9:30 PM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

I really recommend this article from the NYT for techniques on how to deal with the annoying habits of people you live with.
posted by krakus at 9:43 PM on September 16, 2012

When I was 9 I had two uncles ages 21 and 22 who lived in my parents' basement apartment. I loved having them around and I was relentless in trying to get their attention. If they had a date, I'd follow them outside to see who was picking them up. If they were drinking beers and watching a movie with friends, I was right there. And if I knew they were coming home late I'd move their alarm clock to the opposite side of the room and set it for
6 AM. I wasn't trying to annoy them on purpose, I just wanted to spend time with them. I was up at 6 AM on the weekends so my 9-year-old brain thought that if I set their alarm and put it on the other side of the room they might just decide to stay awake and hang out with me.

I'll give them a lot of credit for never getting mad at me, but they didn't. I eventually got bored with harassing them, and once I did, they started hanging out with me much more.

She's a kid and she admires you. Spend some time with her outside of the house and I bet she'll stop bothering you at all hours.
posted by Sal and Richard at 9:43 PM on September 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

I am ten years older than my brother and remember him behaving like this when I went to college. Yes, your sister definitely looks up to you, believe it or not. She wants your attention, as everyone else here has said, and she's anxious about you moving on and leaving her behind. It's actually kind of sweet that she wants to sleep in your room at night.

Whenever I was home I would let my brother hang out in my room while I studied, if he could be quiet--maybe your sister would be happy to just be near you, doing her own thing, as long as she doesn't bug you? (If she does, tell her she has to leave.)

Otherwise, definitely plan some time every day--maybe a half hour to an hour--to do something with her, maybe before you hit the books. Go for a walk, play a game, watch some TV together, teach her some fun skill, help her with her schoolwork, take her to see a movie and get ice cream if you have a free afternoon. Go with your parents to her school programs and concerts. Make sure she knows she's important to you. The pestering will be greatly reduced.

I can't tell you how important this is, especially when you're spaced so far apart and your younger sibling is the baby of the family and has been "left behind" when the older kids have gone off to college and adult life. My brother and I are very close now and have a great relationship. I am often the first person he will tell important news and the person he confided in most often (until he got a serious girlfriend, of course--and I was first to hear about her, too).

It's probably hard to imagine this now when she can be such a brat, but someday you will be glad you made an effort to spend time with her--being friends with your sibling, no matter what your age difference--is something you can't put a price on.
posted by tully_monster at 10:13 PM on September 16, 2012 [6 favorites]

I am a student teacher in a 5th grade classroom, so I spend all day with kids about the same age as your little sister. First off, I rather enjoy spending time with these kiddos and especially that age group so your mindset may be quite a bit different than mine. My suggestion though, would be to talk to her one on one and explain that like her, you also have homework, but much much more of it. I would also offer to do homework together, and spend some time working quietly. Getting to know her as an individual is a fantastic idea and many other responders have some great ways to do that.

Also, regarding the bringing her to school, perhaps she is anxious that if you sleep in, she will be really late to school and her teacher will get angry or upset with her. This is a real fear and perhaps during the drive/bus ride/walk to school you could talk to her about her teacher and classmates and build your relationship with her. Like everyone else has said, she is probably just yearning to spend time with you.
posted by ruhroh at 10:25 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Stop treating her like a younger sister, and start treating her like your parent's daughter. Set clear boundaries for acceptable behavior ("No yelling to wake me up, it is rude and stressful", "No sleeping in my bed, period, because I am an adult and need my sleep" and so on), and ask your parents for "help in enforcing your boundaries with her" rather than help getting her off your back. Set aside specific together-times, with specific activities to do with her, and fulfill your promises to give her that attention at those times, but also set the boundary that you may not be available for her outside those times, not because you don't love her, but because you have schoolwork and other responsibilities.

You are an adult, and you want to be treated like one, but that comes with new responsibilities, including your position as a young adult role model for her. You are allowed to ask your parents for help in enforcing your boundaries, but as you are an adult now, you can also make it clear that you expect them to support -- not just enforce -- those boundaries, rather than insisting you give in or do things that you are not comfortable doing.

Just remember: she might be acting out because she can sense that she's losing you, as you age and move on. She loves you, and is acting out to keep your attention on her. You owe it to her, and to yourself, to create a new dynamic where she shows you the respect due an adult, but also where you show her the love and attention and care -- and boundaries, firm and consistent ones -- that she deserves as a nine-year-old member of your family.
posted by davejay at 10:42 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

She thinks you're awesome - it's nice when people think we're awesome. So be happy about that.

Learn how to establish boundaries with people without getting mad at them - here is the perfect opportunity to try that out. I guarantee you, there will be infinitely more irritating people in your life in the future who want to tread all over your boundaries in worse ways than this.

In the process, you'll be a role model for her. Win.
posted by heyjude at 10:47 PM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is not BS. You are older and you should know better.

Know better than what? Nine years old is not too young to behave, and the OP is behaving like an adult- studying and helping her parents with child care. I don't see how expecting a nine year old to not be obnoxious is "rejecting" anyone.

OP, it sounds like your sister is bored. Maybe find a hobby with her that you can do with her some of the time, but also one she can do independently. Other than that, you need to set the boundaries that your parents refuse to, along the lines of davejay above.
posted by spaltavian at 6:07 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure I agree with most of the advice so far. It sounds like the amount of attention your sister wants is actually interfering with your school work. That said, it's hard to establish boundaries with a nine year-old, and your mother seems unwilling to look at it from your side (she probably wants/expects you to take up some of the parenting burden, which is a complicated demand to place on your child). Gaining distance from both of them, if possible, could help. Moving into the dorms/your own place (if that's financially feasible), getting a job, going to the library more (and explaining to your mom that you're a student and you need to study)...
posted by outlandishmarxist at 6:11 AM on September 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Outlandishmarxist, yes, little sis is interfering now, but what everyone is saying is that she is interfering because she isn't getting any quality time with her sibling. Instead, every time she tries to play with her sibling, she gets shot down ("too busy" "it's night, I'm tired" "it's morning, I'm tired") and that hurts so she tries harder for more attention. If the OP actually set aside special time for her, and made sure to actually focus on her during that time, she'd be more content to leaving them along other times. It's actually very common with siblings, and is something parents have to struggle with when they have a second. WIth my boys, this is exactly how they behave when they don't feel like they've gotten and focus, special, mommy time, and if I just give them 20min - 1 hour when they get like this, they are more willing to let me work/entertain the other later.

So, OP, in general, yes, you need to give her some time so you can gain more of your time back.
posted by katers890 at 6:31 AM on September 17, 2012

Man, it sucks that your parents are expecting you to take on so much child care/supervision. On the other hand, free rent and food (right)?

I suggest setting up a schedule for her that she can see, that includes when you'll wake up to take her to school, when you'll hang out with her, AND your own quiet time. If you have a schedule to point to it might reduce some of the every-5-minutes CAN YOU HANG OUT NOW? WHAT ABOUT NOW? thing.

A visual cue to avoid interruptions can be good, because some of this is probably just impulse control or not having the social skills to decide when you're available for socializing. A special light/item/chair you can put out when you're studying and can't be interrupted will be a good visual reminder to her that you're not available for social interaction.

It seems like your parents are setting you two up for failure, honestly--there should be a decent effort from them to entertain and supervise her so that you can do your schoolwork without interruption.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:42 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Outlandishmarxist, yes, little sis is interfering now, but what everyone is saying is that she is interfering because she isn't getting any quality time with her sibling.

Well, that's the way life is, particularly when the older sibling is in college. What's happening is that the 9 year old is at that stage where she needs to learn an important lesson about how her needs don't always come first.

The parents are falling down on the job, here. Honestly, if the 9 year old sister showed up at the OP's place of work and started demanding attention, would everyone blame the OP for not spending "quality time" with the sister, or would the parents be criticized for not looking after the 9 year old and not teaching her that it's not ok to interrupt someone while they're at work?
posted by deanc at 7:22 AM on September 17, 2012 [9 favorites]

I'm not blaming the OP for not spending time with her sister. I am suggesting that if her sister knew she would get to spend time with kiralee, and knew when it would happen, then she would be more likely to not bother kiralee all the time.

The waking up thing really depends on whether kiralee is actually supposed to take her sister to school or not.
posted by jeather at 10:28 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're soon off to uni and then on to full adult life where no one you meet will think you're a rock star the way your baby sister does right now. Take full advantage of this while it lasts! Take all the advice above that suggests structuring your time with her, so it doesn't interfere with your homework and sleep. Make memories with her that will ensure a happy, lifelong bond that will enrich both your lives forever.

You are so lucky to have a sister, I wish I had one.
posted by zarah at 1:14 PM on September 17, 2012

I'm not trying to shame you but I feel strongly compelled to tell you that the likely reason that your little sister is all up in your business is that she loves you, admires you and wants to spend time with you but is bad at asking for it. There is very little in life that I regret so much as not understanding that this is what my little brothers needed from me when I was about your age and not being the brother they needed me to be. They're grown now and we get along well enough it's just that ... well, they're not nine anymore and I had a chance to be worthy of them then that I did not seize because I was too young and wrapped up in my own shit to understand what was happening.

Yes, she is irritating. She also loves you in a way that's complex and powerful and ultimately to be cherished. I wish I could better explain to you how beautiful it is that a younger sibling would risk your wrath just to have your ear. She loves you so much - please, please, please be kind to her - she's too small to really understand what it is you're going through at your age but you've been her age before and she needs you. She needs her sister.

I think I'm gonna write letters to my brothers now.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:53 PM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thank you guys sooo much!! I will definitely set aside some time with her and see whether that makes things better!! Now that I look back at things, she started following me more ever since my mom quit baby sitting and got a full-time job... I now somewhat see how she feels because I used to cry to my mom that I wanted a sister... It was when I was 9 that she was born and I was super happy! Well.. better late than never! :)
posted by kiralee at 7:25 PM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

My sister is 6 years older than I am, and we never did a good job of getting along because we were always in pretty different stages of life.

I would bother her to do things with me but she was more occupied with her high school life than dealing with a 9-year-old. I was also not mature enough to understand what she was dealing with, and not mature enough to be much of a fun playmate. For example, I was (reportedly) a sore loser at games, so even if I did want to play a game with her, she wasn't particularly interested in dealing with the fallout.

Just remember that she isn't as smart as you because she's young!
posted by that girl at 11:30 PM on September 17, 2012

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