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Parenting --Teens/my daughter and her little sister


My daughter is 10 and a half and her sister is 7. Elizabeth seems to resent the fact that she has a little sister because she has had to share my attention with her. Many times when Elizabeth has misbehaved towards me or Rebecca we have talked about her motivation for this behaviour, and she has told me that she thinks I love Rebecca more than her.
The truth is that Elizabeth can be so mean, bossy and even pysically hurtful to her sister, I am internally starting to agree with her - Rebecca is much easier to love, really sweet. Elizabeth is more challenging.
Examples: When asked to fetch something Elizabeth has physically taken Rebecca to do it, and when Rebecca got it she accidentally dropped it. Elizabeth forced Rebecca down by the arm to pick it back up again. Rebecca then somehow bumped her chin on the nearby cupboard door.
Rebecca and Elizabeth were decorating their Christmas tree. Rebecca lost interest and started playing with the tinsel. Elizabeth said,'Rebecca, are you helping or not?', then started counting down from 5 to 1 to make Rebecca help.
Sometimes I hear the girls fighting. I go into the room and Elizabeth is lying on Rebecca or squeezing her. When I tell her to stop Elizabeth says they are only play fighting. Rebecca seems forced to agree as she doesn't want her sister to get into trouble.
Elizabeth never seems to say anything nice to Rebecca. The only things she ever says are judgmental or telling her off.
When I discipline Elizabeth she says I never tell Rebecca off, only her. When I do tell Rebecca off Elizabeth says I am far less strict with her. I insist this is not the case, and I find myself disciplining Rebecca more strongly so as to show Elizabeth they both get equal treatment.
It's got to the point where I think the more I discipline ELizabeth the more I am causing her to mistreat her sister, so I just have to walk away. I feel that I am contributing to her behaviour and making her even more resentful.
I've spent time with her alone, things like taking her for a hot chocolate and a chat, for some quality time, but later the same old thing happens.
At school Elizabeth is a hard worker, quiet and respectful, but in the playground will turn against Rebecca and never defend her.
At home she seems to need reassurance all the time - hugs, asking me if I'm proud of her, if I like her, if she's pretty. I feel I am complimenting and praising Elizabeth as much as Rebecca.  
What shall I do?

I think that the first thing you should do is never let the older child be a parent to the younger child. This means not allowing the older to lead the younger by the arm etc...unless there is a safety issue involved. If what you describe is really happening it seems that something else is going with your older one. Since I am not there I think it would be prudent to talk her to a therapist and see if they can determine what it going on. There is usually some type of sibling rivalry that goes on in homes, but this seems a bit extreme to me.

Parenting --Teens

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Dr. David Simonsen


I work with teens and parents on a weekly basis. I have learned that one way of parenting doesn't fit every teen. Being able to be flexible and a good listener can really cultivate a great relationship between a parent and teen. I will give you a no-nonsense pratical way to help your relationship


I am a Ph.D. level licensed Marriage & Family Therapist presently in private practice.



M.S. Marriage & Family Therapy; Ph.D. Psychology

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