Young People Ask
How Can I Get Along With My Siblings?
How would you rate your relationship with each of your siblings?
․․․․․ Best of friends
․․․․․ Get along OK most of the time
․․․․․ Tolerate each other
․․․․․ Fight all the time
SOME siblings are very close. For example, Felicia, 19, says, “My 16-year-old sister, Irena, is one of my best friends.”* And Carly, 17, says of her 20-year-old brother, Eric: “We get along super well. We never fight.”
On the other hand, many have a relationship like that of Lauren and Marla. “We fight about everything.” Says Lauren, “It doesn’t matter how trivial the subject.” Or maybe you can relate to what Alice, 12, says about her 14-year-old brother, Dennis: “He gets on my nerves! He barges into my room and ‘borrows’ things without asking. Dennis is such a child!”
Do you have a sibling who gets on your nerves? Your parents, of course, have the responsibility to maintain order in the household. However, sooner or later you will need to learn to get along with others. You can learn that while at home.
Think about the conflicts you’ve had with your brother or sister. What do you fight about most? Look at the list below, and put a ✔ in the boxes that apply, or write about the type of incident that makes you steam!
□ Possessions. My sibling “borrows” items without asking.
□ Personality clashes. My sibling acts selfishly or thoughtlessly or tries to run my life.
□ Privacy. My sibling enters my room without knocking or reads my e-mails or text messages without asking permission.
□ Other. ․․․․․
If your sibling constantly annoys you—bossing you around or invading your space—it might be hard not to let resentment build. But a Bible proverb says: “The squeezing of the nose is what brings forth blood, and the squeezing out of anger is what brings forth quarreling.” (Proverbs 30:33) If you hold a grudge, it may well result in an angry outburst, just as squeezing your nose may cause blood to flow. Then the problem will only get worse. (Proverbs 26:21) How can you prevent an irritation from bursting into a raging argument? A first step is to identify the real issue.
Incident or Issue?
Problems between siblings are like pimples. The surface evidence of a pimple is an unsightly sore, but the cause is an underlying infection. Similarly, an ugly clash between siblings is often just the surface evidence of an underlying issue.
You could treat a pimple by squeezing it. However, that would only be dealing with the symptom, and you may leave a scar or aggravate the infection. A better approach is to deal with the infection and thus prevent further outbreaks. It’s the same when it comes to problems with siblings. Learn to identify the underlying issue, and you’ll get past the incident and right to the root of the problem. You’ll also be able to apply the advice of wise King Solomon, who wrote: “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger.”—Proverbs 19:11.
For example, Alice, quoted earlier, said about her brother Dennis, “He barges into my room and ‘borrows’ things without asking.” That’s the incident. Yet, what do you think is the real issue? Likely, it’s related to respect.*
Alice could deal with the problem by telling Dennis never to come into her room or use her things. But that solution treats only the symptom and would likely lead to further conflict. However, if Alice could convince Dennis to respect her privacy and her property, their relationship would no doubt improve.
Learn to Resolve or Avoid Conflicts
Of course, identifying the underlying issues you have with a sibling is only part of the solution. What can you do to resolve an issue and avoid a future confrontation? Try taking the following six steps.
1. Agree to some ground rules. “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk,” wrote King Solomon. (Proverbs 15:22) To help avoid frustration, look back at what you indicated caused conflict between you and your sibling. See if together you can work out some rules that you both agree on and that address the underlying issue. For example, if you clash over possessions, Rule 1 could be: “Always ask before taking an item that belongs to someone else.” Rule 2 could be: “Respect a sibling’s right to say, ‘No, you can’t use that item.’” When making these rules, think of Jesus’ command: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) That way you will make rules that both you and your sibling can live by. Then check with your parents to make sure that they approve of your agreement.—Ephesians 6:1.
2. Abide by the rules yourself. The apostle Paul wrote: “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself? You, the one preaching ‘Do not steal,’ do you steal?” (Romans 2:21) How can you apply that principle? If you want your sibling to respect your privacy, for instance, then you likewise need to knock before entering your sibling’s room or ask before reading his or her e-mails or text messages.
3. Don’t be quick to take offense. Why is that good advice? Because, as a Bible proverb states, “only fools get angry quickly and hold a grudge.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9, Contemporary English Version) If you are easily offended, your life will be miserable. Yes, your sibling will do or say things that upset you. But ask yourself, ‘Have I done something like that to him or her in the past?’ (Matthew 7:1-5) “When I was 13,” says Jenny, “I thought that my opinion was the most important and must be heard. My little sister is now going through a similar stage. So I try not to get upset over the things she says.”
4. Forgive and forget. Serious problems need to be discussed and resolved. But must you call your sibling to account for every mistake he or she makes? Jehovah God appreciates it when you are willing to “pass over transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11) Alison, 19, says: “My sister Rachel and I are usually able to resolve our differences. Both of us are quick to say that we are sorry and then explain what we think was the cause of the clash. Sometimes I’ll sleep on it before bringing up a problem. Often, the next morning it’s as if the slate is wiped clean, and I don’t even have to talk about it.”
5. Involve your parents as arbitrators. If you and your sibling can’t resolve an important issue, your parents can help you make peace. (Romans 14:19) Remember, though, that the ability to resolve conflict without appealing to your parents is like a mile marker—it’s a measure of genuine maturity.
6. Appreciate your siblings’ good qualities. Your siblings likely have qualities that you admire. Write down one thing that you appreciate about each of your siblings.
Name What I appreciate
Fact of life: When you leave home, you will at times be surrounded by people who irritate you—workmates and others who are rude, insensitive, and selfish. Home is the place to learn to deal peaceably with such challenges. If you have a brother or a sister who is difficult to get along with, take a positive view. That sibling is helping you to develop valuable life skills!
The Bible acknowledges that a brother or a sister might not always be the closest companion you will have. (Proverbs 18:24) But you can strengthen your friendship with your siblings if you “continue putting up with one another,” even when they give you valid “cause for complaint.” (Colossians 3:13) If you do so, your siblings are likely to become less irritating to you. And you may even annoy them less!
More articles from the “Young People Ask” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/ype
Some names have been changed.
For further help, see the box below.
TO THINK ABOUT
● Why is it important to see the difference between an incident and the underlying issue?
● Which of the above six steps do you need to work on most?
[Box on page 27]
IDENTIFY THE REAL ISSUE
Want to hone your skills at identifying underlying issues between siblings? If so, read Jesus’ parable of the son who left home and wasted his inheritance.—Luke 15:11-32.
Look closely at the way the older brother reacted when his younger brother returned home. Then answer the following questions.
What was the incident that sparked the older brother’s reaction?
What do you think was the underlying issue?
How did the father try to resolve the issue?
What did the older brother need to do to resolve the issue?
Now think of a recent argument you’ve had with a sibling. Then write your answers next to the questions.
What sparked the incident?
What do you think might be the underlying issue?
What ground rules could you agree to that would address this issue and prevent further clashes?
[Box/Pictures on page 28, 29]
WHAT YOUR PEERS SAY
“I want to be friends with my sisters for the rest of my life, so I might as well start on this lifelong project now.”
“We do things together as a family, and that helps unite us. We don’t seem to argue as much as we used to.”
“In some ways we’re as different as night and day. Still, my sister is one of a kind. I wouldn’t trade her for anything!”
“Without my siblings, all my fondest memories would vanish into thin air. To those who have siblings, I would say, ‘Don’t take them for granted!’”
[Picture on page 27]
Problems between siblings are like pimples—to fix them you need to treat the underlying cause, not just attack the symptom