What This Situation Is Like for Parents


We all have the roaring “protective parent” that comes out when someone is mean to our child.

But when one of our own children is mean to the other…

…. when one rips something from the hands of the other or

… when one says, “You didn’t KNOW that? You’re so stupid!”

… it’s hard not to freak out on that child who is so clearly being self-centered and rude.

We want our children to have each other’s backs, not treat each other like they don’t matter.


What This Situation Is Like for Children


If kids feel like they have no control in general (because people are telling them what to do all the time), they really feel like they have no control when it comes to their siblings.

If their sibling tries to take something from them, what can they REALLY do about it? (Often they get reprimanded for “tattling”…)

If they think their sibling has gotten of something, what can they REALLY do about it? (Often parents just tell them to stop complaining…) 

For those reasons, children often start to resent their brothers or sisters. They don’t know how to handle these feelings, so often their Yuck gets turned out in disrespectful ways




How It Usually Goes

When Your Child Is Disrespectful to a Sibling



A dad overhears his daughter Arya telling her little brother that she doesn’t want him to play a game with her because he always messes everything up.


Dad: Arya! Why are you talking to Wyatt like that?

Arya: Because he always wants to play and he always gets in the way! 

Dad: But he’s 3 years younger than you! He’s not going to be as good as you are…

Arya: That’s why I DO NOT WANT HIM TO PLAY!

Dad: That is so rude! Do not treat your brother like that! 

Arya: It’s not like he’s nice to me, Dad. He’s always bothering me.

Dad: Yeah but you’re older. You know better.

Arya: Why am I always the one who has to be nice?

Dad: Because that’s the way it works.

Arya: You’re not nice to me now! Forget it! I’m not playing my game, and I don’t want to be near you!


How It Could Go

When Your Child Is Disrespectful to a Sibling



A dad overhears his daughter Arya telling her little brother that she doesn’t want him to play a game with her because he always messes everything up.


Dad: Hey Arya, you wanted to play that game by yourself, huh?

Arya: Yeah! Dad, he always comes over and messes it up. He doesn’t even know how to play!

Dad: Yeah I know sometimes it’s hard when you want to play a game and something gets in the way…

Arya: I just wish he would go away.



Although Arya’s dad doesn’t like to hear her say that she wishes her brother would go away, he knows that if he loses his cool he can’t help his daughter through this situation. He tells himself that he can handle the situation. 


Dad (calmly): Yeah. I get that. (Pauses.) You know what?

Arya: What?

Dad: When you said that he messes everything up… I would not want someone to say that about you.

Arya (is quiet).

Dad: Well I think your feelings matter here…. And so do Wyatt’s.


Arya’s dad connects with her by recognizing that she was hoping to play a game by herself and when her brother got in the way of her plan, she got frustrated. He does not try to make her feel WORSE for doing what she did, which would only make her act out more. He knows that she just needs to be respected.  

Arya: I guess.

Dad: Is there a way that you can play but we can also let Wyatt get some time with the game too?



He corrects by helping Arya see that her words are hurtful to her brother… but he does so without disrespecting Arya (which would lead to further Yuck and misbehavior).

He also stays firm in his boundary that she needs to be considerate of her brother’s feelings. 


Arya: Well what if you play with me once, Dad… and then I’ll play with Wyatt for a few minutes.

Dad: I can do that.


How to Make the In-the-Moment Strategy Work


The “proactive deposits” discussed in the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If you want to be able to handle the situation when your child is disrespectful to a sibling, remember:


Depositing into CALM


Arya’s dad will not be able to stay calm if

a.) his own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are low or

b.) he has the expectation that Arya will ignore her own desires just to make her brother happy.

When he makes sure his own needs are met and sets realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, Arya’s dad is more likely to be able to stay calm.

See Step 1 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap for help meeting your needs and setting expectations proactively so you can stay calm.


Depositing into CONNECT

Arya’s dad will only be able to connect if

a.) he respects that all behavior has a reason and

b.) he understands those reasons (in this case, Arya wanted to spend some time with her dad and didn’t have the tools to deal with her frustration without being mean to her brother)

See Step 2 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap to learn the reasons for children’s behavior so you can connect more effectively.


Depositing into CORRECT

Arya’s dad will only be able to correct behavior by offering a tool if

a.) He has demonstrated consistently in the past that when he expects his daughter to be more respectful to her brother.

b.) He has made enough deposits into the relationship that telling asking her to treat her brother differently does not immediately put her into Yuck.

When he demonstrates that he means what he says and when he makes deposits into Jimmy’s emotional needs PROACTIVELY, he will be able to correct more effectively.

See Step 3 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap  to learn more about improving your influence so you can correct behavior.