Your Sibling Is Verbally Abusive
Just get over it? Definitely not. Sibling rivalry is normal. But abuse is never OK.
What to do: If your sibling’s comments are often mean-spirited, try to figure out why. “Sit down with him and ask, ‘Why are you behaving this way toward me? What’s the root of it? Why can’t we relate to each other as adults?’” says Vernon Wiehe, a social worker and the author of Sibling Abuse: Hidden Physical, Emotional, and Sexual Trauma ($70, amazon.com). If he responds childishly or seems set in his ways, consider distancing yourself. You can choose to avoid an abusive sibling and meet only at family gatherings. “You do what you would do in any other abusive relationship,” says Goldenthal. “Tell him you can’t spend time with him if he talks to you that way. Don’t invite him over. Don’t play victim. It’s important that you give very clear feedback.”
Sample script: “If you can’t treat me appropriately and respectfully, I’d rather not have anything to do with you. Let’s go our separate ways for a while.”
Your Sibling Is Extremely Competitive or Jealous
Just get over it? Yes. Children compete for a scarce resource: their parents’ attention. Some never feel as if they get enough.
What to do: Don’t respond to your sibling when she starts the “my stuff is better than yours” routine or brags about her son’s lead in the school play. Recognize that it’s competition and that your sibling may not change for years, if ever. Try to change the subject or ignore her bragging. If it gets to you, bring it up. But don’t expect an overnight transformation.
Sample script: “Your new car does sound great. Anyway, can you believe Ohio State pulled that one out on Saturday?”