Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Sibling Putdowns

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My 11 1/2-year-old son has a habit of putting down my 9 year old. They are both doing great in school but the older son likes to degrade the other's intelligence, e.g., reading skills, etc. I have discussed this with both of them but the younger son gets extremely hurt by this. Is this normal? What can I do to rectify the situation?

A: This sibling teasing is certainly normal. Oftentimes when the younger sibling, especially a same-sex sibling, begins to be perceived by the elder as encroaching (stealing) on his special areas of expertise and acclaim (academics, sports, popularity), the older sibling will attempt to reaffirm his specialness (and superiority) by attacking the younger's most vulnerable spots.

Your elder son is also on the cusp of being a full-fledged teen and may already be carving out his own separate adolescent identity from his "little brother". You can't really stop your elder from putting down your younger boy out side your presence, however you can certainly forbid any such hurtful talk in your presence. I suggest doing an occasional one-on-one check with each son to talk about their relationship. Empathize with each one about the normal difficulties of having an older/younger brother at this age. Tell your older son you expect him to demonstrate his maturity and "elder statesman" qualities by treating his brother how he would wish to be treated; praise his efforts to do so. Siblings will "rank" on each other, after all, but if a family member is truly causing another pain then that harmful behavior needs to stop.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


10 Best Creative Apps for Kids
Looking for apps that foster creativity? Check out these top-rated art and music apps for kids.

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

A New Intergalactic Reading Adventure!
Get your reluctant reader hooked on an irresistible new story, Galactic Hot Dogs! Join the Book 1 reading marathon, and get behind-the-scenes tidbits on the official Galactic Hot Dogs blog. Also, print this cool Galactic Hot Dogs reading log to keep your bookworm excited about reading!

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks