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Sibling Rivalry in Grown Children

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

Q: I have a 19-year-old son and an 18-year-old daughter. Each thinks we love the other one more.

A: This sibling rivalry and jealousy probably has a considerable history in your family. One of the brothers in the Smothers Brothers comedy team used to always whine, "Mom always loved you best." If your two, at these ages, are still making you two feel guilty about loving the other one more, all of you have been dancing habitually to a rhythm no one seems able to or wanting to stop.

How are you supposed to prove a negative, "No son, we don't love your sister more." I would say that you two should call a family meeting, set the ground rules that everyone will get a chance to talk uninterrupted for a specified time, all comments and sentences will begin with "I", no "You always..." statements are allowed. The goal of the family meeting will be to discover how they can feel cared about in a way they need- remove the loving the other one more construct- that's tired, old and unproductive. What does each one of them need individually to feel they are cherished, appreciated, supported, etc.? Then you have to decide whether their requests of you are legitimate and whether or not you can give them what they need. Don't be bullied or emotionally blackmailed and triangulated by both of them in their attempts to one up the other. This will be an honest and courageous step in ending this long-running complaint. Good luck!

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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.


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