It’s said you can pick your seat, but you can’t pick your family. No truer words have ever been spoken, especially when it comes to older brothers and sisters. They’re yours to keep forever. Knowing how to treat them with respect in every circumstance is certain to make forever seem less like, well, forever.
Being the younger sibling has advantages and disadvantages. The way you’re treated by the brothers and sisters who have come before you can, indeed, be classified as a disadvantage. Older siblings tend to forget what it was like to be your age, and, in turn, may act like they’re your parent rather than your sibling. Knowing your place in the family — as well as theirs — is one way to begin redefining your relationship with them.
1. Understand their perspective
While it may seem unfair to have to look past how you’re being treated to see life through your siblings’ eyes, understanding their behavior toward you is one way of showing them respect. Older brothers and sisters generally have more responsibilities and distractions and can misinterpret your adoration of them. Because they’re so busy, they may not take the time to realize it’s only because of your respect for them that their interests are appealing to you, as well. Ask them for a few minutes of their undivided attention so you can express to them your vantage point and the fact you understand theirs.
2. Be OK with their decisions
Speaking your truth with love and kindness in every situation opens the gates of communication, and fosters mutual respect between you and your siblings. Letting them know how you feel and how their actions affect you has the ability to soften their reactions toward you, and change the whole dynamic of your relationship. If, after you’ve shared your views with them, their opinions are still different from yours, try to appreciate their perspectives and use them to more clearly define your own. Respect each person’s individuality but maintain your own in the process. You can learn a lot about yourself — your likes and dislikes — as you continue to follow through on your own decisions at the same time as you honor your brothers’ and sisters’.
3. Do your own thing
Find a few things that interest you and enjoy doing them on your own or with some of your friends. Once your brothers and sisters feel like you’re on your way to having your own entertainment, they’re more likely to include you in their plans every now and then. Giving them space to view your independence will be attractive to them, and will free them up from feeling like they’re responsible for your happiness.
Actions always speak louder than words, so once you and your siblings have had “the talk,” remember to keep walking the walk. Keep following through on the things you know will show your siblings respect whether or not they offer the same to you in return. Just like when you’re learning to drive a car, it takes more than reading the owner’s manual to earn your driver’s license. It takes practice to form new habits. It’s no different when learning new ways to relate to your older brothers and sisters.
Making the choice to understand your siblings’ uniquenesses and perspectives is one of the highest forms of respect you can ever offer them. While there may come a time when you have to respect them from a distance, your brothers and sisters are some of the greatest teachers you will ever have. The lessons you learn from them now will ensure you and your family can have a lifetime filled with happy memories and peaceful holidays for years to come.
Danica Trebel is a mom to two AMAZING teenage sons, a recovering perfectionist and a Life and Family Dynamics Coach. She specializes in helping families tune up their relationships through perspective, communication and faith www.danicatrebel.com