Dear Barb – Unruly Kids Strain Sisterly Bond

Dear Barb:

My sister and I have always been close. When I got married I was anxious for her to get married so we would have children close in age. Fortunately my sister got married two years after I did and today we both have two young children who are close in age.

Well, things aren’t going as I had expected. As mothers we are very different. I am much stricter with my children than my sister is with hers. When she comes over with her two boys they are completely undisciplined. My children are not allowed to jump on the furniture, but when Karen is over and her boys jump on the sofa, mine join in. They eat and drink in the living room, torment my cat, and to be honest some days I can’t wait until they leave.

I don’t want to ruin my relationship with my sister, but I am getting to the point where I am reluctant to invite her and her boys to my home. Barb, what can I do to resolve this situation without having it come between me and my sister? Help!


Hi, Connie. Wow, what a dilemma. Obviously you love your sister very much and you don’t want anything to jeopardize that relationship.

When we become parents we frequently have our own perception of what constitutes the perfect parent. Obviously you value structure and guidance, while your sister may place more value in allowing her children the freedom to do as they please. Which scenario is right or wrong remains a personal opinion and is often dependent on the personality and character of the children involved.

In either scenario, children have to be taught to respect other people’s property. While in your home your sister should not allow her children to behave in a manner that she knows you would not allow your children to.

Although it may be difficult, you are going to have to talk to your sister about this. Explain to her that your children are not allowed to jump on the furniture, bring food into the living room, and whatever other rules you have for your children. Simply discuss with her that it is difficult for you to tell your children not to do something when they see their cousins doing exactly that. Also remind your children that the rules you lay out for them apply whether their cousins are there or not.

Be gentle and tactful in explaining this to your sister. Do not make it appear as though you believe her way of raising her children is wrong and yours is right. Perhaps she will be more responsive if you indicate that you and your husband together have chosen to implement these rules for your children. She may choose to believe this is coming primarily from your husband and may be less likely to be offended. Hope I was able to help.

Thanks for the great question, Connie.

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

%d bloggers like this: