Brats on the rampage

You are convinced they were put on this earth merely to plague you and your friends. Yes, those little monsters who never leave you alone, who giggle at your new boyfriend, who make a noise when you want to study and who run and tell your mother that you are kissing the boy next door behind the hedge.

You have been tempted to do them grievous bodily harm or lock them up somewhere, but you know it will only make things worse for you. As you so often hear, you are the older and more responsible sibling and need to behave in a manner that is an example to your younger brothers and sisters. Ho-hum.

So why do they plague you?
Look at me. They want attention. You have, because of your age, fairly high status in the home, and your life looks exciting and interesting to those who are younger than you. You get to do the things they are not allowed to do, such as going out at night, which makes getting your attention a challenge.

Jealousy makes you nasty. It is amazing when one speaks to siblings how often children from the same family feel that another child is the parent’s favourite. Often they point at each other. Fights between siblings can get quite vicious and children tend to watch with eagles’ eyes to see if someone else gets more than they do – of money, attention, favours. Jealousy can make vicious rivals out of siblings and often it is quite unfounded.

Plain brats. Sometimes kids are clever and can be nasty and some of them will know exactly how to get you in trouble. By comparison they will then look angelic in your parents’ eyes. That is what motivates someone to tell tales. Either complain calmly and openly to your parents, or get something on them, such as, “I saw you stealing apples from the neighbour’s garden”. That way you get to play the same game, but also sink to the level of a 5-year-old – not always very wise.

They feel left out. You and your friends seem cool and seem to be having a great time. They would love nothing more than being the centre of your attention and will do anything, including negative things, to get the attention of you and your friends.

They’re just doing their thing. They could just be merrily getting on with their lives, but the shrieking and yelling that accompany their playing just irritate you, such as your music could be irritating other members of your household. Remember that you might have been just as irritating when you were five.

Points to remember

Bored children are naughty children. Siblings will pester you if there is nothing else to do. Books, their own friends, television and computer games are all good distractions.

Buy them off. This is obviously a last resort. If your new boyfriend is coming to visit, the last thing you want is a sibling’s uncomfortable questions, such as “Are you going to get married”? Pay them if they have behaved and stay out of your way.

Don’t react. Even the most persistent attention-seeker will eventually back off if no reaction is forthcoming.

Reason with them. Tell them you need time alone with your friends just as they do. You need only once make a pest of yourself when they have visitors too drive your point home.

Don’t complain to your parents unless the situation has become completely intolerable. You are older and will therefore be held responsible for maintaining the peace. You could be shooting yourself in the foot if you complain too regularly.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated June 2010)

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