Paris Andrew, TIP’s Director of Partnerships and Engagement, is here to help gifted students. She used to run the residential programming at TIP’s educational programs, and she is completing a PhD in related areas, so she knows what she’s talking about.
My brother is a kindergartener. He is SO annoying and aggressive (when he’s tired). He can also be rude. How do I deal with this?
—Monstrous Little Brother
You can deal with it by understanding a few things about both kindergarteners and little brothers that you may find hard to believe:
- He acts that way because he has not developed the skills to ask for what he wants in a more productive way. Help him develop those skills by modeling good behavior in how you ask for what you want. Then, point out to him how you kept your voice calm, was specific about what you needed, and said “please.” Invite him to practice with you.
- He has not yet mastered (or grasped) the difference between asking for what he wants and being rude. He has also, apparently, not yet figured out that you will get your way more often, and be far more likely to succeed in getting what you want, by being polite rather than antagonizing people. You might want to pull him aside and explain that concept, choosing a time when he is not tired. Then, show him how the system works. 😊
- I imagine that if his behavior when he is tired annoys you, it also probably annoys your parent(s) and other people in your household. Why not step up to the plate and help everyone out by continuing to recognize the connection between his bad behavior and the fact that he is tired. Next time he acts that way, ask him if he would like to hang out in your bed while you read him a book? If he falls asleep there, let him nap. See if he wants to relax with you on the TV room couch while you rub his back. Do what you can to get him to relax, let go, and rest. You’ll all be better off—especially now with everyone at home all the time.
- Recognize that he may act annoying around you because he absolutely adores you, wants to be you, and desperately wants to get your attention. He’s not trying to annoy you. He’s trying to imitate you and be with you. Help him out by setting aside some time for just you and him to hang out together. Show him how to play your favorite video game. Draw together. Read to him. Hang out on the couch and watch a movie together. Give your dog a bath together. You get the picture: if you make time to do things together, he will be more likely to steer clear when you explain to him (repeatedly, if necessary) that everyone needs some down time alone and that you’d like to have that time alone once your time together with him is over.
Alas, there are no guarantees with a little brother in kindergarten. But as time goes on and he grows older, he will find better ways to express himself. In the meantime, know you are his role model and he is going to pattern his behavior after you. Know, too, that one day when you are both adults, you will find that you love few people on earth more than you love that very same little brother. He will be one of the very few people you know who truly understands what growing up was like for you, how it shaped you, and who you really are. It’s a wonderful thing to go through life knowing there’s someone out there in the world who gets you and loves you as much as he will love you.
But in the meantime? Again: he wants to be with you and he wants to be like you. Use that power and responsibility wisely. Good luck!
Both my siblings are enrolled in college. One goes to the local university, but my brother is a couple states over. It may seem like a paradise to some people to have their siblings away, but not me. Despite the age gap (eight and ten years apart), we have always been close. But with my brother, who goes to university out of state, when I go to see him, it is always a little awkward now. Am I being too clingy?
—Little Miss Cling On
Dear Little Miss,
First of all, I wish I could give you a hug in person. Missing someone is hard and watching how they have changed, when it seems like they are growing apart from us, is even harder. Secondly, no, you are not being clingy. You are being human. You love your siblings, they were a very important part of your life growing up, and now you’re having to adapt to big changes that are out of your control. It’s a tough situation to be in!
One thing I suspect is that both of your siblings may be home right now, because of all the stay-at-home orders we are seeing due to COVID-19. If that is the case, now is a great time to talk to your brother about how you feel! Or, if he is still far away, now is a good time to schedule a phone call or video chat so that you can learn more about what his life is like right now and he can learn more about yours. You see, I think if you could only learn a little bit more about his new routine, it would reassure you that you are still important to him and help you better imagine what he is up to when he goes back to campus. If you aren’t sure how to get started, here are some questions you might try:
- I always wonder what you are doing at college. Can you tell me what a typical day is like for you?
- How is college different from regular school? Do you like it better or less?
- What do you miss most about home? Do you ever feel homesick?
- Do you think that when you go back to college, we could figure out a time to keep in touch regularly? I know you have a new life, but I miss you a lot!
Be sure to share details on your life as well! Ask him what things were like for him when he was in your grade, and then tell him what your experience in school has been like this year. Maybe you could end your chat by suggesting that you keep in touch with a weekly text exchange every Friday afternoon or at another specific time. Take it upon yourself to send him funny photos of life at home and what he is missing. Don’t worry whether he texts you back or not. Even if he doesn’t act like it, everyone misses their families a little when they go away to college, so he will be glad to hear from you. Good luck! Know that your siblings love you very, very much—and they always will, no matter where they go to college or what they do afterward.
What do you do when siblings yell at you every time you open your mouth? I have an older sister who does it to me, and I would like to know how to make her stop.
—Light fury 4 life
Dear Light fury,
Oh boy, if this is happening to you right now, while everyone is isolated at home, my guess is that either your parents have stepped in to stop this annoying habit by now or you need advice more than ever! The first thing I would say is that your sister is probably going through a very dramatic phase and yelling is part of that. Rule number one in dealing with this is to not return her bad behavior with your own. Then you’re both just out of control and it won’t change anything. This leaves you four options:
- Calmly repeat the same thing every single time she yells at you until she gets the message: “I’m sorry. When you yell at me, I shut down and can’t understand what you want. Can you repeat that in a normal tone of voice?”
- Simply stare at her and wait. Hold that stare. When she asks what you’re doing, tell her: “I’m waiting for you to repeat that you just said in a normal tone of voice so that I can actually understand what you want.”
- Every time she yells at you, whisper your reply. Make it impossible for her to hear you unless she leans in and gets close. Continue to whisper back if she yells at you and only switch back to your normal voice when she uses hers.
- Go tell your parent(s) you would like to adopt a “happy voice” policy at your house. Suggest that family members be required to use their “happy voice” when talking to each other. Then, when your sister yells at you, you can repeat the following over and over until she gets the message: “Happy voice, please. Happy voice, please. Happy voice, please.”
Soon she’ll get tired of the fact that her younger sibling is clearly acting more mature than she is and she’ll probably knock it off. Good luck!
Have a question for Paris? Use our submission form to get the advice you need.