I never had a sister. I grew up with a younger brother, and while we get along great now, we grew up fighting like cats and dogs. But we were four years apart in age, and we had very different interests and personalities, and I suppose a little bit of bickering goes with the territory.

Like most girls with only brothers, I dreamed of having a sister. She would be perfect in every way, and we would be best friends, and we would share clothes and makeup and all our deepest hopes and dreams but never boyfriends. Of course this imaginary sister never got on my nerves or stole my favorite pair of boots. (I don’t know why I had such an idyllic picture of sisterhood. My had good friends with sisters, and I knew how volatile the relationship could be.)

Now I’m a mom and my kids have their fair share of sibling squabbling — nothing dramatic or worrisome, but it is draining. I understand the relationship between my son and his sisters. I get that.

The relationship I do not get so much is the one between my girls.

They are only 3 years apart in age, and it often feels like less than that. They are the epitome of a “love/hate relationship”. The younger one idolizes the older one, and yet sometimes she takes such glee in aggravating her older sister that I wonder if she is not possessed by an evil demon. The older one enjoys the attentions of the younger and tries to mother her and then feels stifled when her little sister tries to do whatever she is doing.

Sometimes the younger wants to play the baby and enjoys the mothering. At other times she resents it. Sometimes the older doesn’t want to be disturbed by the younger and her playmates, and at other times she is upset when they don’t allow her into their games. And round and round it goes.

I desperately want to instill a sense of friendship between the two. I want them to grow up to be best friends. I’ll admit it, I want each of my girls to have the sister that I created in my imagination.

Of course I don’t really expect it to always be rainbows and unicorns with these two, but at the same time, I do feel that it’s my motherly duty to encourage their friendship and respect for one another. I have to believe that if I do my job right, one day they’ll find common ground and discover a deep and abiding friendship. But what I’m not as sure about is the how.

I’m wondering what those of you who have sisters would say to this. Or those of you who have daughters who are good friends. I know that friendship doesn’t mean always seeing eye to eye and that some occasional bickering is normal. And I also realize that personalities are such that not all sisters can grow up to be good friends. But it seems like I ought to have some influence in this relationship, at least to a point.

What do you say? Do you have a sister? Or daughters? How can I best encourage their friendship without micromanaging?

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29 Responses

  1. My sister is 8 years older then me, so I didn’t have any real experience to fall back on there.
    My daughters are just under 3 years aprt, and I/we struggle with this too. Some days are better than others, but I know that when I talked to big sister about just how much little sister looked up to her and put a role model spin on it, things got a bit better. A little “hero” feeling helped the relationship, but I wonder if the pressure of that may not be the best either. It is hard!
    Great post, I’ll be watching the comments. Thanks for bringing it up. 🙂

  2. My sister is a little over three years older and we had the SAME relationship as your daughters. Now that we are adults, we are very close friends. I think their relationship will grow into what it’s supposed to be. I don’t think my parents did anything special to encourage a friendship, but it had to grow on it’s own over time.

  3. My sister and I are two years apart. What you are describing is a lot like us. We fought like cats and dogs sometimes. My sister still has a scar on her hand where I pinched her so hard one time and I remember her full-on kicking me in the throat once. However, we did EVERYTHING together. We went to youth group, the beach, played with friends. We were constant playmates. However, we did also have our own friends and would separately play with them as well. When we got to high school and I started dating (I’m older) the rift between us grew larger. She got in a bad crowd and I got a steady boyfriend (my husband). We still did some things together but overall our relationship didn’t get better again until after she got out of college and my husband and I were married and settled. She will tell you she dealt with a lot of jealousy although at the time I was completely clueless. Now, we are like best friends. We don’t talk like I do with some of my girlfriends and she leaves the details of her dating life out of our conversations but we are like one sometimes finishing each other’s sentences and knowing what each other is thinking with just a look.
    As for your question, I don’t think my mom did anything really to encourage that relationship, it just was very natural.
    I have two girls now and see them even closer than my sister and I were. They do fight sometimes, get jealous of each other, hit and smart off to one another but overall they are inseparable. I’m looking forward to seeing them become best friends as they get older, even though I’m expecting the bumps along the way.

    1. Wow, my sister and I never fought quite like that!

      I agree, though, that some of the issue can be jealousy. My sister is unmarried at 26, and I know she thinks I have everything she wanted: a husband right out of college, a baby at 26. So that’s a difficult thing in our relationship even though it’s nobody’s “fault.”

  4. Having had an older sister, I think your girls are acting “normal”. I think the best thing you can do for your children is encourage respect for each other, individual responsibility and pray for them. So much changes when they are older and I think a friendship will form naturally. The level of friendship will be up to them.

  5. I’m an only daughter too (FOUR older brothers!!), and I have 2 daughters. They’re 7 years apart, so they haven’t grown up “close together.” For years they had to share a room, but have had separate rooms for 4 years now. They’re very different from each other, but in the last year, they’ve grown closer, and sometimes do things together at home – a movie, or talking, or swimming. They are 12 and 19.

    I think your girls will be extremely close when they’re adults. Until then, all the dynamics of growing up, and adolescence, will keep them fighting and somehow making up. But since I don’t have a sister, I’m as ignorant as you are on the subject! Just my guess. I do think it’s the adult relationship you’re shooting for — for a lifetime of friendship and closeness that transcends non-family relationships, and is strong even when you and their daddy are gone.

  6. I have a younger brother & a younger sister. My brother is the middle child. My sister & I are 5.5 years apart and were never very close growing up…we played together a lot and didn’t fight too much, but we just weren’t very close because of the age difference. Things changed when she was in high school…I guess because the age difference seemed less as we got older and began to share more of the same interests. Now she’s in her mid 20’s and I’m in my early 30’s and we’re extremely close. We talk on the phone multiple times a day and hang out as often as possible. I absolutely LOVE having a sister and don’t know what I would do without her! I’m glad I got to experience having a brother and a sister because my husband is an only child and it’s just so weird to me! I can’t even imagine growing up alone and not having anyone to play (and fight) with!

    I don’t think there’s really anything you should or shouldn’t do. I agree with the previous comment – just encourage them to respect and support each other.

  7. i have two younger sisters…..i really didn’t care much for either of them until i was about thirty years old. now my sister is my best friend, we don’t see eye-t0-eye on everything, but i DO consider her my very closest, best, most dearly loved friend. (my other sister suffers from a traumatic brain injury so our relationship is very complicated). My daughters are four years apart and have ALWAYS been one anothers best friend, hands down. Miles separate them right now, but I know they are still the only friend that the other one has ever had or needed. I love that.

    Just let “nature” take its course…..God will draw these two together……especially if you pray 😉

  8. I have a sister and you know I have three daughters.

    My sister is about 4 years older than me. We were never close as kids, for a variety of reasons. Age difference was definitely one of them. My sister also has a different personality. She was a natural nurturer, the kind of girl who longed to be a mother. So sometimes I was bothered by that, but really it was more that I just wasn’t interested in that kind of thing (hello, irony, says the mother of six). We didn’t fight a lot though. Partly because it is in my nature to be a peace maker and avoid conflict and also just because we didn’t have much to fight about. She and my younger brother did butt heads a lot more. Now we are closer, since we are both adults and married with kids and stuff, we just have a lot more in common.

    My girls are 9, 8 and 3. So for the older girls they get along fairly well. Their biggest issue is when 9 yo wants to play and 8 yo wants to read. 8 yo is more independent. They do bicker. And everyone struggles with our 3 yo. She is a challenge to all of us.

    I think the best thing you can do is remind your girls that they will always be sisters and to try to treat each other kindly. But also allow them time to do their own thing, letting C have time where she does not have to play with R, or vice versa. I give my kids permission to not play together when they need a break from each other. You really can’t force a close relationship and you can’t altogether avoid bickering. It sounds like you’re doing a good job with them.

  9. Love. this.

    As I think you know, I experienced a lot of heartache over the prospect of Laurel never having a sister. Now, seeing Laurel and Violet together is such an immense gift!

  10. I just HAD to comment on this!! My sister is exactly 2 yrs 11 months older than me. She has been my everything. She didn’t like me much when I was born, so I’ve heard, but growing up, I knew she always had my back. I irritated the heck out of her but regardless, she always included me when it was most important (like taking me out with her friends to roll houses during homecoming week when I was a lowly freshmen in hs and she was big time senior). There will be ups and downs but I think it is the nature of girls and maturing. My mom allowed us to be individuals and never forced anything between us. And by the way, after we lived apart for 10 years (like continents apart at one point), we now live across the street from one another. It was almost as if when she moved back, we just didn’t want to be separated any longer. It will evolve on its own and be beautiful in its own way. Enjoy the ride!

  11. i was gonna comment, but mzzterry is my mom and she beat me to it! my sister is four years younger than me…even now that we live in texas and cali, and sometimes go two weeks without talking to each other we are best friends and pretty much always have been. i don’t remember my mom doing or saying anything to make us be friends other than not letting us fight and praying for us. it will work out on it’s own if they are meant to be friends, just like any other friendship.

  12. My mother always said, “Boys don’t need brothers but girls need a sister.” She had 2 and they were extremely close. I am the youngest of 4 girls and as I was growing up we were not close at all. (they are , 15, 12, and 8 years older than me) Once I grew up and finished college we all became so close. I would be lost without them! Your girls will feel that way too!

  13. My sister is 18 months younger than me, and we had a volatile/love/hate thing going on, mostly because we are so different, personality-wise. However, it took growing up and actually living apart from one another (since I left for college at 18, we’ve never lived closer than a 2 hour car ride from each other) to bring us closer. We love and respect each other more than ever now that we’re in our 30s and are mothers.

    I now have a little girl and a little boy (four years apart) and while I’m sad that they won’t have a same-sex sibling to share life with, I also know from my own experience that having a sister (or a brother) close in age is no guarantee that they’ll be BFFs (although it’s great when it works out that way – it just might take some time). I just hope that they’ll always be there for one another.

  14. Your girls are so cute!

    I had two older sisters and my next oldest is three years older than me. We had a rough relationship growing up. I was the baby and she was the middle sister. (Jan and Cindy Brady all the way) We played together when we were really young but fought through most of our adolescence. Now, we are really close…like so many have mentioned here. Between hormones and my Mom going back to work (lots of time alone together) I think we were doomed. 🙂

    I have two girls that are 18 months apart. They get along well, for the most part. It’s hard to not want to micromanage your kids to help them get along. Ultimately, in our family, and I think it’s safe to say in most, it’s general selfishness and pride that causes fighting and bickering. That’s normal parenting stuff. One thing I do tell my kids is that friends will come and go but your sister/brother will always be your sister/brother so you’re better off finding a way to get along. I also do silly things like (if they’ve been bickering a lot during the day) make them stand toe to toe and have a stare-down. They always end it in fits of giggles…so cute. I think I learned that from the Lisa Welchel (sp) book, “Creative Discipline” a long time ago. The book is a little hokie but it has some great little tips like that one. While that doesn’t completely solve the problem it’s good for summer days that are particularly challenging…assuming that you’re constantly working on the whole selfishness/pride thing…and, really…who isn’t?? 😉

  15. I have one younger sister and no brothers. I feel like we were like your daughters, but probably worse:-) We fought all the time!! It drove our parents nuts! I remember once my dad trying to force us to hug and make up! It was bad. However, once I went away to college and we no longer lived together, all of that changed. We now live one hour apart and are best friends. We see each other as often as we can and always have a great time. So, be patient, pray, and hang in there. It will eventually come!

  16. Timely! I’ve been asking my self (pre-emptively) this question a LOT recently. My daughters are 2.5 year apart, but the younger one is only just now 6 months old. So I have some time before it gets really personal for them. I have 2 younger sisters (2 years and 4 years younger – stairsteps!). We fought. A LOT. And sometimes still do. So I am obviously not the person you are looking to get answers from. But, in my own parenting, I am trying to learn from our mistakes. Praising them for getting along. Giving them projects to do together. And I pray. Every night I pray that there would be a friendship, true companionship, between the 2 of them as well as a tight sisterhood. So, we’ll see. I’m glad many have gone before me, so I can learn from their experience!

  17. I can relate to you as I did not have a sister, and I wanted one so bad that that is what I would wish for every year before I would blow out my birthday candles!! I have 2 younger brothers, and we were close growing up despite the typical sibling arguing. I have 2 daughters, 18 & 13. One minute they can be the best of friends,and then all of a sudden, they are bicerking about the silliest things. I think having your girls closer in age than mine helps. They will have more interests closer to their ages; my oldest wishes her and her sister were closer in age so they could do more things together and complains that her sister is immature. I think that when she goes off to college next month, the younger one will miss her. She will begin to realize how much she misses her big sister and how special she is to her. I often tell my girls that they will always be there for each other when other friends come and go. When your girls get older, they will appreciate their relationship. They will have plenty of memories, good or bad, to reminsce in the future. Also, remind yourself the next time they argue, that they are learning a life lesson on how to deal with confrontation, no matter how frustrated it makes you.

  18. My sister is 2 years younger than I am and we fought like crazy until we hit middle school. We started moving around quite a bit and really bonded. That’s not to say we never fought again, but not as often. Now we’re each other’s best friends.

    I’m raising 2 girls who are 4 1/2 and 6. I’ve told them that they’re best friends and will always have each other (they also have a brother that’s 8 and I throw him in there too). They get along pretty well for being so close in age and they play with a lot of the same friends. On the days that they’re not getting along so well they can’t play with friends- they’re stuck with each other until they can be kind to one another again. So far this has worked out. I’m very very blessed that they like each other as much as they do!

  19. I am the middle of 3 girls and I have NEVER been close to my older sister, who is 3 years older. My younger sister and I have grown close over the past several years and I truly enjoy our relationship. I have 2 daughters and have often questioned why the relationships with my sisters turned out the way they did. I too long for my girls to be friends. First, two’s company and three’s a crowd. You’ve got that going for you! However, the biggest thing I believe is this. My mom is a really great person but a long time ago she started talking ill of my (older) sister to me. She has not lived her life well and my mom was disgusted. Unfortunately I allowed the talk to happen and would join in the bad mouthing of her…I have learned from mine and mom’s mistake. I only speak highly of my daughters to the other and vow to never speak poorly of them to the other. Oh! And I let them work out their aggravations with each other. Unless something really bad is happening, and it hasn’t yet, I will not step in. I want them to be close enough as adults that they can say what needs said without their mommy having to step in…when they are in their 30’s. 🙂 Just remember to have faith and allow their relationship to grow as it is meant to. Good luck!

  20. I think there’s a lot you can do. I think so many times people assume siblings bicker and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Disagree, yes. Conflicts, yes. Bicker and beat each other, let’s hope that’s not how it’s supposed to be. I think it’s great to start learning good conflict resolution with your siblings so that you are ready once you’re in a marriage. Therefore, one thing I think parents can do is help their kids disagree appropriately, share toys (even rooms) nicely, etc. A lot of times parents assume siblings will fight over something, so they buy two.
    I guess what I’m saying is, don’t settle for less than what you have visioned just cause it’s “typical” for two sisters to hate each other and then in 30 years be BFFs. It may end up that way, but I don’t think that means we don’t try to foster a positive relationship from early on.

  21. I grew up with one sister who was three years younger than me. When we were young, our relationship was exactly as you described your daughters’. When we would fight, our mother would remind us to treat each other right because we were each other’s best friend. We would roll our eyes and not believe her but she was right. My sister is definitely my best friend and has been since we were in our 20s.

    I don’t remember our mom forcing a relationship but we did spend a lot of time where it was just the two of us. We had friends but we only had a handful of playdates a year. We really didn’t need them. Our mom would also make sure there were consequences when one of us would be around friends and exclude or in any way hurt the other. Basically, she insisted that we respect our relationship even though we weren’t “best friends” at the time. Like someone else said, she never spoke negatively about one of us to the other- and still doesn’t.

    Your daughters are so blessed to have each other- and you are blessed to have them. I only have boys and they’re awesome but it makes me sad to think I’ll never have “girl times” with them like I have with my mom and sister. There’s nothing like it. 🙂

  22. I’m a sister and a mom to sisters. My sister and I were 3 years apart and had the same relationship you’re describing but turned out to be very close.

    My girls are 2 years apart and were BEST friends for awhile, but now they have the same love/hate relationship. In fact their closeness in age is tougher because the younger one struggles to be like the older one in some ways and is on the same level in other ways.

    You just have to continue to be fair minded and balanced and encourage them to be together, and maybe just maybe as they get older they will unite and form an unbreakable bond, and hopefully it’s not against you!

  23. Speaking as an older sister with 2 younger sisters, I can definitely identify with your daughters’ dynamic. While it’s great to encourage them to appreciate each other and be good sisters to each other, you also have to keep in mind that they will be sisters for life. Just because they have their ups and downs now doesn’t mean that their relationship won’t blossom into a friendship later. My sisters and I didn’t get close until I left for college and realized how much I missed them and how important they were to me. Plus, we got closer in age so we were able to connect about more things. The bond between sisters is truly amazing. It may not be evident just yet, but it will get there eventually, likely with little influence by you 😉

  24. My sister and I are 2.5 years apart, and what you described was pretty much exactly our relationship when we were growing up.

    We went through a period when I was in middle school where we pretty much detested each other … but then we’d play together. We played Barbies until I was in 8th grade. As my only sibling, I guess I didn’t have too much of a choice!

    We finally became friends when I was in about 10th grade. We bonded over love for a music group and got along great for many years.

    As adults, we’ve had some difficulties. Leave it to say, she embraces the role as baby, and as an older child it unnerves me to no end. Now that she’s finally left the coop, we get along MUCH better. I don’t know about “best friends,” but we talk and visit very often and can go to each other with problems. (Although I would say she comes to me more … she is not married and obviously I go to my husband first.)

    I have faith that our relationship will just keep improving! Hope this helps, a little.


    1. Despite that essay, I also want to add: my parents took us on vacations and we never took any friends with us. We spent many holidays just as our family of 4. I think our parents urging us to spend time together and be friends in this subtle way did help a lot.

  25. My sister and I were only 13 months apart, but couldn’t be less different. To say we didn’t get along growing up is a bit of an understatement. But, when I got pregnant with my first baby, things changed. We got closer. A lot closer. And now, hardly a week goes by that we don’t talk on the phone at least once. (This, compared to only speaking to each other when we were home together for holidays.) She’s in Massachusetts and I’m in Virginia, and it’s hard not to live closer. She just had her first baby, and I just had my fourth (and last ; ), and it’s sad that the cousins won’t grow up together. It’s bittersweet that we’re finally close now that we live so far apart.

    I have two girls–my oldest (who’s 6 1/2) and my youngest, (who’s 7 weeks), and I can’t wait to see how their relationship develops. Right now, my oldest is loving being the little mama. I hope she’s still as loving as her sister gets older!

  26. i’m all kinds of late and wrong to the commenting party here – but I do have some words to offer.
    my sister and I are SUPER-close, in fact, I would consider her my best friend apart from my husband, but this wasn’t always so. I’m 6 years older and we had a tulmultuous relationship at first. But my dad sat me down one day and said to me {in so many words} that as the oldest, it was MY responsibility to cultivate a good relationship. that even though she contributed her fair share to our squabbles, it was I who possessed the ability to positively affect our relationship. that I could be the person that she wanted to be just like, or be the person that she wanted nothing to do with. and that did it for me. it wasn’t easy, because we had repair work to do, but it was totally worth it. and i wouldn’t change our relationship for anything in the world.

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