Cathy Cress M.S.W.

Mom Loves You Best

Sibing Family Rules: The Greatest Generation vs. Baby Boomers

Unspoken sibling rules can set off grudges and excruciating pain.

Posted Aug 16, 2011

What were the family rules followed by you and your sibling? Every family has a set of laws: "Never mash spaghetti into your hair." "Do not slug your brother." "Always look out for your sister." These rules allow the family to function. They are good family rules.

Family codes can keep chaos at bay. -Don't allow your friends to bring booze to any party at our house or there will be no more teen get-togethers.- Always get up by 7:00 am, and make your bed and lunch because I'm a single dad and have to get to work. Every child must write his or her soccer, dance, football schedule on the kitchen whiteboard, so I can work, then shuttle you kids after school.

Many family rules are silent. Usually no one writes them down, but they get deeply scrawled in indelible ink on our cerebrum. At times hushed codes are a deadly narrative for "I Hate You" stories.

Each generation can have different family rules. The Greatest Generation  had " all for one and one for all " sibling family rules that are very different from the family rules given to The Baby Boomer Generation  ,where the stepfamily exploded.

These unspoken sibling rules can set off grudges and excruciating pain both in the past and later in life. Ambiguous, unjust, and riddled with double binds, these silent family laws can be treacherous. The brutal effects of these family cannons might simmer for decades. But when we get to middle age, the results can take on an incendiary life of their own. The bad family rules are often the skeleton of sibling " I Hate You Stories."