Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Parenting Problem in MG: #4 Sibling as the Parent

Welcome back, everyone who's been following along! If you're just joining us, we've been talking about ways to get the kids away from the parents / guardians when writing middle grade. Because it's only when you get the kid separated from those who would fix all the really big problems that the kid gets to do it themselves. And that's what kids really want to read about when they pick up a middle grade book-- they want to see kids just like them being capable and doing the hard things that save the day. So far, we've talked about The Orphan, about the Absent / Busy / Bad Parent, and about the Capable Parent / Capable Child. Today, we get to tackle a Sibling as the Parent!

Sibling as Parent


The parents are either deceased or otherwise unable to take care of the kids, so they are being raised by an older sibling.


I'm going to use a couple of movies / TV shows as the examples, because try as I might, I can't come up with good book examples. (I know they're out there, though! If you can think of any of them, please mention in the comments, and I'll get some book examples up here.)

So in Lilo, her parents have died, and her older sister is taking care of her. In Carly, her mom is deceased (I think... I'm not sure I've seen an episode where it has said.) and her dad is in the military and always gone. So she lives with her older brother.

  • Let's be honest: siblings generally don't keep as good of an eye on a kid as a parent does. They just don't. And voila! This makes for kids who have much more freedom to go off and be heroes than they would otherwise.
  • It adds an element of sibling dynamic that you don't usually get to explore. The sibling has to not only fill the role of the sibling, but also fill the role of parent, which gets things interesting.
  • Sibling parents tend to be over/underprotective on random and unpredictable things, making them flexible in both good and bad ways.
  • It's not overdone. (Ha! See above inability to list books... ;))
  • Coming up with a way to make the circumstances in which the kids would be being raised by a sibling believable can take a lot of work. 
On next Tuesday, we'll talk about parents who are missing entirely. Until then, have the most wonderful of Thanksgivings! I hope it's wonderful and glorious and filled with family and good times and pie.


JeffO said...

Some very interesting posts in this series, Peggy. One thing I'll say about the sibling as parent thing: Everything I've seen with the situation seems to have that one moment where the kid yells "You're not my mother" or something like that. So, if you're writing this situation, you might want to find a different way to have that fight!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Unknown said...

Huh, now you have me thinking of situations where this would happen and it's hard. Younger kids would go into foster care. You've have to have at least one of them being 18, and with a sibling not super younger I'm sure the elder would think them capable of a lot on their own. I wanna hunt examples down now.