Dear American Girl,

My little sister and I are always fighting. Usually our arguments start when I have homework, and she gets mad when I say that I can't play with her. It's sweet that she wants to spend time with me, but as the big sister, I can't help it when I have homework or a practice to go to. What can I do to stop these fights?
-Big sis

Here's your advice:

My three little sisters always want to play with me when I'm doing homework. When they ask, I say, "The faster I get my homework done, the faster I can play with you." It usually works!
-Mary, age 11, Colorado

Give her a peek at your homework. If she sees that what you're working on is grown-up and important, she might understand why you can't play with her. It could also prove to her that you aren't just making up an excuse.
-Jessica, age 13, Canada

When you're doing your homework, take occasional 20-minute breaks to play with your sister. Breaks can help you clear your head, and your sister will know that she's important to you.
-Sabine, age 12, Virginia

Instead of saying no to your sister, say, "I'd love to play with you after my homework is finished!" If you respond nicely, your sister might be less upset.
-Melanie, age 13, California

Sit down with your little sister and talk to her about your responsibilities—sports, schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and so on. If your sister understands how much you have to do every day, she might learn to respect your time.
-Emma, age 12, New Jersey

Once a month, spend a whole Saturday playing board games, watching movies, or just hanging out with your sis. That way, you can devote time to your sister without getting distracted by homework.
-Anabelle, age 11, Colorado

Maybe your sister could play near you while you do your homework, as long as she plays quietly. You could make a pretend homework sheet for her (so that she can do the same thing as her big sis), or she could play "school."
-Gwyneth, age 11, Virginia

Every week, set aside a special time for just for your sister. You could see a movie, go shopping, or do something as simple as braiding each other's hair. Even doing something small with her can make her feel special.
-Haley, age 12, Georgia

When you do homework, go to a quiet place to work on it, such as your bedroom or the library. That way, your sister won't distract you and you can give her your attention once you've finished.
-Serena, age 10, New York

It might be time to talk to a parent about this problem. Ask him or her to talk to your little sister about how important your homework is. Also, when your little sister starts asking to play, a parent could step in and say, "Your big sister is doing her homework right now," and help her find something else to do.
-Janelle, age 11, Colorado

It is sweet that your little sister wants to spend time with you. Try making a block of time every day, such as right after dinner for 20 minutes, to spend some time with your sis.
-Jess, age 12, Virginia

I fight with my sister a lot, too. When my sister bothers me while I'm doing my homework, I say that I need a minute and I walk away. Taking a moment alone helps me collect myself and avoid getting angry with my sister.
-Chloe, age 13, North Carolina

It can be hard for little kids to understand the concept of time, and they can get impatient. You should explain to your little sister that you need a certain amount of time to complete your homework or go to a practice. Try setting a timer and placing it in a spot where she can easily see it. When the timer goes off, she will know that you might be available to play.
-Kasey, age 12, Texas

Maybe you could include your sister a little in your homework. For example, if you're working on a science project, you could ask her, "What do you know about the sun?" It might make her feel helpful—plus, teaching her something will help you learn it, too.
-Mary, age 13, Tennessee

Sometimes, younger siblings can feel left out because of how busy older siblings can get—homework, practices, time with friends, and so on. Try to do something special with your sister every day to show her that you care. It can be simple, whether it's playing a game or taking silly photos. She'll love spending time with her big sis!
-Kathryn, age 12, Indiana

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