Unless they are acting in loco parentis, questions from siblings are getting closed. Since it just happened (one mod closed it, the OP edited it, another mod reopened it), to get the question reopened they can reformulate it and act as if they, the sibling, were actually the parent. In these cases, the question usually fulfills the criteria to be considered on topic and have good chances to get answers useful to parents.

But I wonder if these answers are also useful to the OP. For example, imagine the sibling who needs parenting is already 18 and, at least partially, a "legal" adult and the actual parents are also still there and don't act in the way the OP wants them to. The OP may feel the need to step in, but they may have no authority, at all. No legal authority, but maybe no moral auhority etc. Furthermore, if the parents don't parent the way the OP wants them to, they may also be against any parenting actions taken by the OP. The OP might therefore risk their relationship with both, their sibling(s) and their parents.

The best outcome would be for the OP to suggest the measures from the answers to their parents, in the hope they may implement them. If they were willing to listen to strangers on the Internet, they could have posted a question themselves, though. And we don't know the full picture (which might also be true for the OP).

I wonder if we should reopen them, and if so, maybe add a warning. Or leave them closed etc.

How to deal with questions in which the sibling acts as if they were the parent?

3 Answers 3


I agree with much of what you've said. We routinely get questions about adult children and they are on-topic.

If they were willing to listen to strangers on the Internet, they could have posted a question themselves, though.

Yes, the parents haven't cared enough to post on the internet themselves. But the internet is a funny thing. Not infrequently, people believe the internet over their own doctors. We can guess what the parents will think, but we don't know for certain.

Most users whose questions get closed never edit their questions, so there is little chance that many off-topic questions will be changed to on-topic with simple rephrasing. However, there is a chance that other parents will recognize their own child in this scenario, and the answer might prove useful to those parents.

Most importantly,

How to deal with questions in which the sibling acts as if they were the parent?

I am not aware of a blanket injunction against answering these types of questions (sometimes they get closed, sometimes they do not), but I may be wrong. I agree that the original question was off-topic, but not necessarily with the comments made under it. So I hope your meta post gets some community input.

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    I may be wrong, but I believe that I came across such questions in the past when it was not clear whether the sibling was acting in loco parentis or not, and they were still open. Now, they got closed pretty fast. This made me wonder, because that "trick" makes them on topic but also turns them into hypothetical questions. The problems may arise when the OP tries to implement the advice from the answers, but the answers are directed at parents, not siblings. Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 12:41
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    I agree with you. I think a lot of these questions have been getting closed quickly recently. Hypotheticals are not de facto off topic; we do prefer real situations. So it remains a good question. Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 12:44

I believe we should try to be inclusive whenever possible. The internet is about enabling information and communication, imo. Merriam-Webster includes as one definition of parenting as

the taking care of someone in the manner of a parent

If a sibling is willing to take the plunge into accepting responsibility then that should be accepted.

1) If a big brother or big sister posted on here I would sincerely hope we would do our best to give them advice

2) Advice will take a different form depending on the relationship, so it is important to allow those seeking advice to be honest about the role they play

3) Just because there is no legal authority or whatever other jargon anyone wants to come up with, there is a reality that siblings respecting each other and have a responsibility to look out for their less abled family members (think special needs, emotional needs, psychological needs, physical needs, really anything).

i.e. My oldest daughter is expected to give good counsel to my younger daughters, and I expect my younger kids to respect my older kids.

4) Many troubled kids are calling out for someone to care about them, and they struggle with their issues and the desire for good guidance. If it comes from a legal guardian, relative, teacher, coach, or older sibling we should encourage it.

5) As much as anything else, kids need structure. With an underdeveloped brain in a world full of dangerous and addictive drugs, imagery and technology, structure is required to survive. While the article linked states structure can only come from parents I think reality proves people of all ages respect authority from many places, albeit they must do so willingly. Which comes to my final point...

If an older sibling (or big brother, or extended family member, or anyone) is willing to take the awesome responsibility of a parent in lieu of real parents, it isn't our job to shut them down. Our job is to support them. It is up to the child being asked about to choose to accept someone as a parental figure, and I believe it is certainly possible this can happen willingly. While it may be unlikely, we should hope for the best and we should not be a cause of failure, but rather a cause of success.

  • Thanks for chiming in, but this doesn't really answer the question. However, I wrote a new question which is a bit broader. This is about a special case: Bob disagrees with the way his parents parent his brother Ben, so he asks a question here and it gets closed. Then, Bob edits the question and claims to be Ben's father, not brother. The new question is about sibling question, this one is based on the assumption (experience) that they get closed and this workaround. Commented May 7, 2019 at 12:02
  • @AnneDaunted I don't agree with you assessment of my answer, can you explain. In my reading your question was, "How to deal with questions in which the sibling acts as if they were the parent?" With the added detail, "I wonder if we should reopen them, and if so, maybe add a warning. Or leave them closed etc." And i'm directly stating to leave them open, and then listing why.
    – Adam Heeg
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 12:17
  • So when Bob turns the question "How to deal with my lazy brother Ben?" into "How to deal with my lazy son Ben?", you would be fine with that? Even if you came across the question, didn't know that Bob is not Ben's father, has no custody and their actual parents are still around and would write an answer for "father" Bob? Commented May 7, 2019 at 12:40
  • That is a possible scenario by your rules, not my answer. Also it is not my core reasoning or concept. My core idea is the definition of parenting and it's application to acceptable questions on this site
    – Adam Heeg
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 12:57
  • These are not my rules. I asked my question because this scenario actually happened. The question was closed, because of the sibling relationship, the OP then removed every trace of it (i. e. turned it into a parent-child relationship) and the question was reopened. My new question concerns the broader topic of how to deal with sibling questions. Commented May 7, 2019 at 13:00
  • I'm sorry I said 'you're' that was wrong. As you say, my response , I think, is directly applicable to your generalized question of dealing with siblings asking questions. Would you now agree?
    – Adam Heeg
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 13:09
  • Yes, I agree. It is applicable. Commented May 7, 2019 at 13:58

I do not believe questions from siblings about behavior or similar topics should be accepted, whether they are written as from siblings or rewritten to be a hypothetical. I fundamentally believe they are not capable of being good questions, unfortunately, and thus should remain off topic. A question that is about something concrete ["How high should we build a shelf to childproof for my sibling", "At what age does a toddler start to walk"] is fine, but not a behavior-type question (i.e., not a question that can be interpreted as "What should be done in [x] situation").

The fundamental problem with these kinds of questions from siblings, and the question that led to Anne posting this shows this clearly, is that they are written with the inherent biases of a sibling. A person cannot have an unbiased or neutral point of view in relation to their sibling; they spent a decade or more with that person, and have built up a bevy of emotional connections and responses that are impossible to remove. The poster will have strong opinions on how the sibling should and should not behave, and strong opinions on how their parents treat the two of them in different ways, that are impossible to remove from the question itself.

These questions are inherently detailed, specific questions about a particular person's behavior or actions. The linked question for example goes through a laundry list of the faults of the sibling, every personality trait that the sibling has that the poster disagrees with. It is not a hypothetical question; it is a specific question about a specific person. What it is not, however, is a parenting question. There is no actionable parenting choice here, because it is not asked by a parent.

A parent will inevitably have choices to make, and these parents could certainly ask a question about this particular child; but they would not ask this question. They would have a different point of view; they undoubtedly are making some effort to raise this child, after all, even if not sufficient in the poster's point of view. But the poster cannot answer the questions we would inevitably ask the parent - what have you tried, how does the child react to that, etc. - in part because they can't see the efforts the parents are making (as they are not always there, and were gone for years), and in part because of their inherent bias.

The poster ultimately isn't asking a parenting question, in any event; they're asking a personal relationship question disguised as a parenting question. If they did get a good answer to their question - imagine a simple, actionable answer was possible, even though it rarely to never is - as to what to do with their sibling, the answer wouldn't be actionable by the poster. The poster additionally needs to talk to their parents and convince them to follow the instructions, and/or needs to talk to their sibling and convince them to follow the instructions. Those are both key, vital pieces of the answer, which are not part of our scope; they might be on topic at Interpersonal Skills, or on the defunct Relationships site, but not here. That's usually the real question - the 'Y' in the 'X-Y' question - in these questions.

These questions also unfortunately do not add very much value to the site. They don't encourage evidence-based answers, as they attract answers that are fundamentally opinion oriented - at best, experience-based answers, but those ultimately become opinion in most cases due to the differences in the situations and the lack of available detail. The answers tend to be fairly specific to that particular child, and the question itself is inevitably particularly detailed to the point that it makes it hard to see another parent getting value out of it. The particular child at question is almost certainly not going to get any value out of it - not answered as a parenting question, anyway.

As such, I believe that it is incorrect to allow a hypothetical version of these sorts of questions to be on topic (as well as incorrect to allow a non-hypothetical).

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    "I fundamentally believe they are not capable of being good questions..." That's quite a blanket statement. "but not a behavior-type question (i.e., not a question that can be interpreted as 'What should be done in [x] situation...')" I disagree. "How do we stop baby from throwing things off the balcony?" is just such a question. In fact, a great many questions are just such questions. "A [sibling] cannot have an unbiased or neutral point of view in relation to their sibling..." Who is exempt from bias? If neutral, parents could come to a more logical conclusion on their own. ... Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 2:17
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    "...the answer wouldn't be actionable by the poster." We have given advice in many such situations: act as a model to your sibling, be open to discussion, etc. The answer to the question now would be framed for the parents, not just these parents but all parents. We are supposed to be a repository of knowledge for the present and the future. Commented Apr 26, 2019 at 2:21

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