Mitigating Sibling Rivalry

I just want to share something that a child psychiatrist friend once told me about behaviour related to sibling rivalry.

When I had my second kid, my friend advised me to tell everyone around me NOT to tell my firstborn that it is his duty/job to take care of his younger sibling and that he must ‘grow up’ now etc etc. Of course, helping out like passing the diapers etc is great for participation, but her advice was essentially not to constantly make the firstborn feel like he is responsible for the younger one; all the ‘setting a good example stuff as a big bro/sis’ thing can come later.

It’s already hard enough for the kid to cope with a new sibling without everyone else highlighting the fact that he is now no longer number one. Made sense to me… though all the old folks at home thought I was mad to tell them not to say that!

Oh, my doc also suggested that we try not to frequently say things like ‘do this/don’t do that so that baby won’t trip/fall/can sleep etc’, or the older sibling will feel that everything is now done for the benefit of the new baby.

When I was leaving the hospital with no. 3, a nurse gave me an interesting piece of advice (she claims it works for her six! kids). She suggested that I hand the newborn over to hubby and walk into the house sans the baby, so that the older kids will see that the Mummy who went to the hospital is still the same Mummy who came back. I did that, and I also tried to spend more time with them and not tend to the baby immediately/too much – a bit tough though cos my hormones told me to glue myself to the new baby.

It didn’t stop ds1 from asking when we will return the baby to the hospital, and it didn’t stop dd2 from asking if ds2 will be here to stay ‘forever and ever and ever??!!", but I think it helps to set the stage a little. To date my three kids get along pretty well and I haven’t (touch wood!) had any tantrums from them due to unfriendly feelings. In fact, I haven’t had to deal with tantrums at all with the older two, so of course the joke now is on me with number 3… payback time Crying or Very sad for secretly congratulating myself that ds1 and dd2 never threw tantrums… Many thanks to the great dads and mums here, I’ve a learned a lot about dealing with tantrums!


Sibling Rivalry

I have 2 sons, who are 20- months apart, exhibiting the same type of possesive-jealous behaviou as described by Siak. To make matters worse, he’s now going through his terrible T&T, and has included screaming at his elder bro to get his point across (current arsenal includes biting, hitting, pinching, sitting on his bro’s face, etc). I get so tired putting him in the naughty corner for no less than 5 times within the span of 2 hours! As much as I hope they will love each other to death with hugs and kisses, it’s just not possible with 2 boys and that’s suppose to be normal!

Each time I try to mediate between the both of them, I felt that I had to be fair and judge each situation objectively. But because my eyes are not always on them, DS1 will always give me an account of the conflict (skewed to his advantage of course).

1) How do I make sure that I come across as fair in punishing them?

2) DS1 who is gentler, often play the role of a ‘hapless, helpless’ victim of DS2’s tirades. How do I ‘toughen’ him up and teach him to respond appropriately, without resorting to ‘an eye for an eye’ approach? Is there a better way?

Sibling rivalry

Dear siak, I think most later-born children have a natural instinct to "protect their turf".  It can be as extreme as what you described.  My 3yo daughter will insist on having whatever her brother has, and exhibited similar behavior as your younger daughter when she was less than 2.  She’s considerably better now.  So don’t worry, they will grow out of it soon enough.

younger sibling who feels the insecurity

I attended to my 2nd girl as much as I can……in fact my case is the opposite of yours. Yes, the elder one she felt the jealousy initially but that lasted only for a few months (or less as I could not remember). She used to it after that and she can cope well. But since she is older and can talk to me, she can seek our attention by talking and responding to me. Unlike the younger one, when she started to understand things better, she has been the one who always feels jealous towards her elder sister who is just 18 months apart. From young, the 2nd has this competitive feeling towards her elder sister, everything the elder does, she wants to follow suit. Each time the elder sits on my laps, the 2nd one will come and push her away from me. She simply just wants to own me, not to be shared with her sister. And the strange thing, I am the most favourite toy to her and she wants me to attend to her, she wants to occupy me completely just for herself. This makes me think, why??? Did I not love and attend to her enough in her eyes? Why does she always want to compete everything with her bigger sister? Does she feel always being left out? If I scold her sister for being clumsy, my younger one will come and say things like "you see, I did not touch this, I didn’t spill the water". If I hold the elder’s hand, she will come in between us and push her away and makes sure I hold her hand instead. She is generous with other people, give food to my maid or her daddy, but by the time we want to pass the food to her sister, she will not allow. Btw, my younger one has been always like this since she turned to 1 yo till now 26 month old. I dunno how to solve this???

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