How to Deal with This? - Los Angeles,CA

Updated on January 10, 2019
N.Z. asks from Los Angeles, CA
20 answers

Every time anyone says anything "good" about my son (4), my daughter (6) will retort back. Here are some examples:

-- after measuring his height, I'll make a comment about how he grew; she would say, "well, I'm so much taller!"

-- when someone says to my son, "wow, you're 3 AND A HALF years old?" My daughter would respond, "well, I'm already 6!"

-- when I make a comment about my son being able to use scissors better than before, she would say, "well, I can cut better!" or "well, I can read chapter books!"

You get the idea. It's endless! Please help me come up with a gentle way to handle this!

I've read in a book that if we plan to praise a child, do it in private so siblings don't get jealous, but lot of these comments made by the grown-ups are made in passing so it would be ridiculous to have to wait until we have privacy to make these comments.

What can I do next?

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answers from New York on

There's a game some people play on "family nights", you go around the table and each person says something positive about every other person. Try it. It will "force" her to say positive things about her brother and to listen to them too, while receiving plenty of praise of her own.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Louisville on

Easy just say yes you do! Yes you are taller! Yes you are very good at xyz. It’s hard not being the baby.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Seattle on

what the wha? Praise your children in private!? That's crazy to me.

I would just continue praising your son! If daughter butts in I would say, "You're are great at cutting! And your brother has really improved too!"
"you're grew a lot! And your brother grew a lot too!"
" I am proud of you for how well you are reading...AND I am so proud of your brother and how well he is sounding out words!"
Our children need to be able to hear other people being praised and be praised in front of other people.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

My 6 yr old granddaughter does this to her 3 yr old sister all the time. So annoying. I'll usually respond with 'Of course you are because you are older and you don't remember how hard it was for you to do XXXXX when you were 3. Let's tell E that she's doing a great job and help her learn more.' When she's mean to her sister I remind her that when she was that age and couldn't do something we were all kind and didn't make fun of her while she was leaning a new skill.

Just be sure that you are pointing out her strong points without including her brother. Like if she brings home a school paper or picture that's nice mention it in front of her brother so she can see that he isn't always the one being complimented.

At age 6 she's able to be taught that praising someone else's accomplishments means just being happy for them and leaving yourself out of the mix. Its an important social skill that she needs to develop. If she's really struggling then maybe a child therapist could help out.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

You've posted many questions about your daughter's immaturity and social skills, her problems showing "appropriate" emotions, her self esteem/insecurity issues with weight, etc. Maybe this is part of a larger issue and not just about her brother. If she's insecure with her own abilities, for example, maybe she is taking every opportunity to show that she can do something you admire in your son, either just as well or better. Does she do this in other settings, such as school (if another kid gets a right answer or makes a nice painting) or when you are with other adults (such as interrupting to display her own knowledge or make the conversation about her)? If so, I think these are long-standing problems that cover a lot of scenarios, and you may need some professional assistance.

I think she's plenty old enough (as is your son) to have you enforce the concept of taking turns. When she does this, handle it as an interruption: "We're talking about your brother now" or "It's Jimmy's turn." I disagree that we shouldn't praise a child within earshot of another child - that's not realistic and we need to raise more resilient children. Perhaps if there is one very sensitive issue such as a serious illness that prevents a child from doing XYZ, a private session is indicated. But waiting 3 hours to compliment a child on scissor usage because a sibling can't handle it is no feasible, nor is it wise. The key is to help the other child develop skills at handling it. Why is she so insecure? Why can't she be happy or complimentary to someone else? Why can't she be kind or charitable to someone younger? That's what I would focus on. .

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I don't agree with doing it in private so siblings don't get jealous (the praising a child). I mean, you don't want to lavish attention on one child and ignore the other, but certainly saying a positive thing to one when it is warranted is fine. That's how the world works.

If your daughter can't handle it at 6 .. that's just some immaturity. Likely she's fine at school, but letting it out at home where it's 'safe'. That's also fairly typical for some kiddos. Some kiddos are not quite as mature in this area as others, and it takes time. You do NOT coddle them and the absolute worst thing to do is to stop praising your son in front of her. That will hurt him and her in the end.

You just say "Listen *daughter* - you need to understand that it is *son's* time to be told he's doing a good job. That's fair. You get recognized (whatever term you use) when you're doing a good job. Now is his turn. Just as you get turns at school, same as we do here." That way she can understand how it goes.

There's a big development leap at age 7. Some kids hit it ahead of time, some are a little late. If you talk to a child psychologist, they will tell you this. I have one who always struggled in this area. A bit of an attention seeker - it's also a personality trait. You can't change personality, but you can work with them on it.

What I would do, is - if she's been good for a while, take her aside and say "You've been great at letting little brother shine when he's done well - that shows kindness." Then hug her.

That kind of thing. Reward through praise but don't go overboard. :)

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I never even thought to praise a child in private so that the other doesn't get jealous. I think that's kind-of a weird tip.

I never thought much about the one-ups-manship. I think it's pretty typical. I answer with "Yes, I know and that's great. Remember last week when he had a hard time with the scissors and look at him now" or "Yes and when you were four, you were just learning to use scissors too". Something to include the other child in the conversation without negating the praise for the first child.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would just keep framing your responses as looking at them as individuals and non-competitive. For example:
Yes, you are a good 6 yr old cutter and he is a good 4 yr old cutter.
Yes, you read 6 yr old big kid books and he reads 4 yr old big kid books.
Yes, you are 6 yr old tall and he is 4 yr old tall.
Just keep it light and happy and matter of fact. As she learns new things, like tying her shoes or something like that, you can say, "maybe when brother is 6 you can teach him to do that too!" Give her a reason to be allies and not competitors.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i think your book is wack. that's not how the real world works.

i would start by NOT making a big deal of it. your son probably doesn't even notice, so don't make a mountain out of a molehill.

but it is something that needs to be (gently and over time) redirected. so a short sensible response like 'naturally you're taller, you're older' is sufficient. and of course, making sure that she IS getting plenty of positive feedback, without overcompensating.

but i think this is also something that can have a specific consequence if it keeps on and gentle redirection isn't working. a very brief face to face, eye contact, hand to hand contact discussion without any long psychological explanations.

'deirdra, having a rude response any time someone says something nice about benedict needs to stop. if you keep doing it there is going to be the consequence of (pick your consequence) until you learn to let him get compliments just like you do.'

and follow through.

but resist the temptation to blow it up into something more than it is.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Your dd sounds like she is jealous of the compliments given to her brother. There are a few things to consider. First, do you praise your son more than your dd? I'm an older adult and one thing that sticks in my mind is how my mother favored my older sister. Even people outside the family noticed it. So, you may need to give your dd praise at the same time or be sure to add something about her strengths when you say something about your son. You may be saying more about him without noticing it. Kids are very competitive for their parents' praise and attention.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Sounds like some sibling rivalry is going on.
You acknowledging anything about the baby of the family causes her to be jealous and competitive.
You need to start calling her on it.
I'm sure you give attention to all your kids but when the older starts retorting you need to tell her "That's not called for. I love you both and giving attention to one or the other of you is no cause for you to be getting upset.".
If she keeps it up then she can have a time out in her room.
I disagree with the book you read.
You should be able to praise either child and not expect the other to pitch a fit over it.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I wonder if you are at home with your son all day while your daughter is at school? It may be that she feels like because you spend more time with him, he is more important to you. In any case, it feels like she needs more one-on-one time with you. Is there some time in the week when it is just the two of you? If not, is there a way to carve that out? If it is logistically hard, can you do a "Because you are older, you get to help me in the kitchen" and leave little brother to play on his own? When her cup is full of of your love and attention, she won't need to "steal" compliments from her brother.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

When the two siblings, not related to me, are together say in a store or park, I frequently praise the other sibling so that he's part of the conversation.

I sometimes do this with my grandchildren because they are close in age,5 and 7, and are jealous of each other. I'm praising them both.

So my answer is something like "you're both good at reading." When one shows me a drawing which I praise, the other one then brings their drawing, I say something like ".I like the colors in this drawing. I like the clouds in this drawing.

I suggest that the oldest one is still feeling insecure about having a sibling. I suggest you can model for your oldest how to be less critical. I might say, something like, both of you are good artists." That puts them equal. It's not a completion. "Yes, you did that when you were 7. Brother is learning what you already know." I might give them both a hug. Take the competition out of the situation.

Re height say yes you are taller. About age, yes you are older. About the scissors. Yes you can read now. I'm proud of you both.

The idea is to acknowledge that she's just as important as brother.

I suggest you read How to Talk So Children Listen how to Listen so Kids Will Talk.The premise is to acknowledge what they are saying/feeling in an accepting/ kind way without an argument.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Children often have very different ways of learning, and of accomplishing certain skills. I'm sure you've tried talking with your daughter.

Now may be a good time to try a different way of teaching her the important character traits of modesty, generosity, and kindness.

Try role playing, and playing a game called "Listening". Find a simple, subtle code word or action (tapping on your ear lobe, or putting your finger to your lips, or raising one finger. Make it fun. When your daughter sees or hears that code, she listens, without speaking. It's important that she doesn't just tune out, but that she can repeat what was said to her brother ("he is getting tall" or "he knows how to count to 6!"). Practice. Have another adult make a comment, and you give the code, and your daughter has to listen in silence. Then have the adult talk to your daughter. Ask her something specific, like "what is your favorite part of dance class" or "tell me about your teacher" etc. And while your daughter replies, you listen carefully and attentively, demonstrating careful and respectful listening. After awhile, with practice, your daughter won't need the code. She'll have developed the ability to listen and to share appropriately.

By all means, don't ever praise a child exclusively in private - that won't ever happen in school, at a job, in college, in life. People get recognized in public for their accomplishments, and often not everyone gets the same award or recognition. It's valuable to learn to celebrate with the person, to not resent them, to know how to properly acknowledge an achievement that someone else has attained.

Many kids need a visual cue or audible cue to learn a skill that doesn't seem to come naturally to them. My son, when he was in elementary school, had a habit of humming to himself when he was working in class. He didn't do it to be rude, he wasn't even aware that he was doing it. The teacher tried all kinds of things to get him to stop humming out loud. Finally, she wrote "silence" on an index card. When he started humming, she'd simply place the card on his desk, without saying a word to him. That visual cue was all he needed to remember to stop humming.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

I tried to raise my kids to be allies. There are nearly five years difference between and my oldest a girl.

Sometimes I would say would you sit and stack blocks with your brother. Nobody makes him smile like you do. When he was tiny I would ask her to bring him a blanket or whatever and always follow with thank you for being such a great sister to him.

They are best of friends at 15 and 19. They get on each other’s nerves at times, but they are the first to stand up for each other and if she has a bad day, she calls him first. She’s told him since she’s been in the military that she didn’t realize how blessed she was to have him.

I don’t agree with compliments in private. Good grief, there will be people at school that are better than she is at something or that’s she’s better than. Maybe work with her to be an encourager.

I think reiterating to her of course you are taller, you’re six. When my daughter would exert her first born personality on my son when she was older, I would remind her that although she was older, he would be bigger than she is eventually and she would always know he was in her corner if they treated each other respectfully.

He’s now big enough to pick her up and move her physically and they are each other’s biggest fans. ❤️

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

it sounds like your daughter is feeling "less than" her brother and needs some attention. Or feeling "left out". She's not getting enough from you and she's telling you - in a subtle way.

Have you done "girly things" with her - like going to get manicures together.

I would ensure that both my children get "Mommy" time - with two boys - when they were younger I would either have lunch with one day and dinner with the other - like on the weekend and it was JUST THE TWO OF US. It helped combat the "well I CAN" or "I DO"...

Have her help you with things and praise her - but don't go to the extreme and give her a trophy for participation! :) I think you know what I mean. Your daughter just needs some "mommy" time.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I think you just need to gently pull her aside and talk about it. Let her know the many ways that you are proud of her. Make sure she really feels that pride. Then talk to her about the many ways that she is a really good big sister and remind her that one of the great things a big sister can do is be proud of her baby brother.

There's nothing really unusual about what she's doing. She just needs a little help recognizing that being proud of your son doesn't make you any less proud of her.

Keep praising both of your kids often. It's good for each of them to hear about their own achievements and about their brother/sister's achievements. They need to be both proud of themselves and proud of each other.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Have you ever heard of encouragement vs praise? To encourage a child is to help them internalize their skills and make them recognize their own accomplishments and skills. To praise a child is just giving them your approval. Studies show that children who are encouraged instead of praised are more likely to challenge themselves, where children that are routinely praised are afraid of failure and letting others down.

Rather than telling your son he is better at using scissors you can ask him if he thinks using the scissors is easier than before. Hopefully your daughter won't see this as praise, and will be less jealous. You can't control what others say and you daughter will probably continue to retort for attention. But a simple "you are right, you are taller" is probably enough.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Typical older sibling. Just respond with, well of course you're taller, you're older. Or, of course you know how to do this, you learned it in preschool.
If she gets REALLY out of hand just talk to her about it, remind her life is not a competition and that it's not good manners to make every conversation about her.
ETA: Diane D's response is spot on.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Lots of comparisons being made. Seems like your daughter is competitive and not getting enough attention, or low self esteem or is just a plain show off.
She is putting down her brother. She needs to be trained to recognize others strengths. Next time she opens her mouth comparing, but her down right back like “well your brother did walk before you did”. It will teach her to keep her mouth shut.

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