Seeking Advice for Jealous Child (Brother and Sister)

Updated on May 20, 2008
V.W. asks from Chambersburg, PA
9 answers

My daughter(8)has had me all to herself for the past year and half..with her brother (12) just recently coming back into her life fulltime..she is very JEALOUS and i mean that..she states to me many things and does things to me and her brother..i get everything from why did you have me first(yes i know what you are thinking) why do i have a brother..she even hits her brother and i for no reason at all other then her being jealous..etc.etc.etc...i just recently told her what the meaning of jealous means at her age level (selfish, not sharing)..i did not have this problem with my son until he was much older(11) that age it seemed to me a lot easier to children are two very different people (night and day)..i am their any way to explain this to my daughter and help her to understand it better..are their ideas for me on how to deal with it other then the way i am dealing with it..telling her that she is not sharing and that her brother needs the same amout of time as you get..we still have mommy and daughter time..her brother is dealing with her very good..HELP! please

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answers from York on

Hi V.,
My heart to you! What a tough situation for all of you.

A book comes to mind. (As usual with me) Siblings Without Rivalry. Same people who brought me my favorite parenting, peopleling books...Faber and Mazlich. Those are also worth checking out...Liberated Parents, Liberated Children and How To Talk So Your Children Will Listen and How To Listen So Your Children Will Talk.

Based on the work of Haim Ginot. Also worth exploring. "Between Parent and Child" (for one)

What comes to mind from that source is to imagine you are a wife and your husband brings another wife home. That is in a way what your daughter is experiencing.

It wouldn't feel good to hear, "Well, you are just going to have to get along. Don't be selfish."

Instead, you would need reassurance, a bit extra for awhile, support for whatever effort, if any, you do put out there.

I'm not saying you aren't doing this, no idea. I remember a similar time with my toddler having a new brother. I had to put in some extra time on him. Show him that there is no less when it comes to mommy love. Acknowledge that it is a tough transition.

I would be doing special little things, letting her know you know this isn't easy and that you miss your just girl time too.

Then, slowly, ask her what can you do as a family to maybe help the brother feel welcome in this den of girls.

I remember having a talk with my oldest.."We have been so close, it must be hard for the baby...I wonder what we might do.." And my oldest went over and played with him.

He gave him a toy and said "Welcome to the family." I cried.

He grew into a big brother that protected his little brother on the bus and in Bible School. When either of them is out shopping with me alone, they just about always ask if they can get something for their brother. They even ask to use their own money so it is more special.

Not always a smooth road...there is often "Stuff"...but I find there is a lot less when I start with where is the child, not where do I want him to be.

Sorry to ramble heart to all three of you!!! That has to be a hard transition.


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answers from Erie on

The problem with your description of jealousy (not sharing and being selfish) is that it puts all the blame on her. The reality is that she has lost something in this transition, even if Mom has gained her son back and your daughter could potentially be "gaining a big brother".

From her perspective, his re-entrance into the family says that I'm no longer the oldest child, or only child, and my Mom pays more attention to him now, to help him "over the hump" of joining the family. Or there may be others things going on I'm not in on.

You should tell her we also get jealous when we feel left out, or we feel we aren't getting what we deserve, or that someone else is getting what we think we deserve. She is BAD because she feels jealous. Jealousy is a feeling. It hurts us, but it doesn't give us permission to BEHAVE in a spiteful manner. We can't go around hitting someone because we have unhappy feelings.

The 12 year old is older and perhaps in a position to help some. He could include her by doing some things with her. Try doing some "family things", going to the playground, going to the zoo, going to a park, to the YMCA or the beach to swim; make some habits that become family rituals, because they build a sense of "group" ness for the 3 of you, rather than just the 2 of you with an interloper having moved in.

The transition isn't going to be easy. Your son has to learn the rules and ropes of living with the two of you, and your daughter sees this new kid she may or may not know all that well move back into the household, and he's older, so he has different rules, more freedom, etc. It's hard not to be upset with him.

Also plan to spend some special one on one time with your daughter. We do this at night. Every night, and our kids are getting too old for this really, my husband or I go to their rooms, pray with them and tuck them into bed, with a kiss. (I assume he does, I do) When he does it, it's pretty quick. When I do it, I get stories -- must be the mom/daughter thing. They tell me about stuff that happened, an dmost particularly stuff that bothers them. It's a time for me to listen, and a time when I can get a little fuel, so when we pray together, we ask God for help with things going on in their lives. It's also a time when I can give them some perspective on life, and can tell them I love them.

Over time, I think your daughter may find that having a big brother can be a really good thing. They tend to be a bit protective; they have cute friends (sometimes), and they can help you learn to throw a ball, and play sports. They also have cool video games, and toys they might be willing to share. And you never know -- once in a while, they even stoop to playing Barbie's with you (mine did !! and he was 5 years older)

The transition is hard, however, because you now have more to deal with and each of the kids have "more than usual" to deal with

but love is what counts. And love seems to expand to however many children you have. Time may not, but love does. Be sure to praise both of your kids when they attempt to do the right thing. We don't always succeed, but the attempt is worthy. Family life is never static, either. Things will get easiery, then tough again, as the kids age and as you hit periods of time that are stressful for you. But hang in. Just keep loving them, trying to be a fair judge, and be sure they know they are loved every day.

Transitions take time, but soon there will be a sibling bond that may even make Mom jealous because she's the one left out !! (and that's when Mom is successful !!)


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answers from Philadelphia on

I think you are on the right track. tell her she needs to stop this behavior and explain that there are consequences when she acts out and hits her brother. My be take away something that she likes,ie: the toy,time on the computer. I am glad your son is dealing well with her. If she asks why he is not getting punished then tell her because he is not acting jealous the way she is. Another thing is that this will all take time and some of this behavior may stop itself. May be you also need to have them do some activities together so they bond.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi V.,
I agree that maybe your daughter could benefit from some sort of counseling. This is a big change for her. I think it's going to take a lot of time before she gets used to the idea that the change is here to stay! Maybe explain the concept of respect and to get respect you need to give respect. In the past, did your son visit with the two of you? How did that go? Good luck to you in this challenging situation.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi V., If spending one on one time with her isn't easing her jealously then you should look into some counseling for her soon. A bit of jealously and competition is normal between sibs, but if she continues with hitting and being verbally abusive for much longer your going to really have to take some action. Good luck and best wishes.

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answers from York on

I have listed two sources for improving communication skills. They are and

I think they will help you learn good communication skills that you can teach your children. Too many times we as parents jump to a conclusion, make a judgement, and then utter too many "you" messages to our children. In active listeniing, you'll learn how to restate what your children are telling you so that they have a chance to let you know that what you are hearing is what they are trying to say.

Make more "I" statements, for example, when your daughter hits you, you might say: "When I am hit, it makes my heart ache, because I love you so much." Maybe, instead of telling her that she is jealous (a concept that many adults don't understand) and that she is not sharing, you could say: "Changes are difficult for everyone, especially when it means having to share Mommy's time. I am trying very hard to give attention to both you and your brother, because I love you both very much and you deserve my attention. Help me learn how to do this the best way. How do you think I can do things differently so that you do not feel sad."

I hope this helps. Please look at the sites I have listed and learn better communication skills. For other sites, Google: Listening and Communication Skills. You'll be surprised at the results - more love, more communication, and better relationships.

My best wishes for your success, M.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I have four children, but the two older ones have been down this road. The two older girls are 12 and 16 From what I have read it is not that uncommon. We tried couseling with the girls and it has helped some, but the issues are still there. I think they will always be there. I just try to make sure that I never show favorites, always try to be fair etc. It is draining at times though. I wish you luck.

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answers from Philadelphia on

Have you read "Siblings Without Rivalry"? It's a great book and fortunately I read it when my children were really small. I think the advice was extremely helpful.

My sister feels a lot of jealousy and resentment toward me and it has really damaged our relationship. I didn't want history to repeat itself with my own children, so I've been very interested in the subject. I found that although I had a wonderful, caring mother; she did make some mistakes in the sibling relationship department. She did her best and made up for it ten fold in other areas. But, I hope to do better with my kids in that area.
It's a quick easy read. I think you'll find it interesting.

Good luck!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

8 years old is old enough to know that sometimes other things and people have to take priority over a parents time. Sit her down and talk to her about it. Explain to her that you still love her more than she could possibly know and that you would like to be able to devote all of your time to her but that you love her brother too and he needs some of your time as well. Explain to her that her recent behaviors are making being around her both unpleasant and hard for your whole family and that you need to work as a family to change this. Tell her that families are supposed to love and support each other. She is part of the family and is expected to do her part to make it a happy and healthy family. This includes using her words to explain how she is feeling not her hands. You should tell her that when she is feeling very angry and wanting to hit someone, she needs to stop and take a deep breath and try to figure out what has made her so angry. Is it something someone has done or is she feeling left out?

As far as the behavior goes, although you may understand what the motivation/cause of the behavior may be, it is still unacceptable. You need to make sure she understands that and back it up with discipline if it continues. If it is truly because of uncontrolled emotion that she is having these behaviors, time out/grounding her to her room are good punishments. This type of punishment is good when a child needs to reflect on their emotions and sort through them. They are actually intended to help a child learn to sort through and control their emotions.

My oldest is 8. She has two younger brothers (3 1/2 years and 9 months). The second one being born has been a bit difficult for her and I've noticed her reverting to some of her old behaviors of whining and instigating fights with her little brother. I recognize that part of it is a cry for attention and part of it is her just trying to sort through her own emotions. I've done what I advised you to do. In addition, I've started to make sure that I take some time each day to ask her how her day has been and what the best part of her day was. Or we might talk about the book she is reading or just read. Even though it is only sometimes a few minutes that we have to just the two of us, those few minutes have been making a big difference. She just needs to know that she is still important to you and it needs to be in a recognizable way.

I wish you the best of luck with this and if you need someone to talk to or vent to, please feel free to email me.

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