How to handle sibling rivalry in your children

Samiya asks: I am a working lady. I have two kids – an eight-year-old girl and a one-and-a-half-year-old boy. Now I am facing some problems with my daughter. She is telling me lies about small things, asking me if I’m angry with her, telling me I don’t love her… I am always behaving very cool and trying to avoid all this, but some times, I am getting extremely getting irritated. Please help me, how should I behave with my daughter?!

Hi Samiya –

I could be wrong, but I’m going to take a chance here and make a guess that your daughter is showing pure sibling rivalry – though she may not know it herself!

You see, when you had your son, you saw it as making an addition to your family.  But for her, it was like you had just taken half of everything that mattered to her – her home, her toys, and most importantly her mother – and cut her portion of it in half!  Suddenly she had to share everything.  In fact, just because babies take a lot of work, she might have suddenly had to live with less than half of the mommy she depended on!

This doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong; sibling issues (as I’ve talked about on here a lot) go back to the beginning of time, and even cross into other species (believe me, I bit my brothers and sisters a lot to get more of my mom’s attention!).

But now, she’s doing three things that you need to deal with.  She’s lying (which is a test of your attention and trust), she’s asking if you’re angry (expressing a need for assurance), and telling you that you don’t love her (expressing anger and begging you to prove her wrong).  All of these are very normal behaviors for a child in her situation.

Assuming I’m right about her, here’s what I’d like you to do:  First, set very clear boundaries about the lying, by making it clear to her that there are definite consequences for even little lies.  For example, if she lies to you, she doesn’t get any TV for a day.  (Note – the consequences don’t have to be huge; just enough to give her some structure)

Second, when she asks if you’re angry, tell her that you’ll answer her but you’d like her to ask a different question:  have her ask how you’re feeling about her at that time.  Then you can tell her that you’re happy with her, angry with her, madly in love with her, disappointed in her, annoyed with her, amused by her… whatever you’re feeling.  This will actually give her more of what she needs – to know that she matters to you – and expand her own emotional vocabulary, while not being so annoying to you!

And third, when she says that you don’t love her, just look her right in the eye, smile, and tell her “You can’t even imagine how much I love you.  I love you more than the whole wide world!”  Or something like that.

Now if you do that, some day she’s going to hit you with the real question she has, which is “But do you love me as much as you love my brother?”  And when she does, just explain to her that your heart is so big, and so full of love, that you can love both of them that big huge amount.  That you’d do anything and give anything for either of them, and that it’s impossible for you to love one more than the other because there’s no limit to the love you have for each.

Now that’s a lot!  It’s a lot for you to remember to do, but it’s also a lot to ask her to understand.  But it’s the truth, isn’t it!

So Samiya, that’s why I’m so specifically advising you of what to do with your daughter.  Because the sooner she begins to really understand how huge and amazing love is, the better!


Good Luck!  Let me know how it goes!





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