Sibling Rivalry

Our son has zero interest in his baby sister, and sometimes pushes her out of the way.



Hi all,

I have a 3.5 year old son and a 10 month old daughter. My son has never shown a great deal of interest in my daughter and has been pretty passively antagonistic towards her (for example if he notices her being interested in watching him play he will turn his back to her or casually go into the other room with his toy to

continue playing.). We usually don't say anything and figure once she's more mobile and interesting to play with he'll come around. Meanwhile my daughter adores her big brother and does everything she can to bestow her best smiles and laughs on him. It's just heartbreaking to see him so uninterested.


Lately, as she's become an active crawler and started cruising, he has actually pushed her out of the way if she comes over to hug/gum/generally maul him. We've explained to him his role as a big brother, encouraged him when he's been sweet to her and reprimanded him when he's not. Nothing seems to work.


Ironically, I am pregnant with another and he has shown interest in the baby in my tummy, asking what he looks like now, rubbing my belly, etc. Any suggestions how I can foster a better relationship with these two? I appreciate all of the sage advice of the PSP community.


J., mom to otherwise lovely 3.5 year old S., 10 month old C.,

and C., expected arrival in July.





I am really sensitive to the sibling rivalry thing because my sister still has so many jealousy issues and I wanted my kids to have a better relationship so I started looking for resources while pregnant. The best one I found is an awesome book called Siblings without Rivalry. Highly recommend it. If you practice the techniques she gives you, it really alters the relationship. My daughter went from hitting and pinching to kisses and hugs in about 3 months. I was really stunned it worked but it does!


Best, J., E. & L.




I haven't myself read books like "Siblings Without Rivalry," but I assume that

and other books would be quite useful. From the reviews I just read it sounds

like they have wise and practical tips on how to treat your children "uniquely,

not equally."


Here are some of the things I have found to be helpful to keep in mind in

thinking about my own and other sibling's relationships with each other, which

may or may not be included in those books.


1. Your children are closer to and feel safer with each other than perhaps

anyone else. This means they have more feelings around each other as well,

which they often will target each other with. Which means that the behavior

that looks like lack of interest from your son to your daughter is probably his

acting out at her what he feels elsewhere.


2. When there's a new sibling in the house, moms and dads relationship changes

with the first child. This often feels like a big loss to the elder siblings.


3. It makes a big difference to everyone if all parents carve out some

one-on-one time with each of their children where the child calls the shots on

what happens in that time. No phone calls for the parent or other distractions.

In my house it meant no music of my own choosing. We tried for an hour once a

week with each of our children, but didn't always pull it off. I tried as often

as possible to spend this hour with my children when I picked them up from

school since the distractions in my own home were too difficult for me to

ignore. I often used a babysitter with my other child when I spent this time

with my other child, but I know some co-parents who spend this time with their

kids at the same time in separate rooms or separate places. Once you have more

than two children, unless you have 3 or more parents, that would be out..... I

know one mother of twins who hired a babysitter once a week and alternated which

daughter she spent time with.


4. To find ways to listen to each child on their feelings about the other out

of earshot of the other. "I hate him!" "She's boring and always gets her own

way!" Any you as parent get to acknowledge their feelings and not argue with or

talk them out of them. Really hard!


5. If you're a mom parenting with a man, encourage him to spend time alone with

each child also on a regular basis and not be critical of either sibling for

their feelings toward the other. It's hard not to take sides, especially given

our own genders and sibling order, but I know it's possible!


My children had some very tough years with each other, but they're now really

good friends, and it looks like that's for keeps.


Best to all,


mom to 27 year old daughter and 21 year old son





Empathy? I mean empathy on his part. (I've read some on sibling rivalry, but

this one is mine, so it's not exactly a studied answer.) My daughter is now 3

yrs 3 months and my son 8 months (so same age difference and approximate age as

your kids).


I have been lucky so far in that for the most part, my daughter has very good

with my son (so I recognize that's a huge help from the start). On the several

occassions when she hasn’t been, eg - she has taken toys away from him so that

she could play with them - I stopped her and got right down on the floor right

close to her so that it became a serious conversation (not just me talking to

her from a distance) and asked her how she would feel if I took her toy away -

not in a scolding way, just expressing it in a way that I really was interested

in the answer. And I probed it a bit with her so that, again, it wouldn't be a

passing question/comment. It seems to have worked so far. I have also talked

to her some about what she was like as a baby. She’s very interested in these

stories. I figure it may help create empathy - the idea that she was there once

too. (And I think she does get that.)


I have stayed away from talking to her about playing the role as big sister.

Somehow, casting her in that role - doesn't seem like it would go over well.


D., mom to N. 3 yrs 3 months and S. 8 months