Family life

Rivalry between siblings

Recognizing jealousy

Children can express jealousy in several different ways. One thing is certain: his behaviour will change. By paying close attention to your child’s reactions, you will be able to make a more effective intervention.

A jealous child tends to:

  • Attract everyone’s attention to himself;
  • Be sullen most of the time;
  • Refuse to do his usual activities;
  • Show great signs of affection to his father in order to make the mother jealous;
  • Want to be held and carried around;
  • Act like a baby (sucking his finger, wetting his pants, asking for diapers and bottles);
  • Disobey;
  • Do foolish things on purpose;
  • Try to hit or bite the new baby.
Beware of...
  • Obvious preferences. You may not always be conscious of doing it but if you always blame the same child for the same things, chances are that you are encouraging rivalry rather than putting an end to it;
  • Comparing your children. One may be joyful while the other is taciturn or one may be athletic while the other is artistic. Remember that your children are DIFFERENT and that comparing them will not help the situation;
  • Preferences linked to gender. Constantly repeating that you always wished for a girl or a boy will definitely make your child feel rejected if he is not the “right gender”;
  • Your reactions towards your children’s rivalry. If you forbid it completely, you may make things worse. On the other hand, indifference will not help solve the problem either.
Useful tips to diminish rivalry
  • You can purchase a baby doll with diapers, a milk bottle and a small blanket. When you return home after delivery, you can give your oldest child the responsibility of his own baby. This way, your little one can imitate you and will not feel so left out.
  • Set aside quality time with each of your children to make them feel special and to let them know that they are important and will always have their place.
  • Do not force your child to take interest in the new baby. This will come naturally with time.
  • Never leave your oldest child alone with the newborn baby. He may hurt the baby to express his unhappiness.
  • Make sure the new baby is not always the center of attention when visitors come over to the house. Let others know that all your children have great qualities.
  • Allow your oldest child to help out by handing you a diaper, a pyjama or a toy.


For older children


  • Try letting them solve their problem by themselves by staying out of the conflict.
  • Do not make reproaches before giving your children the chance to hear each other out.
  • Do not try to figure out who started first. This will only add tension to the conflict.
  • Reward your children for their good behaviour and lack of quarrels.
  • Establish rules on what acceptable behaviour is and what it is not (hitting, biting, etc.)
  • Never tolerate aggressive behaviour.
  • Encourage your children to solve conflicts by communicating rather than by arguing. It may not work every time but the message will get through with time.
  • Give your children a task to accomplish together.
Image de Sonia Cosentino

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