I once read that when there is a new baby in the family, the siblings feel like a wife who has been cheated on by her husband. When we had our third boy, we did not feel any kind of aggressive jealousy going around both of the other elder boys. I do remember though that they used to use their baby brother’s pacifier, sit in his cot and laugh about it.
At that time, we concluded that parents play a major role in reducing or in increasing the jealousy among their children. However, the arrival of the twins was kind of heavy on the boys, especially because the twins were preemies and had a lot of attention.
Dealing with jealousy is one of the most difficult challenges we, as parents, might face since it has drastic negative effects on a child’s personality if not dealt with properly.
One of the major behaviours that might ring an alarm and make the parents realise they need to intervene is when the child starts to demonstrate aggressive actions and attitudes. Squeezing or pinching the baby’s hands, face, or any other part of its body, being loud, and enjoy breaking the house rules are all signs of the child calling for help. Here are a few ideas which might help in dealing with jealousy:
Dealing with aggressive attitudes:
When my third boy jumps in front of the twins and roughly rubs his face with theirs – you can imagine how annoying it can be, I know I have two options; I either shout at him curtly telling him to stop or I try to understand why my son is behaving as such.
If I choose the first option, I solve the problem temporarily where I have to face it again soon and it might escalate and hence get even worse. Instead, I try to get to the bottom of the problem and ask him; “Why are you doing this? Does it make you feel better? How would you feel if somebody does the same to you?”
You could go even further and openly discuss the misbehaviour. Such as,” Are you doing (describe the wrong behaviour) because you want me to tuck you in bed and I’m sitting with your sister instead of doing so?” When you use the right words to describe a strong complex emotion that the child is experiencing, it immediately calms him down and makes him more attentive to what you are saying. Then explain why this is happening and how the baby needs help since she is dependent etc.
Conducting a constructive dialogue with our children reinforces the strong bond we have with them as it gives us a chance to listen to what they have to say about their frustration. Moreover, these questions will aid children in having an insight as to what is annoying them while realising you want to help and support them. It also helps them to acknowledge that they have their mom’s full attention – of course in a positive way.
I know it is not easy to be patient and have these issues dealt with in a calm and composed manner every time. However, it is worth trying. A few years ago, I attended a workshop presented by a life coach named Mrs. Naima Lariki who have explained that a parent needs 21 days to make a calm reaction towards the children’s troubles his second nature.
At first, you might feel like you cannot hold the anger inside, and you directly go back to the negative reinforcement system. However, when you put yourself in your children’s shoe you gain them as your friends and help them in getting over their jealousy or from any other kind of irritation.
Showing your love and appreciation to your child:
At this moment in time, your child needs to be showered with hugs and kisses. He wants to hear you tell him how much he is loved. Moreover, giving him specific positive reinforcement on the tinniest and simplest gentle actions he makes, boosts his self-esteem and redirects his behaviour toward his siblings. For example, “Oh, I love how tenderly you cuddle your baby brother, “or “I am proud of the way you are softly singing to your baby sister!”
Indulging your child with specific chores:
Keeping your child busy with specific simple chores and have him help you prepare the baby’s clothes, diapers, bath tub etc, makes the child feel appreciated and responsible as he is engaged in those responsibilities. This strategy builds the child’s self-esteem since he feels that he is needed and is playing an essential role in his siblings’ life.
Doing fun activities with your child alone:
Setting a specific time for each child separately – where you might go out for a walk to the park, or for an ice cream – gives your child the attention, security, and realization that you are still there for him. For instance, my third son and I went out for dinner, last time, to the restaurant of his choice. His Dad had given him money to buy me dinner as a nice gesture. You should have seen the look on my son’s face when the waitress approached us with the bill! He was delighted and had a huge smile on his face when he was saying “I’ll pay for dinner as I am inviting mommy today! That is my money”. His innocent face was beaming with pride, self-satisfaction and admiration.
Avoid focusing on the problem:
If your child is suffering from jealousy, try your best not to discuss the issue with your spouse or friends while the child is present (this applies to all sensitive subjects as well). You might think that he is busy playing, but he is listening to every word you say. By doing so, you will be simply reinforcing the problem and have him become aware of it. Thus, you are increasing the dilemma instead of solving it.
Refraining from comparing your children with each other:
Always make sure to have your child appreciate his credentials. Explain how each one is a unique individual who has special potentials that are different from others. Soon they will learn to value their differences.
There is a list of excellent books where jealousy is indirectly tackled and how siblings can take care of each other. I highly recommend the following:
“BYE-BYE Baby Brother”
“What Brothers Do Best”
Ending sibling rivalry at an early stage of children’s lives, helps them in developing healthy relationships in the future, where love, respect, and support form the basis of their interaction with their families in specific and the community in general.