irine42000 asks:

Not getting through to my 4 year old.

My name is Irene and I am a mom to 2 young boys 4 and 1. my oldest son is jealous of the young one and has started acting really tense, not listening, running around like a monkey, pushing his brother, always nagging when he wants something. I shout sometimes if I can't get through him . I try to make him sit and draw with me or read a book but he is always moving around. what should I do to face this? how should I handle it?
In Topics: Preschool, Discipline and behavior challenges, Parenting siblings
> 60 days ago



Jan 24, 2011
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What the Expert Says:

Hi Irene,

Thanks for your question! As the the other mom mentioned, there are a lot of parents in your same situation, and I think that they will all be relieved to hear that they are not alone in managing intense sibling rivalry.

As the other mom noted, it is not uncommon for older siblings to struggle with the birth of a new baby brother or sister. Although your son may have some "big boy" behaviors, he is still very young with big feelings that he struggles to understand and manage. Thus, in his little brain, he may feel like you have abandoned him, you no longer care for him, and you will always spend more time with his younger brother. At times, he may likely feel like he can't take it, and the suffering is immense.

Older siblings in this situation often regress, acting much more immature for their age, may have some problems with toilet training or sleeping at this time. In situations like this, older siblings are generally not consciously thinking, "Ha! I'll show her! I'll act silly and immature! I'm trying to drive her nuts!" They are simply struggling to contain the big feelings.

So, what to do about this? First, I would encourage you to muster as much patience as you can. It is understandable that this is a frustrating and painful situation; no one is perfect, and you will likely have moments where you cannot tolerate your older son's behavior. In moments like this, take a three deep breaths and remind yourself that he is suffering. He feels like his world has come to an end, and he has no means to maturely deal with his feelings.

After you have taken a few deep breaths, I would begin working on helping your son to develop a language around his strong feelings. When he runs around wildly, I would calmly say something like, "You has a lot of energy today. I wonder if you are feeling angry about the fact that I am holding your brother right now." Help him to label his big feelings.

Try and speak to him with empathy and caring. You might say, "I know you are upset right now, but I can't allow you to run around and be dangerous." Think about consequences for inappropriate behavior, but administer them with a loving approach.

And, make an extra effort to spend time with your older son alone. Walk to the park for 45 minutes or take him with you to the store and make time to explore the aisles and talk about produce. Just spend time together, hugging him and speaking to him with kindness.

It will likely take quite a while, but with time, you son should settle down and begin to recognize that he is special to you, too, and you will always love him, even though there is a new sibling in the home.

I have included a couple of articles on sibling rivalry to further support you.

Warm regards,

Laura Kauffman, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
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Additional Answers (1)

Karenmom writes:
Hi Irene,
3 years age difference, exactly the same as my children, my daughter is 8 and my son 5.  My 8 year old was like this too and I think that it exactly what you said--a little jealous.  The oldest child that had been the center of your attention, is now having to share you, share the attention ( and sometimes, as you know, the baby is taking all the attention, not by your choice, it's just that obviously a 1 year old is more needy than a 4 year old.  I don't think that there is a way to completely put a stop to this, because, well, sibling rivalry, even now my 8 year old is still jealous over the 5 year old, he hasn't started school yet (due to date of birth, past cutoff) and she feels that he is getting more attention from me while she's at school.  

What I did and still have to do, is talk to the oldest child about how special it is to be the oldest, and find ways that they can help me.  For example, I'm working with my 5 year old to get him prepared for school and I created a "teachers folder" for her to use and have her help with reading, writing, flash cards, etc. and then she can grade his performance.  It helps them bond and makes her feel special + it helps me too.

I remind them of how we treat each other, tell her to treat him the way she wants him to treat her.  Reassure her that she is loved and we're proud of what she does.  I also have to reassure the youngest because I know that at times he feels left out, that she's getting more attention.  So I find myself explaining often that they have different needs at different times and how we must respect that.  I know this isn't much help other than you know that this is happening in every household that has more than 1 child.  A closer age difference, I think it would be easier because they wouldn't be on such different levels.  A further age difference, I think it would be easier because the oldest would be more mature and understanding, but 3 years apart is just enough to make things complicated.  

Although, I know your patience runs thin at times, there really is no need to raise your voice, that may reinforce that "it's true, she does love him more", just be patient with the children, over  time the conditions will improve, as I have seen things improve greatly since they were 4 and 1.  Just remember to let them know that they are both equal in your eyes, you love them both the same, it'll work itself out.  Best wishes!
> 60 days ago

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