Experts Say – Jealousy between Siblings

My son is five years old and he pretty much rules the house. He’s very jealous of his 18-month-old sister and constantly goes after her. We’ve tried disciplining him but it has often ended in me shouting as it’s getting increasingly tough to deal with him. Any suggestions? 

Younger children will find it harder to understand why they are no longer the centre of attention. With limited skills and coping abilities, negative emotions and thinking will be vented out in ways that they know. The best is to prepare the child for all the major transitional periods such as the pregnancy, childbirth, homecoming and introduction. At each stage, the child is exposed to having a sibling and will start the bonding process. it is best to make all major changes such as room arrangements beforehand so that the child will not associate it to being displaced by the new siblings or that all the attention is not on them anymore.


What you can do is:


  • Address emotions and feelings. Talk about it and if the child is unable to express himself, use books to prompt discussions. Acknowledge any negative emotions and help him cope in a positive manner e.g. when mummy is free, you can come and talk to me. Reinforce that your child’s emotions and feelings are important but that he needs to know the appropriate manner to express them. As adults, you need to model positive communication and listening techniques. Also, try to see things from your child’s perspective and how it would affect them.


  • When you go about doing chores for the baby or any preparations/shopping, get the child involved. Although you may follow everything they say, involving them makes them feel wanted. Getting your child to help you at home with simple chores can make them feel like a big brother who can share your responsibilities. Get your child to give the baby a gift to show love and care. Explain to the child what a big brother can do like being independent.


  • Spend personal one to one time alone, besides family time. Let the child take the lead to tell what he wants to do. Spend time sharing and having fun together.


  • Keep your own stress and anxiety down as it can be transferred to your child which makes the adjustment much more difficult for him. Retain your child’s structure and routine. Speak to others about your own emotions so that you are in control to deal with your child’s reactions.


  • Rules and boundaries should be consistent and applied at all times. Making it clear that hurting is not allowed and there will be consequences. Explain to your child how he will feel in that position. Respond to positive and good behaviour by praising or giving the child a hug so they will learn that attention comes with good behaviour. Show that anger will not dictate and control your behaviour. Ignore the anger and let your child calm down then talk to your child to address behaviours and triggers.


  • When you have visitors, encourage them to respond to your child first then go to the baby or do it together. Seeing others still seeing him as important helps him to accept the situation and not fight for attention.


  • Explain to your child that since he is older, he can eat on his own and take care of himself/. Whereas the baby is smaller and needs more help and attention. Show them pictures of them being fed or taken care of as babies so they know that it is the process of growing up like what they are doing now.


Question answered by:

Daniel Koh

Psychologist with Insights Mind Centre


Thanks for sharing!