Saturday, March 24, 2012

Reader Question Response: Jealousy Among Siblings

Queston: How can a mother of three children (one is a newborn) deal with jealousy of the other kids? Particularly the middle one who is lashing out by biting?

Gemma had been the only child in her family for three years.  She loved her mommy and daddy and always loved spending time with them.  They would take her the Disney Land and Sea World on the weekends, and play in parks and at home on the weekdays.  One day Gemma’s parents took her to dinner at her favorite restaurant the Olive Garden. There, they told her that mommy was going to have another baby!  And the baby was going to be a girl!  Gemma was so excited to be a big sister.  The months leading up to when the baby was to be born were exciting. Gemma got to help mom decorate the baby’s new room and pick out new clothes for her.   When the time came for baby Mia to be born Gemma was so excited!  She had to go to her Grandparent’s house while her parents were at the hospital, but she couldn’t wait until it was her turn to see her.  The next morning she got to go and see baby Mia and hold her.  The next month was a lot different than what Gemma was expecting, with Mia crying at night and her mom’s attention more on the baby than Mia than herself.  Though she still liked Mia it was hard and she just wanted her old life back.  About a year later Gemma’s parents told her that she would be moving to a new state for her dad’s work.  After they moved Gemma started to become sad, she was in a new preschool trying to make new friends and her mom and dad were busy with work.  Mia had just started to walk and always wanted the toys Gemma wanted.  Gemma started to become angry with Mia and felt like she was the cause for everything.  She would often push Mia down, to make her cry. 
                Gemma’s parents were confused by her violent nature towards her younger sister; they wanted their kind sweet Gemma back. Fortunately for Gemma’s parents, Gemma isn’t the first and only child to have these jealousy emotions. Jealousy is a common emotion for children (Miller, L, Volling, & MEwain, 2000).  How do children become jealous? Children become jealous when they see their parent or caregiver giving their attention to another child other than themselves for extended amounts of time (Miller, L, Volling, & MEwain, 2000).  Gemma became jealous of her sister because there wasn’t enough attention given to her to make her feel validated and wanted (Thompson & Haberstadt, 2008), so she lashed out on the person who was getting that attention.  Gemma’s parents were distressed by her actions, but by giving Gemma the positive attention that she needed she became more loving and open to her sister Mia.  Gemma’s mom would take her on mommy daughter dates, with just the two of them, and she made an effort to give Gemma some special attention at home.  They started to see a change in Gemma over time, she would include Mia in her play and eventually there were no problems with Gemma being jealous.  Gemma’s parents made an effort to help her feel loved and validated, which helped Gemma realize that they still loved her too.

Works Cited

Miller, L, A., Volling, B. L., & MEwain. (2000). Sibling Jealousy in a Triadic Context with mothers and Fathers. Social Development , 433-457.
Thompson, J. A., & Haberstadt, A. G. (2008). Children's Accounts of Sibling Jealousy and Their Implicit Theories about Relationships. Social Development , 17 (3), p 488-511.


  1. I feel that a major cause of jealousy among siblings is the idea of shared and non-shared parenting, which the idea of how a parent treats and disciplines each child the same and each child differently. A major mistake most parents make is to emphasize differences between children. As a result, your post is important. Parents need to remember to refrain from hostility towards older siblings who are acting out because they do not feel validated. Continued warmth and nurturing ultimately has the best outcomes for children, even if at first they are struggling.

  2. I really like how you started this post with that story. It definitely tied me in and I also learned too. Just something I like to do with kids especially at parties for the new borns where the young siblings attend, is to also give the young siblings a small gift so they feel included and cared about as well. It has really made a difference in the way they act at the party when they feel as though people came to see them as well.