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.
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.