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Sibling Rivalry

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My 7-year-old daughter is disappointed that she has a brother, three and a half years old, instead of a sister. My son is a very active, bright, and loving child. I see a conflict in her for she loves him but hates him at the same time. My husband and I have done as much as we could to show her how we love her by action and words. We spend a great deal of time with her every day. But nothing is enough. Both my husband and I have OCD. My daughter is very much like us in her behavior (incessant). She whines a lot, which makes all of us feel very irritable. Any suggestions on how to convince her that she is important and loved?

A: I would suggest not continuing the same "dance" with your daughter. She is learning that she can and does get a lot of attention by being demanding, whining and never getting enough. Since she will naturally not change her role in the "dance" (why should she when she has so much power?), you have to change yours.

OCD notwithstanding, you must be satisfied that an appropriate (not excessive) amount of daily pleasant interaction with your daughter is fine. Interaction with her peers, friends and other adults should round out her social development.

I would respond to her whining by saying something like," When you want to talk about this and not whine, I'll be in the other room." Then leave her presence. Hold your ground and don't let her get you frazzled; that's one of the goals of this negative behavior. That and perhaps drawing your attention away from her less demanding brother.

Take a look at Faber and Mazlish's book, Siblings Without Rivalry. They give many examples of how to empathize with your daughter's conflicted feelings towards her brother while letting her know how special she is.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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