When One Sibling is Harsh toward Another

Children who touch too roughly, hug too tightly, or hit or poke or hurt their siblings are sending clear signals that they have some upsets that need to be listened to. Even very young children can be gentle with younger ones, as long as they feel “filled up” with attention and relaxed.

So any sign of harshness from one sibling to another can be taken as a sign that the child is not PL Erikflattenfeeling connected or relaxed enough to function thoughtfully. When you notice that a child has been rough, scolding them or ordering them to do things correctly won’t help. This only frightens your child more and makes it less likely that they’ll be able to act thoughtfully.

What does help is to move in quickly and gently. Very gently but firmly stop the tense child from touching their sibling, but don’t remove them. Say, “I’ll help you be next to Sammy,” and guide their hands or kisses so that they land softly. Move so that you are physically connected with the tense child, as you offer them your warm presence. That might look like getting in between the two children, putting an arm on the child’s arm or offering warm eye contact.

Because the child is tense with upset, they might want you to go away. Gently stay with them and keep them close, continuing to let them feel your attention and support.

Usually, the child will move rather quickly into a tantrum or a big cry about wanting you or not wanting you, or about wanting to touch the baby, or not wanting the baby. All those feelings are important facets of the nugget of upset they’re trying to offload. If you stay with them, without criticism, they’ll be able to cry or tantrum it through.

It’s also very common for feelings of frustration and competition for attention and for toys to disturb siblings’ good intentions sooner or later. When there’s a tug-of-war over you, or over a desired thing, you can help your children by listening to their feelings.

Children can tolerate necessary unfairness (Daddy isn’t going to give Sally the hammer because she could easily hurt herself, but Kenny can handle it) as long as the feelings of frustration or insult are heard. Feelings that are listened to all the way through are feelings that evaporate afterwards.

When you listen to crying or frustration, the child lets the awful feelings out, and your attention and caring flow in. So siblings can get back to loving each other, even when you can’t give them the same experiences, the same amounts, the same time, or the same toys.


Sibling RivalrySurvival Guide-1Are you looking for more tips on how to tackle sibling rivalry? Get your free copy of the Ultimate Sibling Rivalry Survival Guide and you’ll learn what to do when chaos ensues, how to handle the most common sibling struggles, the secret to sibling friendships, and much more!

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