Jo Frost answers your sibling rivalry questions

Supernanny Jo Frost helps with new babies coming into the family, tussles over toys and the ever-popular toddler game, pulling hair

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Q: My toddler is jealous of her new baby brother. I’m always saying ‘no’ because she’s not gentle with him. I certainly can’t leave them alone in a room together. How can I help her be kind and enjoy her brother?

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Jo says: Yes, you absolutely cannot leave your baby alone with your toddler. Your daughter knows that she’ll get more of your time if she behaves badly towards her younger brother. By hurting him, she not only gets your attention, but also expressing her jealousy in the only way she knows how. She feels threatened by all the attention, time and comfort the baby is receiving, but the good news is, this is typically a short-lived phase.

When she does hurt him, instead 
of being cross, show her that you’re disappointed: ‘No, that’s not how we treat him.’ Then, remove her from the baby and tell her she can participate with you both when she behaves. When she does, reward her with praise for being kind. You can also buy her a doll from the baby so she can play at caring for it while you are caring for your son. This will help her feel included while making sure she’s getting quality time with you, too

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Q: I’m a mum of 18-month-old twins. My son pulls his sister’s hair to get a response from me. I’ve tried talking to him but it still goes on. Help!

Jo says: Whether you have twins or siblings close in age, this bickering behaviour is very common. Here’s what your son knows: when he pulls his sister’s hair, he gets a reaction from you and her. It’s important that he learns from your firm voice that you don’t approve of what he’s just done. In addition, encourage your twins to show one another lots of love and affection – hugs, kisses and cuddles.

It’s common with this age group
 to see one twin who is slightly more domineering than the other, and 
a power play takes shape as their personalities begin to form. You would have noticed this even when they were babies, for example, if one cried because he needed feeding the other one would have woken up and cried because she then wanted what the other had. If your twins are sharing toys they will act no differently than any other children their age. One child will always recognise that he can get what he wants by being more dominant. It’s vital to encourage your twins to do things both separately and together, as it’ll teach them to get along but also have their own autonomy. For example, let them paint a piece of paper together and then alone, and have them share one play chest but dress separately. 

Q: My daughters (2, 3 and 5) are always bickering over their toys. I’m sick of refereeing. What should I do?

Jo says: You need to figure out what they’re bickering over. Have they learnt to share the toys that belong to them all? Are some toys that belong to them individually being played with without permission? Do two of the three play together, making one feel left out? These are all examples of healthy developmental stages of your daughters’ bonding and social skills.

Of course you will hear ‘it’s not fair’ a lot and that’s why you have to get to the bottom of the ‘who started it’ drama. Here are the facts: your 2 year old is learning right from wrong, your 3 year old has just started to remember it, and your 5 year old knows it and is testing it. My suggestion is that you set clear expectations of behaviour, and any breaking of these rules after a warning will end up with a visit to the naughty step.

Jo’s sharing toy box technique 

Your little ones will be sharing before you know it with this handy game:

  • Give each of your children a cardboard box with their name on it.
  • Lay out all your children’s toys.
  • Go through and decide together which toy belongs to who and have the owner put it in their box.
  • After all the toys have been sorted, ask each child to choose a toy from their box that they’ll share with their siblings.
  • When they’ve successfully shared these toys among themselves for a week, give them another box and label it the ‘sharing box’.
  • Ask each of them to pick a few toys from their own box that can go into the sharing box, explaining that these will belong to all of them.
  • Remember to change the toys in the sharing box every few months.

Jo Frost’s Toddler SOS‘ book is on sale now.

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