Envy and Sibling Rivalry

Hi Ann,

I have a question for you for Wed. night May 3rd. I thought I’d describe it for you and you can help me narrow down what exactly my question is other than what should we do?? 7 yr old son, Shawn6 yr old daughter, Tess13 yr old Katie who is my husband’s daughter from his previous marriage who spends about 40% of her time here.

Shawn is a great kid, teacher loves him, basically angelic at school and overall pretty easy except in this one area. He’s really not so nice, sometimes downright mean, to Tess. This has been present at some degree or another since she was born but it seems to be escalating in the past few months. He puts her down, hits her as he’s walking by, mimics her after she speaks, tries to make sure she doesn’t get any credit for anything, appears irritated and bothered when she’s around, etc.

He acts as if he’s completely threatened and/or annoyed by herWe think the contributing factors areTess is really outgoing, talkative, affectionate, demanding of my time and in his eyes is probably a barrier between he and I.

Both of them idolize Katie and look forward to any time they can spend with her. Tess and Katie share a room, dress a like do all the girlie hair, play with make-up, etc. and I think he feels left out and sees Tess as a barrier between he and Katie also.<

I’ve tried making weekly “dates” with Shawn to create more alone time. The behavior seems to ebb and flow with Katie’s visits being the main common denominator but even when she’s not here it’s pretty bad. When he’s really acting out he almost seems drunk and unable to stop himself.


Dr. Ann Corwin, The Parenting Doctor Advice

This is a form of sibling rivalry. All kids experience this to some degree, but how they learn to deal with the emotion of “envy” is the key to dealing with this problem.
So emotional education is critical to helping kids build healthy relationships with their siblings. You mentioned you have been trying to spend more time with Shawn alone with you and that shows that your instincts about what needs to be done are good. But, even more importantly, you need to have Shawn spend some ‘alone’ time with Tess.

Help him develop a relationship with her that is unique and therefore not in competition with his sister. That is just one place to start in my opinion. Would be happy to talk about this issue when I come in more detail, if you would like?

See you tomorrow night, Ann