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Sibling rivalry disorder...please hold my hand a bit. Weary...

(16 Posts)
FamousFiveForever Fri 31-May-13 22:59:03

We have 3 daughters. My eldest and middle one are 23 months apart.

From the day we came home from hospital DD1 has loathed DD2. She smacked her in the face when she was 3 weeks old. She used to say: put the baby sleeping, put her back.

My eldest takes every toy away from her middl sister, prompting tat one to hit her or scratch as she's not such an outward, great talker. She's very sweet and kind, just more quiet.

My eldest is lovely on her on and so lovely with my youngest 1.5 year old, she says she has to 'protect' her youngest sister from the naughty middle one. She often said that DD2 was not her sister but DD3 is. sad

A few days ago DD1 turned the picture of DD2 around, so you could only see the back of the photograph, then she placed her own picture right next to DD3. I was so shocked and upset, I still am.

My middle one is now cottoning on to this feeling towards her. On her on volition, without knowing what has happened she took her own picture and tht of DD3 away and placed them next to each other on another window sill, away from my DD1's photo.

We have tried everything bar a psychologist. We have each spent individual time with each child, we do not pit them against each other.

My eldest shows a lot of signs of Sibling Rivalry Disorder: she wants o be carried, wants to sit in the double buggy if my middle one is walking, she wants a baby bottle of milk in bed, she refuses to dress herself (though this has gotten better in the last 2 weeks). I am at a loss as to what to do.

Any ideas?

FamousFiveForever Fri 31-May-13 23:02:49

Please don't say This too shall pass.

It's been more or less ongoing for 2.5 years now and I am tired of it. It messes with the atmosphere in our family. I am so sad things are where they are.

I spend quiet time with my eldest while the others sleep, I bake or cook with her, she brings milk up for her younger sisters, I cherish her but no amount of personal attention makes it go away. It diminishes the jealousy, but it's always simmering close to the surface. It's either that or indifference, they play together very rarely only.

survivingthechildren Tue 04-Jun-13 09:47:14

Oh no. That does sound hard!

I don't know that I have any ground breaking advice for you, but I didn't want you to go unanswered!

Maybe try to focus on it less. Don't let DD1 see that it upsets you, because it could well be an attention thing, if she sees that she's getting a reaction for this type of behaviour.

Just keep reinforcing the idea that you'll all a family together. Be lavish in your praise when you see them acting nicely towards each other, regardless of how insignificant it is. What about a marble jar/reward chart specifically for treating each other nicely? The reward can be something they can do together, i.e. going to a movie with mummy/daddy. Don't take marbles away for bad behaviour, just reward the good.

My DC (DS1 (15), DS2 (13), DS (11), DS4 (6), and DD (5)) blow hot and cold with each other all the time. I've taken a hard line with sibling relationships since the beginning, but it doesn't mean they don't fight!

Good luck famous!

FamousFiveForever Tue 04-Jun-13 11:17:38

Thank you survivingthechildren, I haven't thought about doing reward charts. In our house if one is nasty to the other they have to do a task/chore for them such as make the bed, tidy up toys...etc but I have started to think that this breeds more resentment towards the injured party rather than correct the behaviour.

It's sometimes so difficult, isn't it? I will try and ignore it though I have stressed the fact that we are all one family and we exclude NO ONE.

I see red though when my eldest wants to be dressed, down to the velcro shoes and panties. I start to fume and have exploded at her more than once over this issue. I have my hands full loading up the car, dealing with the youngest and then she just sits there expecting to be spoonfed.

We have an au pair but she then refuses to be dressed by her saying Mummy has to do it. It's clearly an attention thing. I just cannot carve myself up, I have the other two. I try and spend time with my eldest when the others are asleep but even if I do she wants more, more more and her needs seem neverending and then I feel such a failure that I tried so hard and it wasn't enough.


survivingthechildren Tue 04-Jun-13 12:12:00

Oh, do I every sympathise! How old are your DD1 and DD2? My DD was horrible with dressing herself! What really helped us was setting out her clothes the night before, and having her help to choose. We made a bid deal of what a big girl she was, how helpful she was being, etc. Or maybe getting dressed with mummy? It would work with DD occasionally to get dressed along side me, "Ooh look DD! Aren't you a big girl, just like mummy!"

Of course we did have a number of morning tantrums, but I was firm, saying she had to speak to me in a big girl voice and not cry. We did have to leave the house with her in her knickers and vest once. She went into Kindy like that, where one of the lovely teachers dealt with her, and I cried in the car!

Can you make it into a game? I could get DS4 to do practically anything by making it into a race!

Don't be so hard on yourself. I know it is so hard to deal with the demands of a small child, particularly when there is more than one of them!

FamousFiveForever Wed 05-Jun-13 06:28:41

Thank you so much survivingthechildren, you sound so kind and warm. I am miles off from that at times, I'm so stuck in that physical bit of their education, I sometimes feel my patience and nerves can't cope with yet another demand, especially from my eldest who can do so much herself but chooses not to.

I hadn't thought about the big girl voice, I think that is a lovely way to stop the strops and whining. It sounds so much better than just telling her to stop whining.

Dressing with me is certainly an option, I think she will like this very much.

I know she is still so young herself. x

lougle Wed 05-Jun-13 07:39:45

You're expecting her to be a big sister when she's very young herself. It's not her fault that you had 3 children close together.

I have 3 girls with 20 months between each. They are sometimes very unkind to each other and vie for attention - they are very young and it's natural.

FamousFiveForever Wed 05-Jun-13 21:45:39

Lougle, i hear what you are saying but it's more than just being young. She can dress herself within minutes if she is keen on going somewhere, she is lovely and happy alone but often says she doesn't consider her middle sister family. She plays nicely with her youngest sister. Kids fight, that's fine. Siblings can annoy, I understand that. The continuous anger and jealousy and nastiness towards her middle sister upsets me greatly though. And DD1's dawdling drives me crazy...because I know she can do things, she just doesn't want to do it. And she doesn't want the au pair to do it either, just me.

The two year younger sister dresses herself, doesn't talk back constantly or wants every single toy for herself. No problems with my youngest either.

NicknameIncomplete Wed 05-Jun-13 21:56:58

Have you asked her why she does these things & why she treats her sister the way she does?

FamousFiveForever Thu 06-Jun-13 21:32:40

Yes, she says she "can't do it" and I respond by saying put the clothes on which you can and let me know if you have problems with the rest. (Buttons in the back, tights, etc) She doesn't even attempt to put things on by herself, unless she is excited to go somewhere. She will sometimes balk at her velcro sneakers. Sigh...

She has gotten better in the last 2 weeks but still... She is also a bit of a dreamer. I tell her to get ready and she sits there playing with lego. I do not shout at her then, I kneel down and coax her to focus on me and the task at hand ( getting dressed). After all, she is only little. I only despair when she refuses to even pull her ants up, much like a donkey that refuses to cross a bridge.

She says DD2 is naughty and she has to protect DD3 from her. She says DD2 is not her sister because she scratches her/hits her and takes her toys away.

The pattern s always the same: DD2 sees a toy that's lying around, she grabs it, then DD1 snatches it away from her at all cost. DD2 is physically strong but not a good talker. She then attempts to get the item back and pulls DD1s hair or pinches her, etc. I then wade in and both cry. The end.

A drama in five acts, always, always the same issue.

neolara Thu 06-Jun-13 21:43:25

Can I recommend this book, Playful Parenting. It's written by a play therapist and shows parents how to use play to get their young kids to work through their feelings. It's really good. Very practical. Very kind. I'm sure you'd see an improvement if you followed some of the advice. I use the strategies a lot for all of my kids (8, 6 and 3) and it hasn't failed yet. In fact, the effect has usually been quite remarkable.

Zipitydooda Thu 06-Jun-13 22:52:49

It must be very hard and distressing for you. Possibly she can see that and it's attention seeking, my DCs seem to seek out negative attention even though I think I do give them each plenty of individual attention. It drives me mad.

My eldest DS1 knows all the buttons to press to really wind up and upset DS2. They both ADORE DS3.

You haven't said how old they all are and that probably makes a difference as to strategies. Mine have improved now that DS1 and 2 are able to play in depth imaginative role play games together (age 8 and 5).

When DS1 was younger and wouldn't get dressed even though he could (DS2 was a baby) my DH struck on a great strategy which was the 'getting dressed race'; he laid out all DS1 clothes on the floor in our bedroom in order of dressing e.g. Pants first then vest, then too, trousers, socks and said 'ready, steady, go!' And DS1 would race to get dressed and we'd all cheer at the end. It could work for you??

I also have a marble jar at home and DS1 and 2 had to agree on a treat outing once the jar is filled with marbles. They get marbles for doing nice things together and being nice to each other. It works as long as I remember to keep reinforcing and looking out for opportunities to give them marbles.

There is an easy to read and helpful book called 'siblings without rivalry'; if only I could remember all the strategies in the book!

I know you don't want to hear this but..... I hated my younger sister (18 months difference) from the moment she was born. I couldn't stand her, I always used to get her into trouble and she would usually take the blame as she was so desperate for me to like her. I feel really awful about it now but there were psychological reasons for my hating her so I am not inherently an awful person. Anyway, we started to get on better when she was about 15! and we are very close now .....

NicknameIncomplete Fri 07-Jun-13 21:25:35

ZIPITYDOODA i like your suggestions. My dd is very competitive so she would like the racing.

OP What happens if u dont get her dressed? Have you thought about doing what supernanny says & take her out in her pjs. If shes at school i dont think this would please your dd & she might start getting ready.

They do marble treats at my dd school and the children love filling up the jar and getting treats.

FamousFiveForever Sun 09-Jun-13 12:34:54

Thank you neolara, I have ordered the book to my kindle. It sounds very good and I think it may prove to be a saviour for all three little ones. I am definitely in need of playfulness!!

Thank you zipitydooda, I appreciate your honesty when you write about your own childhood memories. No, I don't think badly of you at all, I think it is lovely you have overcome your feelings for your sister. May I ask how your siter remembers your childhood? Do you remember what your mum was like, how she was with you when you behaved in a jealous way with your sister? I am worrying my eldest will be traumatized by constantly being chastized for being aggressive and cruel to her middle sister. I also orry, that my middle one will feel pushed away and hated by her elder sister.

Nickname incomplete: no, never tried that. She will scream the house down, all the way to the drive if I have to carry her. I don't think my nerves can cope with it. smile

I can update: the dressing has gotten better since Thursday, I'm not sure why but on the consecutive days DD1 has come down fully dressed in what she likes to wear (vest, pants, dress or trousers and shirt), I have been so impressed I have celebrated yesterday evening taking ll 3 to McD and making a big song and dance about it. So happy!!!

NellyTheElephant Tue 11-Jun-13 14:02:06

I'm not sure that I have any particularly constructive advice, but I can say that your post could have been from me a few years back. I have 24 months between my DDs (birthdays a few days apart) and 26 months between DD2 and DS. Like your DD1 my DD1 LOATHED DD2 on sight and was relentlessly jealous and angry towards her, when she was a tiny baby she would bite her or pretend to bend down and kiss her and actually pinch and hit her. Once DD2 started toddling she would push her over. Every toy was taken, simply because DD2 wanted it. Her jealousy was beyond bearing and made life almost impossible when we were all together. On her own DD1 was a dream. The opposite happened with DS - DD1 adored him from day one and couldn't have been more perfect and lovely towards him, showering him with love and smiles whilst freezing DD2 out and continuing to torture her. I did my best to carry on regardless and ignore it (not easy). I don't really know what happened. They are now 8, 6 and 4. Out of nowhere about 18 months or so ago DD1 and DD2 suddenly became friends.

Bizarrely I think there was a certain amount down to being at school. When DD2 started school I think DD1 made an effort to look out for her. DD2 was little and lost in the playground and DD1 would be there. I didn't even realise for a while as DD1 continued to be utterly beastly to her at home. DD2 would sob saying to me 'but DD1 was so nice to me all day today at school and now she doesn't like me again'. I nearly fell off my chair when her form teacher told me how lovely it was to see DD1 acting so beautifully towards her little sister and how kind and protective she was. It became clear to me (which I had probably already known) that it was her insane jealousy relating to ME that was the problem. I tried harder and harder to ignore the difficulty at home although her behaviour towards DD2 still used to make me boil with rage inside at times. I wasn't there at school of course, which maybe gave DD1 the space she needed.

Slowly slowly things began to improve at home too. DD1 and DD2 now adore each other. They still fight like cat and dog at times but basically they are great, (although they are still best when not fighting for my attention). I think their favourite time of day together is during the time they are allowed to read after bed time when I am down stairs, they will nearly always be in bed together looking at books and giggling until I split them up for lights out.

Not everything is great though.... DD1 is now pretty beastly to (the formerly beloved) DS instead, clearly she can't get on with both siblings at once!

So don't give up. Things do change. All I can suggest is counter intuitive. Ignore as much of your DD1s bad behaviour as possible. When she is being particularly unpleasant and stroppy scoop her up in a hug and say - you are funny, I do love you you know! It is bound to be jealously related and the only way to beat that is to try to overcompensate and get her to let go of the jealousy

FamousFiveForever Tue 11-Jun-13 20:14:52

Dear Nelly, thank you, thank ou for posting this. I am so glad someone elses situation is the exact mirror of mine. Only I have not always reacted so calmly. I have smacked and shouted and refereed and this has clearly not been the correct way to deal with it at all. I have changed my behaviour and behaved more indifferent and separated them more often, carving out more individual time with each of them. You are right, their fighting seems to be related to attention from me. Much like two jousting knights in front of the king.

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