How can I stop jealousy between my grandchildren?

A problem shared by mother-of-four and GP Clare Bailey: How can I stop jealousy between my grandchildren?

  • An anonymous woman said her daughter had her second child six months ago
  • She asked for advice on how to stop her three-year-old granddaughter’s jealousy
  • Clare Bailey gave advice including to give each child undivided attention daily 

Q My daughter had her second child six months ago and her eldest daughter, who’s just turned three, is still overcome with jealousy. My daughter says sometimes my granddaughter hits or pinches the baby. She is at a loss as to how to respond.

Wanting to teach her child that it’s wrong to strike out like that — and I suspect as a result of motherly defensiveness — my daughter shouts and sometimes sends her to her room. How should she handle this?

A Sibling rivalry is entirely normal and even beneficial in small doses. It’s through minor power struggles that brothers and sisters learn how to negotiate, be reasonable and develop resilience.

An anonymous woman, who lives in the UK, asked Clare Bailey for advice on how to stop jealousy between her grandchildren (file image)

Battles over whose turn it is to choose what’s on TV; seeing how close they can sit together without initiating a ‘sofa war’; learning to move beyond ‘It’s all mine!’ and ‘Me first!’ is a challenge.

At the moment, your granddaughter is simply competing for affection and attention. The good news is that this process can help develop your child’s emotional intelligence and social skills.

But do these rivalries go on to cause problems later? A study in the Journal of Paediatrics of 3,500 12-year-olds found those who were regularly bullied by siblings were twice as likely to become clinically depressed or harm themselves as young adults.  

Clare Bailey (pictured) told the reader to try giving each child undivided attention for ten minutes a day to make them feel valued 

This led experts to recommend that parents may need to intervene to prevent things getting out of hand. So how can you reduce sibling rivalry?

  • Try giving each child undivided attention for ten minutes a day: play, chat together, follow their interests. This makes them feel valued, so there is less need to compete. Look for opportunities to praise your granddaughter when she is being gentle.
  • Research shows that chatting about the baby’s feelings and what the baby needs improves the relationship. So by saying things like, ‘The baby is hungry and needs a feed’ or ‘He’s crying because he is tired’ encourages the older child to understand the baby’s wants.

Over a 14-month period the children studied were showing twice as many friendly approaches to the younger sibling, and vice versa.

  • Stay calm. Sometimes hurting a sibling can be a bid for attention. So don’t get agitated or give a lecture as they won’t hear it — you may be inadvertently feeding the problem by giving the three-year-old lots of emotionally rich attention.
  • Remember that this phase should pass. With older children, try to let them work it out together, unless there is a power imbalance, recurring issues or it is getting too aggressive.
  • After the event, be clear about what’s not acceptable: ‘Ah! I’m sorry he broke your toy. I can see why you are cross, but it’s not OK to hit him’.
  • For older children, don’t take sides. Without blame, listen to their stories, acknowledge their feelings and ask them to come up with solutions together. If needed, give consequences for both so they are in the same boat, such as turning off the TV if they can’t agree. Expect to treat your kids fairly, but not equally, as their needs are different.

Walk your way to a younger brain

Clare said you don’t have to get on a treadmill or even break a sweat to have great cardiovascular fitness (file image)

Research by the American Academy of Neurology showed that those with the greatest cardiovascular fitness were 33 per cent less likely to develop dementia.

And, best of all, you don’t have to get on a treadmill or even break a sweat to benefit. For the middle-aged and older, simply walking briskly most days may be enough to help stave off Alzheimer’s. That means walking for less than half an hour a day.

You can write to Clare at [email protected] or Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT.

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