Let the sibling rivalry play out

Let the sibling rivalry play out
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First Published: Fri, Nov 27 2009. 10 29 PM IST

Survival 101: Don’t overcompensate one child at the cost of the other
Survival 101: Don’t overcompensate one child at the cost of the other
Updated: Fri, Nov 27 2009. 10 29 PM IST
My son is 8 and my daughter 2. From the time my daughter was born, I was particular that my son should not feel neglected. So I spend lots of time with him—to the extent that my in-laws say I treat my daughter like a foundling. Yet at a recent PTA meeting, his Hindi teacher said there’s been a drastic change in his behaviour: He bullies other children, is disruptive and overconfident in class. I am familiar with both streaks of behaviour: He does bully his sister, and he is overconfident. I can’t see where I am going wrong in his upbringing.
You could be doing nothing wrong really; children go through phases of self-assertion—and the easiest form of self-assertion is to become loud and brash! However, having said that, perhaps you have been overcompensating for the coming of the new child far too much? To the point of appearing apologetic about the presence of a second child. Children pick up on that, and if you’ve been walking on eggshells around him, he may be misbehaving because he can see that he is expected to act up.
Survival 101: Don’t overcompensate one child at the cost of the other
And if this is the case, at some level you may be reinforcing his behaviour each time you scold him for bullying his sister. In a way, it becomes his identity—“I bully my sister”—and it’s also the perfect way for him to drag your attention away from the younger one and on to himself. Along with the other adults in the house, you should reprimand him only if he is physically endangering his sister. Once he sees that his actions have lost their charge with you, he may lose interest in behaving that way.
It’s possible that though you’re doing so much to ensure he doesn’t feel neglected, he just hasn’t had a chance to process his feelings of resentment and insecurity once the baby came into the picture. He needs to work it out—in a few harmless ways, and not be stopped each time. Moreover, your (quite natural) feeling of “I’ve done so much to make this easy on him, and yet he’s misbehaving” is also possibly getting communicated to him. So he has the additional burden of good behaviour that you feel he owes you. Taking all this out on unrelated people in school might be one of his ways of dealing with it all. So perhaps you do need to re-examine your strategy of “appeasement”. You just need to be more natural, and let him deal with the pain of sibling rivalry.
The overconfident, studies-related behaviour is possibly tied in too—a kind of defiant, “I’m fine exactly as I am” stand. I would suggest you let that one go. Once he’s allowed to express some amount of his resentment, he will not feel “managed”.
Send your queries to Gouri at learningcurve@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Nov 27 2009. 10 29 PM IST