Father: “My daughter, who is almost 9 years old, does not wish her 6-year-old brother anything. It has been that way since his birth. When my wife breastfed him, my daughter would break things out of anger. When it’s his birthday, she hates the whole day.
“We do things with her alone. My wife goes into town with her and one of us goes horseback riding every Saturday.
“When she feels she’s not getting enough, she’s angry. She is a girl who easily feels shortchanged. When my son finds a cookie in the cookie jar, he breaks it in half and gives her half, she eats it alone. And if there are two, too. With a party like Sinterklaas, you should always be careful that he doesn’t get just a little more, because then the turnips are done. She says, “You like him more than me,” but that’s really not the case.
“They don’t recognize her behavior at school. She listens well, is sweet, gets good results.”
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Recognition of hurt
Marga Akkerman: “It starts with talking. The transition from an only child to being an eldest child is a big one. Your daughter’s behavior sounds like a cry for recognition of the hurt she inflicted in the first weeks after her brother’s arrival. It is important to still give that recognition. ‘How hard it must have been for you when your brother was born and you noticed that he was getting all the attention. Did you then get the idea that you no longer counted for mom and dad? Maybe you still think so? You may have thought: I wish he had never been born? We understand that well. We thought too easily that you would also be happy with a little brother. Can you believe we love you as much as when you were the only one? Because it really is.’
“Give your daughter the choice of an activity she could do with you: ‘What would you most like to do with Mom and Dad so we can make it up a bit?’ Such an activity can be a rite of passage to a new phase as the oldest child.”
Liesbeth Groenhuijsen: “After the understanding recognition comes the upbringing. Understanding your child’s feelings needn’t get in the way of setting boundaries for her unacceptable behavior. It is also part of education to teach children to deal with difficult feelings. Your daughter is now ruining fun times for herself and others, that has to stop.
“Practice with your daughter how to keep her mouth shut when she gets jealous. Praise her lavishly when she succeeds, and use small sanctions if she doesn’t stop. For example, if she makes an unkind comment, she should also say something nice. Practice food and sharing with your daughter. Will she be able to grab something to give her brother something too? Does she see how happy you all are? Discuss with her that someone else’s happiness doesn’t have to come at the expense of hers. Because that’s not the case the other way around, is it? If she’s happy herself, doesn’t that make anyone else sad?
“Control and empathy are skills you want to instill in children. Start practicing at easy moments. Not on birthdays and holidays.”