Feb 15, 2015

Sibling Rivalry

Category: Children
Posted By: Nicole

Question: When my 5 year old daughter draws family portraits she never includes my 3 year old son in the picture.  He often asks her why he isn't in the picture and she always responds that he hasn't been born yet.  Occasionally she will draw me with a big tummy and draw a little picture of him in my tummy.  The two of them get along very well together and play happily together all the time.  Should I be concerned about this?  Could it be a jealousy thing?  Thanks.


Answer: Dear Nicole, Thank you for your question.  It is a really good one.  The plain fact is… all children experience sibling rivalry and jealousy.

The arrival of a sibling brings such a monumental change in a young child’s life.  Not least the fact that they have previously enjoyed the exclusive adoration of both parents.  Family life has been geared to the needs of just one child.  Not to mention that a young child is acutely aware of their own vulnerability and dependence on their parents.  Added to this children often feel fierce and passionate feelings towards their parents.

Imagine then that the person on whom you depend and are fiercely passionate about, suddenly adores someone else just as much as you.  And to make it worse this person needs even more attention than you do and the whole of family life is turned upside down to manage the needs of a new baby.

This situation continues throughout childhood and while there are often, almost always, strong positives in sibling relationships, it does not cancel out the underlying, often unconscious rivalry and resentments.  If these are coming out in your daughter’s art then it would be a good idea to talk to her about her feelings and make it clear that whatever she feels is acceptable and perfectly normal.  She can have these feelings and you can perhaps reassure her of your feelings towards her, but also help her understand her little brother’s position and that he might feel hurt or upset by her drawings.

If you wanted to do some reading on sibling rivaly then there is a lovely book:

‘Understanding Sibling Rivalry: The Brazelton Way’ by T Berry Brazelton and Joshua Sparrow

Best wishes


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