When our children argue, there’s the chance our response can actually make their rivalry worse. Here are a few things Dr. Pamela Sorensen recommends parents not say to their children:

“You’re baby brother’s little mommy.” Sorensen said that when older children become pseudoparents, they may jump into the role at first, but in the long run, it doesn’t resolve the jealousy. “This is completely different than genuinely getting your parent’s attention and love just for who you are,” Sorensen said. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t assuage resentments a bit by letting an older sibling have the satisfaction of being able to do new, big-kid things, like stay up a little later than baby.”

“You have nothing to be jealous of.” When your child shouts, “You like him best,” the best response is a hug and a statement like, “What makes you say that?” Sorensen said, “Get her to acknowledge her feelings. Does she mean because you hold baby brother while he’s nursing or you laugh at his jokes?

When you tell her she has nothing to be jealous of, you leave her stranded with these painful feelings. A better response is for her to learn more about what she feels.”

“I’ll buy you lots of presents,” or “We’ll go on outings together.” While there’s nothing wrong with a gift or special time together, overindulging your child as if this will coerce him out of his jealous feelings only serves to emphasize for him that he has something to be jealous about, Sorensen said. “It also encourages him to feel his jealousy is so frightening that it has to be evaded. It’s better if he can talk about it.”

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