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Tantrums are a sign of sibling rivalry

Giving in to a child’s tantrums will only make things worse.


My daughter is a brilliant and loving mother. She had her third daughter in February. Since then the middle daughter, aged 3, has demonstrated extremely bad behaviour, rampant and frequent tantrums, which she did not demonstrate before. We have all been hoping this behaviour would go away by being sympathetic and loving towards her, but if anything the behaviour is worsening, impacting on everyone in the family, and in particular traumatising my daughter. She cannot take the child anywhere (eg supermarket) because the daughter behaves so badly. Consulting a child psychologist is not an option because of the cost. Please can you give some advice on how to obtain assistance to solve this problem?


Your middle granddaughter is exhibiting extreme sibling rivalry. She is jealous of the baby, especially of the time and attention she requires. Firstly, try not to give in to the demands the middle child makes. If you do try to placate her by meeting her demands she will only increase them because tantrums have worked. The best response to a temper tantrum is to turn on your heel and walk out of the room (as long as she is safe).

Involve the 3-year-old in the care of the baby. For example, “Baby has wet her nappy. Could you get a clean one so we can change her?” Or “Baby is hungry. Please bring her bottle.”

If these approaches do not work, consult your General Practitioner. In addition to their advice, request a Mental Health Care Plan including referral to a child psychologist. The Plan provides Medicare rebates for up to ten sessions a year, making psychology services far more affordable.

As an alternative the GP may refer you to a paediatrician with a good reputation for handling behaviour problems, but you will have to pay a gap for the specialist consultation.

All families with more than one child will encounter sibling rivalry to some degree.

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