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Is This Jealous Behaviour Normal In A Child?

Question:

My 6year old sister in law is extremely jealous of my relationship with her brother. She does not want to see me anywhere near him and wants to sit between us, sleep between us, and do anything to keep us separate. Even if my husband so much as talks to me she will be jealous and start complaining or throw tantrums. She has both parents.

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Answer:

While the jealously that your six year old sister-in-law is demonstrating is normal it is not permissable to allow it to continue. However, it is her parents who need to do the educating with regard to this problem. You and your husband need to sit with his parents without the little girl present, and talk about helpful strategies to stop this behavior.

All family relationships are marked by boundaries. Boundaries and their enforcement teach children the kinds and types of behaviors that are and are not correct, whether they are at home or elsewhere. While she has a right to her jealousy and no one can or should try to take her feelings away from her, she does not have a right to act on them. By the way, she may or may not be aware that she is jealous. That makes no difference. Rules need to be established but with the help and enforcement of the parents and your husband:

1. She is not allowed to sit between the two of you. You are husband and wife and she does not belong there.

2. I do not know where you and your husband live but, assuming that you are living in your husband’s household, she is never, ever allowed in your bed. The bed you and your husband share is a sacred place.

3. She can be helped to understand that when she grows up and has a husband, the same rules will apply to any children who might be around.

4. She needs to understand that she has not lost her brother but that things are different now because he is married and you, his wife, can be her friend.

5. When the parents see these things happen they must intervene to remind her.

6. You and your husband must gently but firmly and together help in the enforcement of these rules.

Best of Luck

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