Written by Doctor G

Preschooler Angry About New Baby Sibling

My almost four year old daughter has not yet adjusted to her 8 month old sister and she is increasingly defiant to me and calls me mean and says I am a bad mommy. I try as hard as I can but it is NEVER enough for her. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Anonymous, in NJ

Let me make a few clarifications to (I hope) make this phase of her development a little easier on you.

First off, I am hoping that your daughter has not convinced you that you are a bad mommy! Four year olds state many things as “true” that aren’t.  Broccoli is not poisonous, she does need a bath at least once a week, and she will not die without Dora, just to name a few.

Secondly, she is adjusting to her 8 month old sister. This process of adjustment is long and can be very bumpy, but she isn’t stuck, she is just working through her many feelings about this big change that she did not choose.

Most children take four to six months to internalize a change in the family. That means that she has only really believed that this baby is here to stay for a few months. Before then there was still the possibility (in her mind) that things would go back to “normal.”

Anger is a natural reaction for your older daughter! That does not mean that a)You made a mistake having another child or b)That she gets to take that anger out on you.

I’m sure that you had a vision of the relationship that your children would have with each other. That relationship will take years to develop and will have ups and downs. There are reasons kids don’t remember the first couple of years of life, your baby will not remember this! Parents cannot dictate how much our children like each other, but we can dictate how they treat each other.

You also get to dictate how she can treat you! Your daughter needs to learn (from you) ways to express her frustration or jealousy or anger that are acceptable. Defiance, calling you names and insulting you are not acceptable options! Don’t allow your daughter to bully you, especially if you don’t want her to bully her younger sister later.

Lastly, I want to encourage you to stop waiting for a sign that you are “enough” from your preschooler. Kids this age live a very existential existence. She feels however she feels right this second. You are absolutely enough for her even while you are helping the baby, but she is unlikely to give you that validation.

Many parents feel insecure when our children go through a tough phase. Talk to adults you trust, who know you well, for honest answers and encouragement.


Readers, how have you built up your parenting self-esteem when your kids tell you you’re doing a terrible job?



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