I have 6-year-old boy/girl twins. My son is very jealous of his sister, which makes him act very cruelly towards her. He tries to stop her from doing what she likes by taking things from her and making her cry. He is lazy and bored all the time, and now he is beginning to tell me lies. He seems angry and selfish and just doesn't care or have respect for his sister or me. What can I do to make him care and respect us? I am afraid of what he will be like as a teenager and adult if this does not stop.
Dear Single Mom,
There's something about your email that makes me wonder if maybe he has reason to be jealous of his sister... or angry at you. He might be jealous of her if he perceives that she gets more or your attention than he does. He might be angry with you if he thinks you love her more...
To describe a 6-year-old as lazy and bored "all the time".....well, honestly, it's hard for me to imagine that as a description of a any 6-year-old. So here's what I'm wondering: Without realizing it, do you play favorites? Is it possible you prefer the way your daughter plays? Is it possible you are more comfortable with her interactions than with your son's? If I'm hitting a raw nerve, then it's also possible that he engages in these behaviors because he's trying to get your attention.
My suggestion is that you make a point to have time alone with each child, every day, even if it's just 5 minutes. Label it as "Mom & Jane's time" and "Mom & Joe's time." Make it clear this is not a time when the cell phone or the computer or ....THE TWIN can interrupt. Let each child choose what the activity will be: do they want to cuddle and read a book, play a board game, or walk around the block? I'm not talking about anything fancy here, it's just a way for each child to have undivided attention from mom. Siblings and especially twins can feel they have to compete for mom's attention. In a single-parent family, that need for your attention can be exacerbated. I'm guessing if he sees he has equal access to you, his need to be "cruel" to his sister and/or to you will disappear.
I also urge you not to label his behaviors toward his sister as mean or cruel; that can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Instead, when you see the behaviors, quickly intervene and separate. Tell him, "You can't play if you pull/hit/shout." Set a clear limit with a clear consequence. Once you separate them, ask him, "Do you want to try to play without pulling/hitting/shouting? When you're ready to play nicely, you can try again." That way, he knows in no uncertain terms what behaviors are OK and what ones are not.
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