Hello Nao Mih,
My name is Cate. My 3-year-old daughter has this tendency of headbutting her 5-year-old brother, a behavior that culminates in a minute-long fight. I find this behavior of my little daughter dominating her brother quite odd. I’d love for my son to show the leadership desired of a firstborn and a male, but I’m a little afraid that he may grow up to be intimidated and timid and maybe vulnerable to the world. It is normal. What can I do to change things?
Conflicts among siblings are normal. They disagree and bicker over the television programs—what to watch and when to watch ’cause everyone has a favorite television program—they jockey for the front seat of the car, they argue over which food or snacks to take, and they argue over who takes the bigger share.
It’s normal and a fact of life, especially when you have more than one kid. But sometimes, these disagreements can go too far. When normal sibling conflict turns into physical fights, aggressive behavior, and/or name-calling, it isn’t normal anymore and needs to be addressed.
If your little girl is getting aggressive and engaging in a physical fight with her brother, you need to intervene immediately. Don’t turn a blind eye on this matter. Tell them that aggressive behavior will not be tolerated. Teach them how to relate well with each other in healthy ways. They’re still kids, and they’re still learning every day, so, as a parent, correct what needs to be corrected earlier. Teach your kids to respect one another, even when they disagree. When you do so, you’re giving them the opportunity to practice healthy relationship skills in a safe environment around the people who love them unconditionally.
If your little girl is always headbutting her older brother, hold her responsible. It’s essential that your daughter knows that the choice to bully is hers, regardless of the reason behind it.
Emphasize that headbutting causes pain to her brother and encourage her to take responsibility for her action. Ensure that she doesn’t repeat her mistakes again.
Implement appropriate consequences; for instance, she should apologize, be caned, or maybe lose a privilege if she continues with the behavior. But the key point is to do something to ensure that she understands that headbutting her big brother is unacceptable.
Sometimes, parents contribute to this behavior. Some parents tend to praise one kid more than the other. They even go to the extent of labeling and categorizing their children.
Every child deserves recognition, love, and acceptance, and we should avoid comparisons at all costs. The moment your child thinks that he or she is loved and praised less, they tend to take it out on the “favorite” one. Are you doing this? If you are, then learn to point out the good characteristics in both of them so they feel equally loved.
Model respect by acting supportively toward one another. Teach your kids the importance of having a healthy relationship and encourage your little girl to take the step of being a good friend to her elder brother.
Also, instill empathy in your two kids. They’ll both learn that headbutting hurts and work on being nicer to each other. Monitor their behavior from time to time and correct bullying and unkind behaviors immediately.
Remember, when one of your kids bullies the other, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad parent. Kids are learning what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Be firm and consistent. Your kids will get through this and come out just fine and stronger.
Naomi Makassi from Kitale, Trans Nzoia County, is a graduate of Rongo University who finds passion in helping young adults build successful relationships through writing.