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My nephew (Alex) is turning 4 in one week, and his little brother (Ben) is 10 months old. When Ben was born, Alex loved him to death and would do anything to help us with him, bringing him toys and binkies and blankets and stuff.

But now that Ben has learned how to crawl and can get around better, he (of course) loves to play with his older brother's toys. However, when Ben gets ahold of any toy, Alex comes storming over and yanks it out of his hands.

We are trying to teach Alex that it is not nice to steal toys from Ben, since he is little and doesn't understand. We also want to help Alex understand that if he doesn't want Ben to play with his toys, he should not leave them where Ben can reach them.

However it has moved on from just not sharing his own toys. Whenever Ben does anything, Alex has to try to stop him or take things away from him. Even if Ben is playing with a baby toy that Alex hates, just the fact that Ben has it makes Alex want to take it back.

We don't really understand his behavior and how to correct it. We have considered jealousy issues and try not to force Alex to share his toys and give Alex plenty of special time.

Has anyone else experienced this? Do you have any tips on how to get them to play nicely together?

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finding the same problem with my kids (same ages). no great solutions yet. hope someone has awesome answers –  Jessica Brown Jul 4 at 0:25
    
Same here. Still working on a solution. Seems to be a universal issue. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 4 at 14:16

3 Answers 3

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In my opinion this is very common behavior. He probably wants to both be part of what B does, and maybe to retaliate. Our 3 year old does this quite common to his little brother, 13 months old. He still love his little brother, I and I bet A loves B a lot still.

Does A share well with kids his own age? At 4, he is probably used to having some 'discussion' - I want this toy, you can't have it, etc. A baby can't do this, so my take is that he takes that as implicit consent. Crying is not the same as someone saying no.

What I suggest, is to keep correcting. Every time he does it, tell him he can't take his baby brother's toy. If he wants to play with it, he has to find another toy, give it to the baby and see if he want to trade.

I would also suggest asking him why he wants a specific toy. Does he not want his brother to play with it, or does he want to play with his brother? Our oldest has a hard time understanding they can't play together. Try to find something they can do together - rolling balls is a great activity.

I personally think it is an age thing, and you just have to keep explaining the proper behavior. Toddlers brains are so immature, and they have a really hard time understanding other people have feelings and desire. Especially a baby, who have no real verbal way of expressing himself - and I know from our son that he has been taught so often that you have to use your words - so now you have a baby which doesn't, so what are the rules for that?

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Seems there is no magical solution to this. Haha but thank you for the tips! We'll just keep working on it –  Bobo Jul 14 at 23:56

This is pretty normal for siblings, and there are a lot of factors in play. The toy somebody plays with always seems more interesting. There is a book Siblings without Rivalry which discusses it in details. I would suggest to do the following:

  1. Establish ownership. Each kid does not have to share his toy (of course, they can be asked, but don't insist). If Alex does not want his brother to play with his toy he should play with it somewhere out of site. if he does not want to play with it out of site, then the kids have to resolve the conflict themselves or you take it from them. When Alex wants to play with Ben's toys remind him that Ben does not play with Alex's toys and suggest Alex to figure out how to exchange it for something else.
  2. If there is a conflict because of shared toy, first let them resolve themselves. If they can't, take it away.
  3. If this is a baby toy, but it used to be Alex's toy, it is still Alex's toy in his mind most likely. So keep it in mind.
  4. Let the kids to workout conflicts themselves as much as possible.
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I agree with letting kids try to resolve conflicts themselves, except that in my case I am talking about a ten month old. He really won't be able to resolve any conflicts since the older one will always win by strength here. –  Bobo Jul 8 at 15:52

We have a similar set of boys (3 and 15 months), and the way we dealt with it, in addition to largely following Ida's advice above, was to emphasize to the older boy that the younger boy needs toys, also. Largely this comes in two flavors:

  • The older boy is playing with a large set of toys (cars, trains, etc.), where there are numerous individual elements. The younger boy wants one. We remind the older boy that he has a lot of cars/trains/etc., and that if his younger brother wants one, he needs to share. If the specific item is particularly valuable to him, we remind him that he can offer to trade a different equivalent item with his younger brother; a 15 month old usually doesn't care which car he has so long as he has one.
  • The older boy is playing with something (say, blocks) in the middle of the floor, and the younger boy keeps pestering him and taking things. We remind the older boy that if he wants to play with his things unmolested, he should find a more out of the way location to play. If he is going to play in the middle of things, his younger brother is allowed to play as well with the toy.

These both work fairly well now, the first better than the second, probably due to time (we have been doing it longer). He usually comes up with trades on his own now, although it's still challenging. I anticipate it being challenging for another year or two, until his younger brother has better social and communication skills, but it's usually manageable.

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