So our little guy turned 2 today. We took him and his 4.5 year old brother out to breakfast and the zoo. After nap we opened some presents and played for a bit. After dinner we did singing and cake.

The problem was that he was on and off behaving very poorly today. Our guess is that he couldn't handle all of the attention being focused on his brother and his birthday more so than normal.

Things the older one did above and beyond his normal baseline:

  • Talked back to us
  • Didn't listen to explicit instructions
  • Fake cried
  • Cried

Things if that sort. My wife and worried if this is typical behavior for someone who isn't used to giving up attention, or we are doing something wrong, or maybe just a fluke of a day.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated, thank you.

  • 2
    When we were very young, we both got a gift (the birthday child got more) and were allowed to invite one friend to the sibling's party. As we we reached 4 and 5, we got in on the surprise. We helped make the cake, cards and went shopping for gifts. It meant I was excited for my little brother's birthday because I had been made a part of it.
    – WRX
    Apr 2, 2017 at 15:31
  • check out my answer and other answers on parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/21384/… to help! Sep 29, 2021 at 12:34

2 Answers 2


This is pretty normal for that kind of situation. The best solution is to make sure he also gets attention even if it's a special day for the younger one. In general, it's a good idea not to focus too much on the birthday child to the exclusion of other children; for example, get a small present for your other child as well, while reassuring him that he'll have the next birthday.


We don't usually make big "birthday things" at our home. We use birthdays as a symbol of growing up and life milestone, not a party event, which has some interesting effects on our kids.

On a birthday, the kid in question is given a small, symbolic gift - it isn't a toy or clothes, nor anything like that. Normally is a symbol of growing up, something they can have with them forever. Something with lasting value - mementos, in other words.

Those gifts include small handcrafted things that me or my SO made, like little animal totems, a dream-catcher, a bracelet made of wooden spheres, and so on. We keep a little tribal side to our family with those traditions, giving the date more of an emotional value than a opportunity for a party.

Of course, our kids also get toys or special clothes from time-to-time, but those are tied to their achievements in life, not really on a date. If they keep getting good grades and being the great kids they are, they will get their privileges. The only exception to this gift-giving strategy is during Christmas.

During their birthdays, we also hold a special dinner. The kid which is having the birthday can choose the menu for dinner, and it can be anything they want as long as they help with the cooking and with the cleaning. This sometimes end up being a cooking challenge for us, but it's part of the fun - there are few things more awesome than trying to make chocolate cotton-candy at home with your kids without the proper equipment. The resultant disaster is, by itself, incredibly fun for everyone.

The secret is making the a birthday - or any special date for someone - fun for everyone. That way no kid will be singled out and everyone can have a good time. Don't do things like "we will have a big party for you", do things like "we will one of those things for the family today. It's your birthday, so you can choose".

One of the best presents a child can have comes in the form of power over a decision. Kids try very hard to gain any sort of control, and giving them choice is sometimes way more powerful and lasting than giving them a toy.

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