My four-year-old daughter is an only child. We live in a wonderful community, and so she has always had plenty of time around adults and children of all ages. She has one girl cousin three years older than her whom she adores. When my daughter was two-and-a-half, my brother and his wife had a second child. Around this time, other friends began having second children.

I have been hoping since my daughter is an only child, and my brother and I are close, that she would embrace both her cousins, but she is jealous of the younger cousin. We have always done our best to make her feel secure, while also stressing the importance of kindness, compassion and being polite. So I thought she would be happy about the baby, and be excited about being a big cousin. But in the year-and-a-half since my niece was born, my daughter has only expressed a deepening resentment toward her baby cousin and the other babies in our lives.

She is normally well-behaved and actually very empathetic and sensitive to adults, peers and older children. We’ve talked about this, and she says she doesn’t like to be touched, she doesn’t like babies touching her things, etc. I try to balance her exposure so that she isn’t burned out by babies but also has a chance to try to get used to them, so we see her cousins or other friends with babies about once a week. We recently had a playdate with a family consisting of two girls around her age and their younger brother, who is about 14 months. The girls played together well, and the baby wasn’t even around that much, so I thought things went well, but after they left I asked her how she liked playing with the girls, and she said, “I like it, but I hate that baby! I hate babies!”

I know this isn’t the biggest psychological problem, but I am at such a loss. It is starting to interfere with family and friend relationships a little, in that I’d for my daughter to spend time with her friends and cousins, but I am terrified that she will lose her temper with the babies and alienate the parents and older kids.

All I can find on google searches is advice on younger siblings, but this is a pretty different situation. So I came to this site in hopes that someone with knowledge on child psychology and development would know how I can best coach my daughter in order to easer her out of this rough baby-hating phase.

Much thanks! (From the USA)

A:  I appreciate how thoughtful your approach has been and the thinking and work you have done to improve the situation. Because these direct interventions haven’t worked the way you hoped, I think I would now approach this from a narrative psychology perspective. Your daughter may not have a model for understanding her role with her baby cousin. For this reason, I would recommend reading stories to her that show positive models of being with cousins — such as these, and / or [positive interactions with babies. The idea would be for her to learn about her role though example from the books. Certainly hope this helps!

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral