Bigger, Better, Faster

Bigger, Better, Faster

What to do for the child who always has to be better than his/her siblings?

Needing to be “better than” is another version of a child’s need to win.

Dr. Lawrence Cohen, author of Playful Parenting and co-author of The Art of Roughhousing, provides a playful yet effective way to fill this need in a Q&A reprinted from his newsletter with permission:

Q & A: I need some good play to help my three year old deal with “you’re too little to do x,” “I’m faster than you,” and “I don’t want to play with you.”  She keeps using these lines on me and her younger sister.


Three year olds love to compare, and some three year olds have a lot of tension about those comparisons. She is likely hearing these things from older children, and then passing them along to her younger sister.


The good news is that she is already trying them out on you. Because you aren’t likely to have an emotional collapse when you are teased this way (I hope!), you can help your three year old by exaggerating a response: “Oh, boo-hoo, please play with me. Oh you think you are faster than me, just watch this! (then fall over so she beats you in the race). I’m not too big to get into the baby’s crib—oh no, I can’t fit!” 


The goal of this play is to have her giggle away the tension about comparisons and about being young. When the older one says these things to the younger one you can step in and encourage her to aim those feelings at you, where you can play with them together—because the younger one probably doesn’t think it is very fun. You can also gently re-direct the interaction by swooping the three year old into your arms with a big smile and saying, “Oh no you don’t! Nobody gets teased in this house when I am around! We support each other in this family.” The big smile and warm loving contact are important in order to help your older daughter not be defensive and shut out everything you have to say, and it also helps her feel secure, which lowers her need to say mean things.

Dr. Cohen’s playful parenting solutions perfectly compliment the Language of Listening, serving as CAN DOs that validate and meet children’s needs. For a deeper understanding of the art of playful parenting, I whole-heartedly recommend reading Dr. Cohen’s classic book, Playful Parenting, and signing up for his newsletter here. It’s the one newsletter I always read!

What playful solutions have you tried with your child?

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