Our counselor sister Soha Elsaman answer
As-salamu `alaykum, sister.
Jazaka Allahu khayran for entrusting us with your question. May Allah make things easy for you and reward you to the highest.
Let me begin by stating some facts; In Western schools, nurseries, or preschools, they put all the children aged from 3 to 5 (before grade 1) in one class or set of classes that span that age range. The reason behind this is that children are viewed to have similar capabilities at these ages and they are taught through unified methods of teaching.
It is not always the case that a child of 5 can bully another who is 3 or 4, however, that can happen and we need to treat the situation with some wisdom. Remember, this child is a member of the family and she is suffering hardship as well, so her behavior may be abnormal because of her parent’s situation. She may be feeling insecure because of talk she may be hearing about her father and mother. My advice to you is to try to integrate this child with your children and remember, by doing so you are pleasing Allah Most High; you will be gaining an older sister for them and instead of her bullying them, she can be protective and look after them in school later on. Here are some tips to help you achieve that goal:
-Talk to her about the one big family that they (all the children) are part of, but how sometimes we forget this fact.
-Buy her a present and tell her that your children bought it for her because they love her
-Make her feel that she is trusted with their well-being because she is the big girl, with more brains and so on.
-Take them together at story time and tell stories about older sisters who were good to their families and how that brought them love and respect from everyone.
I urge you, sister, to embrace this child and integrate her into your family. She may be emotionally distressed, but that can be resolved if she feels loved and welcomed. I know that this could be a particularly difficult situation, but with difficulty comes the greater reward, in sha’ Allah. I am not sure about your family situation, but if this girl does not have other alternatives except to live with you (this is a common problem in small families in the West), then it becomes more of a duty.
Dr. Mamdouh Aladl answers you with the following:
For your children: Obviously, the five-year-old is more powerful; she is physically stronger, her mental age is older, and she has more experience and skills than the three- and four-year-old children. One or two years difference at this young age makes a big difference; therefore, your two children need extra support to handle this overpowering five-year-old cousin. It is also possible that the five-year-old has learned to be aggressive from her parents, who are going through a divorce. I sympathize with the child and with them as well.
Here are a few tips that you will find useful, in sha’ Allah:
-Offer support to your children when attacked by their cousin
-Do not leave them together unsupervised
-Teach them all that they can enjoy playing together without fighting
-Explain to the girl that attacking her younger cousins is wrong and will not be tolerated
-Other family members should support this approach
-Offer your children support and praise them for their good behavior and politeness. Reward them with sweets and going out for walks with their cousin
-Make sure your children have more opportunities to see and play with children of same age who are not wild or aggressive
-Give your children more time; encourage them to talk with you and express their feelings about their experiences in general and with the 5-year-old in particular
-Learn (together with your husband) to play with them; go back to your childhood and get close to them. They will enjoy this and you will enjoy it, too. I still remember my joy when my uncle took me to the zoo with my siblings and he played with us. He was a grown man, but he did this—I love him the most until now. Your children will feel the same when grown up about the times you played with them.
-Do not punish the 5-year-old but consider the following: No family member should condone or encourage the 5-year-old’s aggressive behavior by laughing or praising her. They should discourage such behavior and reject it by expressing disapproval Also, they should avoid giving a double message(a message with two conflicting meanings) to the 5-year-old such as saying this is not good behavior but at the same time laughing or smiling after her attacks on the younger children. This is very unhelpful.
The above are just guidelines to help them feel supported and understood, to improve their self-esteem, self-confidence, and morale. This will help them socialize and build up more social skills, in sha’ Allah.
For you and your husband: You state that “both my husband and I are introverts.” Introversion and extroversion are normal traits in a human being’s personality. These traits do not function in isolation from other traits, level of intelligence, or cultural and religious factors. They all interact to build up one’s personality and form one’s identity. A small percentage of people are very introverted, a small percentage of people are very extroverted and the majority of people are somewhere in the middle.
So most of us are within the normal range. One’s personality and preferences regarding socialization can be improved over time. Some people understand personality to be static and unchanging, this is not correct, as personality is dynamic and can undergo changes with learning and life experiences.
I, therefore, encourage you and your husband not to consider yourself unable to enjoy a good range of socialization. I am sure you can enjoy more if you choose the appropriate company; people who share similar interests and attitudes.
My best wishes to you and let me know what happens. Get back to me if I can be of further help.
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