Friday, April 10, 2015

New Baby + Toddler = Sibling Rivalry?

When my first child was 23 months old we had our second baby. I was thrilled to have two beautiful girls because I just knew they would be best friends.  Things seemed to be going fairly well until one night while I was preparing dinner something went wrong.  I had put the baby in a little infant seat.  Back in the day we didn’t have the incredibly functional mobile car seats that are available now.  We had car seats that stayed in the car and infant seats that were for the house. My infant seat had a hard plastic, single strap seat belt that I neglected to fasten around my baby that night. While I was cooking, when my back was turned, my toddler decided to see what would happen if she put the hard plastic belt into the babies mouth. 

As soon as I heard little baby choking sounds I turned around, grabbed the baby and pulled out the plastic belt all in one swoop.  My toddler just stared at me with her mouth open.  I am sure I also said something brilliant like, “What were you thinking!” in my very loud, upset mommy voice. I know it was not one of my best moments.  Fortunately as it turned out, the baby was fine but my toddler was upset.  She was crying because the baby was crying and I was yelling. She had no idea what was wrong.  In her little 23 month year old brain the white strap looked like it belonged in the baby’s mouth. After I calmed down I explained to my toddler why the baby was choking and told her to never put anything in baby sister’s mouth unless I ask her to do so.  At first I wondered if this was a case of sibling rivalry but after some research and thought I realized that this incident was just a case of a toddler being a toddler.   


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It is important to understand the difference between sibling rivalry and “normal,” age appropriate child behavior. Can toddlers be jealous of a new brother or sister?  You bet. And sibling rivalry can begin as young as 2 years old.  Sometimes feelings of resentment will manifest by regressive behaviors in your toddler.  For example he or she may want to have a bottle even though they have been using a sippy cup for some time.  Your newly potty trained toddler could start to have accidents or could start using “baby talk” after your 2nd child is born.  Your toddler may hit or pinch the baby or try to take the infants blanket away. All these behaviors can result because of sibling rivalry.


The best defense to head off sibling rivalry is a good offense.  According to an article in  Baby Centre, you should tell your toddler about the baby while you are still expecting.  Also, talk about what will happen once the baby is born. Let your toddler help you with whatever baby preparations you can. Involve you toddler in caring for the new baby whenever possible. 
We were able to do this in a unique way.  Every time I had a new baby we would bring home a new soft washable baby doll for our youngest child.  As we fed, changed or bathed our infant our youngest child would feed, change or bathe their new “baby”.  Another way to include your toddler is to let them help you decide what the baby should wear or what toy the baby could play with.  
Above all talk with your toddler about their feelings and let them know you understand.  Let your toddler know how much you love him or her and then spend one on one time with them.  The good news is that most siblings grow out of their rivalries and have strong loving relationships.

What have you found to work with your family?

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