Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sibling Rivalry

Worried about how your older child is going to react to you bringing home a new baby. I wasn’t just worried, I was terrified!

When I first brought my newborn home my toddler was completely disinterested. The new baby did not faze him in the slightest. I think this was because daddy and was home to play with him during the day and my mother came to visit to help me with recovery. We had people coming to visit and play with my older son, so there was no need to pay too much attention to the new baby. When people went back to work and stopped visiting my toddler started wanting more and more attention from mommy. My fear of sibling rivalry was now front and center.

My toddler is a 100% boy. He likes to tackle and tickle daddy, chase anyone who is willing and able around the house, and throw toys when he gets frustrated. I know this is typical toddler behavior. I was scared that my toddler would get frustrated with the new baby and try to hit him or pick him up and throw him. I was afraid that my older child would resent all the attention the younger child was receiving. I thought he would become jealous and lash out.

All of these fears were building and festering in me. So I did what any daughter of a librarian would do; I researched how to deal with sibling rivalry. I read other mommy blogs, read books from the library, and talked to other mothers with multiple children.

There was some great advice that I learned that I would like to share with you.

1)  Have your older child help care for the baby as much as possible. When you change diapers the older child can bring you the diaper and wipes and throw away the dirty diaper. For bath time the older child can hand you the soap or the towel. My son loves to help and this was a great way for him to be a “good big brother” and it also helps him bond with his baby brother.
2)  Your baby will not remember if you made him/her wait a couple of minutes. If your baby is fed and their diaper is clean and they are just being fussy, let them fuss for a minute while you attend to the needs of your older child. Your older child, depending on how old they are, will remember if you are always too busy to attend to their needs because of the baby. This is hard for me to do. I have a hard time listening to babies cry, especially my own. I usually put my newborn within arm’s length when playing with my toddler, that way I can get to him if he needs soothing and still give my toddler attention.
3)  Follow through. If you say you are going to do something, do it. My son decided that when we brought home his baby brother it was going to be time to test boundaries and push the limits. We became a lot more firm when it came to discipline. We started the counting rule. We would give a direction (put the cup on the table) and then we would count to three (1-2-3). If we got to 3 and he didn’t listen we took the cup away and put it on the table. This following through is also important for positive attention as well. If I am breastfeeding my newborn and cannot get up to get something for my toddler I tell him that I will get whatever it is as soon as I am done feeding his brother. After I am done feeding my newborn I follow through and get whatever it was for my toddler.

These are the three things that have worked for me. So far things are going well. William likes to help take care of his baby brother. He gives kisses and cuddles. Although he still throws toys when he is frustrated, he is working on the ability to express his feelings through words instead of actions. He is still 100% boy, and I expect no less. We are learning slowly… very slowly, to be careful around the baby.

Did you have to deal with sibling rivalry? If so, how did you cope?


  1. I have to admit, we were very blessed to not have sibling rivalry, but what we did have was Mommy guilt. Like you, I was very nervous about bringing a new baby into our already perfect family of three, and what our oldest might do/think/act. Fortunately, our now even more perfect family of four had a seemless transition... at least from the kiddo side of things.

    I really struggled a lot in the beginning of how to balance my time between the new baby and my oldest. I felt an insane amount of guilt for not being able to give him 100% of my time.

    Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband, a patient baby, and hormones that finally regulated! LOL...

    Glad to hear things are going smoothly in your house!

  2. Shockingly our older children did not have any type of sibling rivalry when we brought baby B home. Kirsten wants to help and "mother" B all the time and Elijah mostly just doesnt care.He likes to talk to B and "help" her with toys but other than that..he could care less that there is an extra person in the house :) ha!

  3. I remember hearing and reading so much about sibling rivalry when I was pregnant with #2. So far, and they're now 12 and 14, we had little to no sibling rivalry. They're both easy going like their dad.

    New visitor and follower from BF :)


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