“Dr. Linda. Since I brought my new baby boy home from the hospital, my 3-year-old has become
very naughty and is doing all sorts of things she knows she’s not supposed to do! What is going
on? Is this sibling jealousy? What should I do?”
What’s going on with your toddler is that she has sibling jealousy (rivalry). Two main reasons for her sibling jealousy are:
- One: For three years she was the baby of the house and all attention was on her. Now the new baby takes up a lot of what she thinks of as ‘her time’ with you. Your toddler feels the same way you would if your partner brought home a new wife!
- Two: If you’ve continued your normal discipline routine (which is a very good idea), your toddler is also noticing that when the new baby cries everybody runs towards him, but when she cries or throws a temper tantrum you withdraw attention and walk off or put her in time out.
Understandably, your toddler is not happy with this new situation. She may feel ‘left out’ and want your undivided attention so badly that she’ll do anything she can to get it. She’ll act like a baby, throw temper tantrums, start needing diapers again, misbehave and maybe even be aggressive towards your new baby.
Ther’s nothing ‘wrong’ with your toddler, and you need to know that you haven’t done anything you should feel guilty about. Your toddler just doesn’t have the coping skills she needs to deal with sibling jealousy right now.
Here are a few suggestions that should help smooth out the transition period for all of you. These suggestions include ways you can give your toddler the attention and control she wants in ways that are acceptable to you; on your terms, not hers
Give your toddler your undivided attention as often as you can:
Getting into the habit of giving your toddler your undivided attention before she has a temper tantrum or misbehaves will only take a few moments and will eliminate the time you’ll have to spend calming her down after she’s worked herself up!
I know you don’t feel like you have any extra time right now, the beauty of this practice is that you get to decide when you’re going to do it. You get to decide when it’s convenient for you to give your toddler some extra attention.
Spend ‘special time’ with your toddler every day
I recommend choosing a time when your new baby is asleep or when there is another adult around so you don’t get distracted or called away.
Don’t worry the special time only needs to be a few minutes, toddlers don’t have very long attention spans.
Be sure to tell your toddler that this is her special time.
Label ‘special time’ with your toddler’s name, for example: “Lina, this is your special time”. Remember, if you don’t tell her this is her special time she probably won’t count it!
Do anything your toddler wants to do during this time. If she wants to play, play with her if she wants to pick lint off the carpet, do it with her. This way you are letting her know that she is in control during ‘her special time’.
In some cases, your toddler will be ‘mad’ at you and test you by refusing to spend the ‘special time’ with you or do anything with you during this time.
If your child does this have an egg timer ready and turn it on to count down 5 minutes. I like egg timers because your toddler can see it and hear it ticking down.
Let her know that you’re going to be there and wait to spend special time with her until the timer goes off. Sit there quietly and see what your toddler does. If she comes and plays with you well and good, if not, just sit there till the timer goes off.
When the timer goes off let your child know when she’ll have her next special time with you. Toddlers and young children don’t understand time but will understand that you intend on giving them more of your undivided attention later on.
Moms often get confused when their toddler or preschooler refuses to spend the time with them. They don’t realize that this is normal and is one way their child is trying to take control over a situation they don’t like very much.
The best way to handle this situation is to stay calm and sit there while your toddler ignores you. There is no need for you to get upset, in fact, your toddler may like that! Just stay calm, sith there and enjoy your ‘free’ five minutes!
Remember to involve your toddler as often as possible while you take care of the new baby:
While you are caring for the new baby:
Talk to your toddler, tell a story or sing a song.
Ask your toddler to ‘read’ you a book.
Give your toddler a challenge. Ask her to do something she loves to do and make a fuss over it when she does. My son used to love it when I asked him to run really really fast and pretended he was so fast I could’t see him!
The beauty of doing this is that both your babies will enjoy these activities in different ways.
Next week I’ll share more tips on how to handle sibling jealousy.
Please share this blog with any moms who might benefit from it.
To your holistic health,