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Toddler/Baby Sibling Relationships

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Family Relations > Toddler/Baby Sibling Relationships



2-yr old aggressive towards baby brother

Dec 2006

I know it is not unusual and i actually expected something like this but it tears me apart and i don,t know how to handle the situation.We have an almost 2 1/2yr old and a 2mo old baby and the 2yr old is hitting and pinching the baby,she pulls his fingers and has now also started to bite him every chance she gets.when i take a shower or go to the bathroom or do laundry i have to lock the baby into it,s room so his sibling can,t get near him.We have tried time-out and the naughty chair thing but it doesn,t seem to work.When she tries to bite the baby and i hold him away from her she bites me instead.I feel so angry inside when this happens or when a situation occurs that she has managed to get to the baby and hurt him.i have tried like some books suggests to have her help with the baby but in all she does she is very rough so i can,t really let her do anything.When i try to tell her to be gentle she just gets frustrated and kicks or hits towards the baby.I don,t want to paint her as a monster,i know she loves her babybrother in some ways,she actually says it and she does hug him and wants to be near him and she sometimes can be gentle with him so i feel she does understand.

i just don,t know how to handle those situations when she does or wants to hurt him and i don,t know how to deal with my anger i feel inside. i would like to hear what other parents have done and how they have coped.I do understand that it is not easy for her to suddenly have to share me with the baby since we have been so close during her first 2years.I know it is a big change for her. thanks
trying my best


As you said, I think this is fairly common, but obviously can't be tolerated. It sounds like your daughter misses being the only child. Maybe give her only child status once a week. Leave the infant for an hour with another caregiver, and give your toddler undivided attention. She needs to know you have not abandoned her. Also, every day, make sure you connect with her, so she knows you care. Anon.

2.5 year old having a rough time adjusting to baby

August 2006

I adore my little boy who is 2.5 years and he is having a rough time adjusting to his new sibling. He is not an aggressive child - in fact he says he ''loves'' our new baby and wants to ''kiss her'' at bedtime.

However he is acting differently at bedtimes and naptimes, asking for ''one more kiss'' and ''one more hug'' over and over - up to ten or twelve times. This is adding 20 min or more on to a 20 min routine,. He also is acting funny - as in biting himself and saying he's ''sorry'' all the time - even if something isn't his fault.

This is breaking my heart. I could not love him any more and I know before this he was very secure. He had a 12 hour nightime sleep rountine (7PM-7AM) and a 3 hour naptime (11-2PM). What's happening is the insecurity at naptime and bedtime - not throughout the day.

I might also add that this was an unplanned pregnacy and he might be picking up on my own ambivilence. I just want to make him feel safe. I want to do what's right for both children - but it's hard. I hardly know the baby - and he's taking all of my time. I feel in my heart though -that she's getting stiffed. She's very easy - a nice baby- but I worry that I'm not doing right by both anon


My heart goes out to your family. But, first and foremost, you need to calm down and relieve yourself of some (or all) of your guilt. Perhaps, if possible, you could put the baby down before your son's naptime and bedtime (while he does something speical with his dad or watches a video), and then have a nice, quiet routine with your son to make him feel secure in going to bed. Before you put your daughter down, say he had give her ''Three kisses and two hugs'', and then pick him up and carry him out the door and smother him with kisses and tickles, tell him what a great big brother he is, and send him on his way. You will bond with your daughter in time, but making your son calmer and more secure will greatly benefit everyone
Anna
Hi. I have a son, now three, and a daughter who is 12 months, and so am just a bit less than a year beyond where you are now with the whole adjustment to being a mother of two biz. My little boy also needed a lot of attention and reassurance, and (just as you say), I felt my heart breaking for him but at the same time a need also to protect this little baby that I didn't feel I knew at all. I felt for quite a long time that no one was getting the right kind of attention from me, and I missed the one- on-one time I'd previously had with my son. It's natural at first to feel somewhat estranged from this new creature and your changed family dynamic. Don't let this worry you at all.

Don't hesitate to hand your new baby to father, grandparent, friend so that you can have some important time with your son. My mother was adamant about this when my son was first a new big brother and she really was right. he invariably calmed down and became happier when I or my husband or both of us spent a bit of time with him alone.

also, don't worry that your new baby isn't getting enough attention. a wise mother once told me that second children are much better off in the long run for the experience they get that's different from that of a first born. I think this is true.

In the beginning, I certainly felt a little bit of ''who is this little person?'' regarding my second child. It took me longer to get a handle on her and on my relationship with her than it did with my first child. But I want to reassure you that she is now a shining star in my world just like her brother, and we are very close too.

Just give yourself a little break, and know that things do fall into place. in the meantime, get away with your son and spend time with him alone when he most needs you. He'll get used to things by and by. but just know that it might take some time, and that he might still be reacting to his new sibling in ways you hadn't foreseen, even a year from now. best of luck,
been there


Logistically, how CAN I spend more ''special time'' with older sibling?

Feb 2005

I have a 2.5 yo and 6mo, both boys. My older has had a difficult time adjusting to sharing time/attention with his brother. It seems everybody says (including the older sib) that we need to spend more alone/special time with the older brother. Logistically, how do people do this? I'm at home with the both of them alone. The younger one doesn't nap for long stretches in his crib (only in the car). My husband gets home at 6:30 or 7p.
Mommy of 2 feeling stretched


Since your husband has a long work schedule, could you have someone watch your infant while you spend quality time with your eldest? I hire a sitter or ask a friend to watch our one year old when my husband is traveling for work and is gone for an extended amount of time. That gives me and our three year old a chance to have some great one on one time.
Wonder if the 2nd will wonder what ''me'' time is...
We have a 6mo old and a 3yr old. Get a back carrier for the baby, then you can be hands-free for the big boy. I do all kinds of things (reading, puzzles, football-playing) with the baby in the backpack. It's somewhat awkward (and heavy) to be standing reading a story, but it's worth it. Jo

2.5 year old son can't tolerate his baby sister

Jan 2005

Help! I need advice from parents that have survived the early sibling rivalry phase! I know it is fairly “normal” but any advice on how to best adapt and try and teach acceptance would be appreciated.

I have a 2.5 year old boy and a 9 month old baby girl. He was great at first when she was first home and relatively immobile. However, now that she has started to crawl and wants to always be a part of what her big brother is doing things are getting a little crazy. If he is in his room and sees her crawling down the hall towards his room he shouts “no” and runs to shut the door before she gets there – yesterday when there was a chair in the way he just pushed her down so he could close the door. He knows that pushing means immediate time out and we are strict about enforcing that but it just doesn’t seem to be sinking in.

I have tried giving leaving him in his room to play by himself, tried bringing her toys into his room, tried setting up her own play area but nothing seems to be working so far. Does it just need more time? I guess at this age playing together is out of the question, but how about getting him not to yell and get upset every time she just touches one of his toys? Course it is just fine for him to play with her toys whenever he feels like it. Is it unreasonable to think I can be able to have both kids playing in one room at the same time?. Is this how it is going to be until they go off to college?
'only one of me' mom


I don't have any fool-proof suggestions, but just wanted to say that I am in a similar boat with my 3.5 year old daughter and 1 year old boy. I try to emphasize that all toys in the playroom belong to both of them and that special toys that belong just hers stay in her room. That doesn't mean that they jointly play with toys in the playroom, but she can't shout ''THAT'S MINE'' when he touches a toy. I do emphasize that she has control over certain items (like the ones in her room), but I always ask her to give him something to play with or some part of what she is playing with if she doesn't want him playing with whatever she has. I also remind her that if she plays with something like blocks or puzzles on the floor that the baby will get into it. We call him ''the mess maker'' and ''destructomatic'' to make a joke of it, which to my suprise usually works. I try to get her to do puzzles, drawings, and even to build things on the kitchen table where she can reach and he can't. Maybe all of this stuff works better with a 3 year old who can actually think A LITTLE about some of this stuff. However, I will tell you that it will get easier. Much of the time my two can at least play in the same vicinity. The struggles over toys have definitely increased since the baby began walking, but it is not over the top. anon
Mine may be an unpopular perspective, nevertheless, here it is. I always explained to my son that the baby doesn't understand which toys belong to her, and that he had to let her play with his toys. If there was a certain toy that he didn't want her to play with, then he was responsible for putting it up where she wouldn't find it (He was about 3.5 when this first became an issue). I have always felt that it is important for him to understand that he is older, and that my expectations of him will be different than those I have for his sister. life isn't fair
I never expect my older daughter to play with or share toys from her room with her younger (twin) sibs. Her room is her sacred refuge from them and I encourage her *not* to allow them in. This being said, she'll often ''invite'' them in and actively entertain them, or ''let them'' handle her stuff. On the other hand, all the playroom and outside toys''must be shared equally. mom to 3
You are not alone! The exact same thing is happening in our house ? my daughter is 2.5 and my son is 9 months. All was calm and harmonious until he became mobile! They are like chalk and cheese; my daughter is quiet, sensitive & fairly cautious, while my son is extremely loud, very physical and fearless. He invades all her games, yanks away toys, pulls at her clothes, even pulls the pacifier out of her mouth when she?s sleeping in the side by side stroller ? and now he can pull up to standing even the sofa is not a safe place for her to sit (he loves attacking feet)! Our strategies so far are allowing our daughter to go and play in her room alone, her brother is only allowed in if she says it?s ok. If the little one is trying to take toys away, my daughter will often try to distract him with a different toy and then take her toy away to a ?safer? place. We?re not overly concerned about the ?rivarly? going on right now ? it?s a huge adjustment period. She often tells him to ?go away? and states frequently that she doesn?t like him; however, she also misses him when he naps, constantly asks ? Where?s my brother?? if he?s out of sight, and proudly introduces him to strangers? so we know the love is there (somewhere!). Good luck!!! Cathy
This is what's working at our house: any time big sister (*almost* 4yo) wants baby brother (10 mo) out of her hair, she tells me and I get him involved in something else. I have told her that it's absolutely fair to want to play without him around, but that it's not fair or nice to shut the door in his face, push him away, yell 'no,' etc. I see this happening with a lot of her friends and their siblings and it really concerns me - but interestingly enough, her friends understand the rule at our house and do not treat her brother as they do their own! I will add that I have so far kept my promise 100% - if she wants him out, I pull him away within 30 seconds.

Also - I have made it clear that taking an item away from her baby brother (or anyone!) is NOT allowed. It started out always leading to a time-out, and that curbed that behavior pretty quickly. Now I generally just help her ''remember'' not to take toys away, though sometimes a time-out is still necessary (particularly when I see a malicious look in her eye when she grabs the toy). Frankly, this is a more challenging issue all around - but I figure it's all pretty normal for their ages. Good luck! Sarah


when my 18 month old wants to play with his 3 year old cousin's things she gets very possesive and shouts no at him. this isn't very effective of course. she's the older therefore the cool one so he wants to copy her in everything she does. we've taught her that he'll lay off a little if she gives him something she doesn't want to play with or trades with him if he has something she wants. coming from her, its a very desirable thing to have - it doesn't matter what the thing is. the other thing I do when my son wants to play with the cat and the cat isn't into his company; I tell him to leave the kitty alone that the kitty doesn't want to play. sometimes he cries like his little heart is breaking and I offer to play with him - I'm a distant second in moments like these but at least he isn't all by himself and he doesn't feel totally unwanted. being the youngest kinda sucks somtimes, being more dependent and needy but not always the cool, capable one. good luck
Our daughter was 2 when her sister came along. We installed a baby gate in our older daughter's doorway. The particular gate was a ''gate within a gate'' so that she could open and close the mini gate as she wanted to get in and out. This worked for all of us - her door was open so I could keep an eye on her, her little sister could watch her but after a few temper tantrums learned that she wasn't going in. This type of gate costs about $50.00 which I was reluctant to spend the money on but we have been using it for about a year and the system still works great. The money was well spent for my own sanity, my oldest daughter's sense of personal space, and encouraging my youngest to play quietly by herself. good luck
Don't worry -- it will all come. Your son's reaction sounds very familiar to me. As the younger child develops more skills and thus appears more like a kid (i.e., walkig, talking, playing games) the older one will respond to her as one. Most folks say when the younger one hits two it really takes off -- this seems about right in my experience. For now, just keep trying to protect the little one as much as you can and take deep breaths! The time will go so quickly. anon

2.5 year old still hasn't adjusted to her baby brother

Dec 2004

I'm very concerned about my 2.5-year-old daughter, who still has not adjusted to the birth of her brother over a year ago. My children are only 15 months apart, so I know the adjustment has been very difficult for her. She expresses her jealousy and insecurity by displaying a lot of regressive behavior- - whining and crying constantly esp. if I'm giving her brother attention at the time, asking to be picked up all the time, asking me to feed her milk from her sippy cup as if it were a bottle, incessantly copying the babyish behavior of her little brother,etc. A lot of people have told me this is normal, but my main concerns are (1) that her brother is now over a year old, and her regressive behavior hasn't abated, and (2) she used to be a happy, laughing, out- going, independent child before the birth of her brother, and now she's very shy, whiny, needy, and seems not very happy. I know her brother came at a time when she was transitioning from real babyhood to a more conscious little girl, so perhaps her personality would have developed in this direction any way, but I can't help thinking that the arrival of the new sibling affected her sense of security greatly. She seems to be a particularly bright and sensitive child, seeming much older than her age. Most of her whiny, needy behavior is directed towards me, her mother. And to be truthful, the younger one is very demanding and just need more of me because of his age, and I end up having to spend most of my time and energy taking care of his needs. I have made a special effort to spend as much one-on-one time with my daughter as I can, but it doesn't seem to be enough. I feel quite guilty when I'm taking care of the younger one's needs (and I know guilt serves no one and it's not fair to my son), and when I have to discipline my daughter (esp. since her brother is too young to be discplined for the same behavior). I'm torn between being a more strict disciplinarian to help her establish boundaries and being sensitive to her (valid) desire for more attention. My main goal is to help her re-establish her sense of security and happiness (I really don't want this to carry over to the rest of her life), but I don't know what do to. Has anyone had a similar experience? Am I making too big a deal of this (some people dismiss this as just the terrible 2's)? Should I seek professional advice? anon


I have two daughters 16 months apart in age. The older one just turned 2 and I am experiencing pretty much the same thing you are in terms of sibling rivalry. My older daughter used to be easy going. Since the birth of her sister, however, she has become increasingly competitive, whiny, needy, acting out, and aggressive towards her younger sibling.

One thing that seems to help is carving out ''special time'' or separate time for each child. It doesn't have to be much more than reading a story. But it needs to be something that involves just you and one child at a time. A second thing that seems to help is explaining as much as possible to the older one why you need to spend so much time with the younger one (and/or vice- versa).

I wish I could be more helpful, but we're struggling with the same issue. I am interested in hearing what others have to say . . .

concerned as well


Three-year-old has begun to act very aggressively toward our new baby

Feb 2004

Help! I have 2 children, ages 3 and one month old. In the last week or so, my toddler has begun to act very aggressively toward our new baby. Pinching, lying on the baby, moving the baby's head forcefully, striking...all causing our baby to squeal in protest. My husband and I believe that this aggression is an outward display of major jealousy/rivalry, which he has never experienced to this degree and certainly cannot verbalize. When our baby is being held or lying in the open, our toddler will often hit or squeeze little , fragile body parts, apparently intending to cause harm to our little one. It's difficult to manage this behavior, because our toddler very often begins with a loving, gentle interaction which suddenly turns into an aggressive one. We believe it's important for our son to be able to be near his sister, yet causing her harm is not ok! I've spoken to other parents whose older kids ''picked on'' their younger infant siblings, but it doesn't seem to be to the degree we are experiencing. What is a parent to do!? When this behavior began, my husband and I tried acting calmly by moving our toddler away from the baby as a consequence to hurtful behaviors. Well, this only seems to make ''getting to'' the baby a bigger and more exciting challenge, and we are now sounding a bit like a broken record with our words and the aggression continues. On a day to day basis, I feel like I am playing zone defense against my toddler for the sake of my newborn's safety. I don't feel like my baby is safe when left alone unsupervised. And there are moments when I resent the fact that my toddler is requiring me to put so much energy and time into protecting our baby. Time that could be spent bonding peacefully with my new baby. My son can even verbalize that he needs to be nice to his sister and that being mean to her is not ok, yet the behavior continues. He even says that he wouldn't want such mean things done to him... In desperation, I have tried pinching my toddler ''back'' when he pinches his little sister, but we have opted to stop this for it only demonstrates that these behaviors are ''ok if mom and dad do it too....'' What experiences have other parents had with toddler aggression towards a sibling and what tactics have worked for it's management? In general, my son is very loving and there are just as many times in a day when he is gentle and sweet with the baby. However, I need my son to understand that harming his little sister is not ok!!!!!! Any advice on parenting classes/therapists that could offer support would be welcomed.
Needing guidance


Hi:
I can totally relate to what is happening in your house. We have been dealing with simular stuff. Our sons are 3 yrs and 11 mos. I called Jody Bove, from JFCS at (925) 927-2000 x 562. She was very helpful over the phone. We are meeting with her tomorrow to seek out more skills/tools for us to use with the kids. One technique that has been working great over the last four days is to pick up the baby and say to the toddler ''My job is to keep ? safe and to keep you safe, until it is safe here ? and I are going to another room.'' then pick the baby up and you and go into another room. As you are going say that is isn't okay to hit/pinch/kick/squeeze/toss to the floor, etc your sister/brother. If your toddler follows you and tries to hit you lock yourself with the baby in the bathroom and say I don't like to be hit, we don't hit and until it is safe Mommy/Daddy is taking some time. It has really had a big impact. Our older son doesn't like it one bit when I pick up our younger son and leave the room. This morning they played together really nicely. My husband and I were supervising and reminding/coaching our oldest along the way. It was great!

One other resource that is helpful is a book called ''Siblings Without Rivarly'' by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
Good Luck, another Mom dealing with the same stuff


I once read an ''advice given'' posting on this newsletter that I thought was ingenius.

In response to a request for advice on how to deal with a toddler who hit/hurt other kids, the advice was that the very first thing to do is to shower attention on the victim, then turn and punish the aggressor.

Our first instinct is always to turn immediately on the aggressor first, thus confirming to the agressor that this is the right way to get attention, even if it is negative. Maybe if you picked the baby up, walked away from your son, gave comfort to the baby (ignoring your son for a bit), then came back and punished him, he might change his ways.

If you do try this approach, and it works, I would love to know. I have a little hitter myself (not really agressive, just unsuare how to express himself)who now at 2 yrs 3 mths is learning to really catch himself before hitting. I do, however, have a baby due in a month and forsee some regressive behaviour. So, if you have the time and are so inclined, let me know. edna


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