We were really happy when Felix, our second child came along. Nico was so sweet with him.
He wanted to hold him, stroke him, show him off.
We felt like we’d done it all right.
That we'd produced a lovely playmate for him.
We felt that because we’d been so positive about the baby’s arrival that we’d avoided the kind of jealousy that we had heard about.
Felix was about 7 or 8 months old and Nico seemed to sprout horns.
This loving brother would snatch away the baby’s rattle. He’d say ‘That’s mine you can’t have it'
He’d shout in his face ‘Be quiet baby Felix’
He’d pinch his arm or hit him and say ‘He’s stupid’
We were mortified and so worried that our sweet kind toddler was turning into a really nasty little boy.
So how do you deal with all this? Here are the lessons I learned and some of them I wish I’d known at the time so I could have done a better job.
Don’t expect them to always be loving. It is totally normal to feel jealous of a baby and to show it in behaviour.
If your toddler feels jealous at this stage, it doesn’t mean to say it will get worse as he/she gets older.
Jealousy goes in phases and is related to how the jealous child is feeling.
Hitting/pinching/snatching are all manifestations of the jealousy and when you explain to them that it is the feeling that makes them react like this, it helps the feeling to go away (in time).
Use language to validate those emotions “I know you feel jealous of your brother. That’s why you snatched his toy”. “Maybe you feel jealous because he gets our attention and you want it?” “Even though you know we don’t hit, you felt so jealous that you couldn’t stop yourself”.
Don’t expect the behaviour to change immediately you validate the emotion. These feelings are strong and deep rooted and it takes time for your child to let things go and to have impulse control.
Give alternative outlets for the aggression. “You can pinch a cushion, you can hit the sofa, you can bang the table. You just can’t hurt people”
Whenever possible have 1:1 time with the older child. Make a big deal of it. “It’s so nice to have some time just with you. I miss that” “Before the baby came along it was just you and I know you miss having mummy and daddy all to yourself. Lucky we have some time now though”
When you’ve had this time together it does build up a reserve of love but it won’t mean that the toddler stops feeling jealous of the baby and stops acting up as a result of it.
As the baby gets older, they become really aware of how to wind up their older sibling. They become quite cunning and aren’t the sweet, innocent little baby any more so there will come a time when you need to just let them get on with it and fight things out between them.
Here’s how to react to the hitting. Don’t shout, tell them off, get angry or give a time out.
Do – move your child away from the baby and say something like ‘I know you don’t want to hurt him. You felt jealous and that is why you hit. He’s crying now as it hurt him. When you are ready you can show him you are sorry’
Wait for the sorry to come and get your toddler to actively show they are sorry – get a wet cloth to dab on the part they hit. Get them to rub some ‘magic cream’ on it. They can be encouraged to give a special toy to the baby to play with or help to do something nice for them.
It is important that a child is taught how to actively show they are sorry rather than being made to feel worse for what they’ve done. If you want them to regret what they’ve done, then don’t be tempted to issue any kind of punishment. Punishment will make them focus on the punishment rather than giving them the opportunity to make amends and accept responsibility.
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