Natural Rivals?


When a second baby arrives, our toddlers suddenly seem so mature. We still need to have age-appropriate expectations of their abilities to set everyone up for success.
Baby’s arrival can be as frustrating for Big Sibling as it is exciting for others. Big Sib didn’t want this new child and is no longer the star of the show. Surely, misbehaviour will bring all the attention that Big Sib needs.

Create a ‘treasure box’ with Big Sib, full of books, blocks, independent activities and shelf-stable snacks. At baby’s feeding time, invite Big Sib to grab the treasure box. He can help himself to a snack while baby is eating, then the two of you can read a book together. Giving attention for behaviour we want to see means that Big Sib doesn’t have to resort to misbehaviour for attention.

Be realistic about sharing—kids this age are egocentric—they believe that their point of view is the only one: “Everyone knows that I want this toy now. No one else will take it.”

We can introduce/model sharing by:

  • Playing turn-taking games—passing a ball, truck or hat to each child for their turn. Kids learn that turns happen in a certain order and come around again and again.
  • Get enough cookies or fruit to ‘share’ with everyone in the family and have your little ones share it so that they learn what it feels like to give to others.
  • We don’t have to share everything. Let kids have ownership of one or two things which stay on a shelf where baby sib can’t reach them.

When kids are fighting over a toy, step in and guide children. Express your belief that it can work, “I know that you two can find a way to make this work”. Guiding when they are too young to do it on their own will be the first step in their development as problem-solvers.


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