And Then There Were Two

"Our two-year-old was doing fine until the baby was born. Now he's having toilet-training problems, bedtime problems, and he's even mean to the baby. What do I do?"

When a second child comes along the first child loses something very important. He or she is no longer the only object of parental attention. What used to be "all mine" must now be shared (toys, as well as attention and time), posing some adjustment problems for most children.

We recommend a two-fold approach at these challenging times. First, give your first child more attention than you normally would. He or she needs to feel special. He's a big brother now. She can do things the baby can't. He's unique and has some qualities that make him enjoyable and special. This child needs to know that she has a valuable role in your family and is not being replaced. Overemphasizing love and attention may satisfy the need and the problem may just go away.

If not, we recommend that you also increase the firm discipline to reinforce the new boundaries. "No, you may not hit the baby. I want you to sit here until you're ready to come back and show me how you can be gentle." Firmness at bedtimes and when following directions is also important. Don't excuse wrong behavior because a child is experiencing some emotional pain.

Be sensitive and loving but be firm as well. Your child has just grown into a new and important stage of life. Although we want to make the adjustment as easy as possible we don't want to ignore the opportunity to develop character.

Do you have some ideas to help parents with new babies?

Milan Tomic

Hi. I’m Designer of Blog Magic. I’m CEO/Founder of ThemeXpose. I’m Creative Art Director, Web Designer, UI/UX Designer, Interaction Designer, Industrial Designer, Web Developer, Business Enthusiast, StartUp Enthusiast, Speaker, Writer and Photographer. Inspired to make things looks better.

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  1. comment by Kris: I remember noticing my 2 yr old was at a stage needing instruction and correction while the new baby never got corrected or instructed, so we started speaking "instructions" to the baby ( in loving tones of course )in front of the 2 yr old (R.) so she realized her needs were also important, and she wasn't the only one learning. We said things like "Baby, you will have to wait a minute (when getting fussy) while I get R. her lunch before I can feed you. She is hungry too". or "we have to get your diaper changed quickly since R. needs me to go play a matching game with her that I promised." Or some such wording that made R. the 2 yr old realize her needs were being cared for albeit on a new delayed schedule. It seemed to help stop the loving death grip arm squeeze he was getting from his loving sister whenever I left the room. Now at age 19 and 17 they are best of friends and encourage one another in the Lord.

    I send a lot of new parents your frequent e-mail instructions and many have thanked me. I hope they also attend your conferences.
    Thanks for all you do.

  2. I have 4 little ones - We were very intentional about this dynamic. During the pregancy, we talked alot about what a big helper the older child would be. They each got their own diaper bag with a diaper and wipes, etc, and early on got to use thir diaper to change teh baby. The baby had presents for each of them when they came to the hospital and they had a present for the baby that they themselves had picked out. We paid special attention with the last baby - #3 & 4 were only 2 years apart. So while I was still in the hospital, Daddy took the older two out for ice cream and left the 2 year old with me for an hour. He and I had a precious time looking at his new (VERY) little sister and talking about how much we loved her and how special it was that he was a big brother! He LOVED that and strutted around being the BIG brother for days after that. It has been 2 years and he is still proud of being a big brother.

    I love the previous comment - we did something very similar to that. I read somewhere that the baby will not be affected by having to wait a few minutes to have their needs met, but the older child will. So I made a point to tell the older one that the baby would need to wait a minute so I could care for him/her. I packed a bag for the older one like I had a diaper bag for the baby with a few toys and new crayons to take along. I would have them help to carry the baby carrier, the bag, get shoes or a coat - and praise big for their help.

    We are beyond the baby stage now, and the kids have all been great big siblings with little jealousy issues.

    I too forward your emails - thanks so much for your practical tips!

  3. Thank you for the words of encouragement about our tips. Sibling conflict can be a challenge and getting good patterns going from the beginning is a great way to do just that. Great ideas. Thank you for sharing. --Scott