19 answers

4 Year Old Acting Out Because of New Baby Sister

My daughter is 4 years old and I just had a new baby who now is 5 weeks. At first Hannah (4 year old) was really good and accepting of the baby well since she has realized that baby gets more attention she's been very rebelious and difficult. I've tried to explain to her that babies need more attention and that when she was a baby I gave her lots of attention I encourage her to look through her scrapbook of pictures of her and I when she was a baby. I also try to make special Mommy Hannah time with something to look forward to on the weekends because I work other days and I am exhausted when I get home so my weekends are time for her. It isn't working. Hannah is throwing tantrums and saying mean things about herself like nobody loves me, or it's all my fault. It also get's complicated because I am divorced and her father is "disneyland" Dad so she now is saying she wants to live with her Dad which hurts my feelings. My new husband is kind of hard on her. I think he gets frustrated and so she is always in time out and I just feel so bad... Any advice on how I can not only handle Hannah in a way that she understands but also explain this to my current husband as how he can be a little more easy going with her and more compassionate?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

My 4 year old is doing better. I've let her help with the baby more so because the baby can hold her head up better so Hannah (4yr old)is a little more comfortable with holding her sister. I've also made it important to really praise her when she does something good, and ignore her negative comments. Thanks to everyone who gave me advice.

Featured Answers

Hi J.,
I agree with having her be a helper. I think that if you were to involve her with everything it could help. My son was 2 and a half when his little brother came. I let Noah get the diapers, wipes, bottles, pick out his clothes, ect. It took longer to have him help be he always loved to so it didn't matter that it took longer. Good luck.
Chris

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You're doing the right things. It will just take some adjustment time. Simple as that. When I had my second, I read that it is important to tend to the baby to make sure you bond to the baby. Your bonds with your older child are strong and resilient and you must trust all your hard work with her. Don't be tempted to jeopardize your relationship with your baby. Your older child understands, even though she doesn't like it.

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THis is very normal. Let hew know that it is okay to feel the way she does (babies DO get a lot of attention) and continue doing what you are doing. She probably wants some validation and extra attention. Since it sounds like you are doing the latter, it is okay to acknowledge her feelings. And be sure to give her extra hugs and a little extra TLC whenever you can-- not just on your day alone with her. Encourage her to sit with you as you hold the baby. Maybe read her a story while she's there. But it sounds like you are doing what you can. Have patience, she will come around soon enough.

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Try to get her to help out with the baby get her to feel like its her baby too. I have a 4 year old step son and I baby sit his cousins alot. Who are 2 months and 1 yr but at first he was very jealous. Until I asked him for help then he became excited. From there he was fine with them being here. So my advice would be try to have her help you. Like ask her to get the diapers and wipes for you or have her help you feed her. Let me know how it works out
A.

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I am sorry to hear of the tourblent waters. I have a 5 year old and one on the way in January. We have had some of the same issues with Grace already. what we did was to one make sure she understood her "status" was not in jepordy at all with the new one coming. She has speicial things she does with me and with her Dad.

On the Disneyland Dad side- I had one of those myself and saw first hand how distructive it can be. My brother used it as his weapon of choice as my mom had more kids. If you can,sit down with your ex and try( I know it sucks) to set some rules for each house that are the same and explain to him the issues that are starting to come up. It is better to get on the same page before the kids get any older b.c it will become a much bigger issue then.

S.

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As everyone else said, get her involved in helping with the baby...diapers, wipes, burp cloth, etc. My baby is 7 months old now and starting some separation anxiety, so I'll have my 4 year old play/talk with her brother while I get his bottle, go to the bathroom, get lunch ready, etc. She loves getting to play with him and she's the only one who can get him to really laugh right now! She had started acting out, but after letting her be more involved, things have settle down. Another thing I've noticed with my kids is that they'll start misbehaving when I'm feeding the baby because they thought Mommy wouldn't stop to discipline them, the baby will be fine for the short time it takes to put her in time out.

Good luck and congrats on the new little girl!

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I agree with all the advice you have received in trying to include your older daughter with the care of your baby. I was wondering if you had thought of having your husband take over with the baby for 30-60 minutes each evening, so you can have some alone time with Hannah? This would be an ideal time for your husband to bond with the baby, while you can sit and play with Hannah. I know everyone wants a piece of you, especially with a new baby at home, but perhaps your husband can help out with his child while you get some one on one time with Hannah.

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J.,
My only advice, is to really really give her attention when she does good things. If she normally throws a tantrum at dinner time, and she doesn't one day, totally play it up and tell her how wonderful she is and give her a treat or something. She is obviously getting something out of being naughty. if attention is what she wants, give it to her, but give it to her for good behavior instead of bad. when our son did this, we made him go to his room until he "decides to be a happy boy" so he knows that it is a choice he makes himself. he realized that we don't want to be around him when he decides to be naughty or whiney.
good luck!

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J.,
My sister just had this problem and got wonderful advice from a friend which I will try to pass on third hand. She involved her son by telling him the baby was looking at him and smiling at him and maybe he could entertain his little brother and get him to stop crying. This gave my nephew a job and a way to interact with an infant and be the big brother without all the negatives. So without too much touching or holding, my nephew tries really hard to be a good big brother because he knows he can have a positive impact on his little brother. Does your daughter know how to read? When my two year old was visiting his baby cousin he brought out books and told "stories" and showed the baby things that he knew (kinds of animals, trucks and buildings). It gave him a sense of purpose and let him show off a bit. I know this is not as close a relationship as an everyday interaction, but it may help for 10-15 minutes at a time so Hannah can interact with Aubree. Your husband may be able to see that Hannah can be a good big sister and be a little easier on her.
Good luck~

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Hello~
I am going to tell you a little about my expirience, in as little words as possible. I hope!
I am the product of divorce, and when my mom had her second baby (7 years younger then me) was born I had some of the same issues, My mom did try to involve me in the day to day of the baby and that was a good thing, but I still had a hard time with situation and would constantly pull the " I want to live with daddy, you don't love me ect,." and my mom would ignore me or say that wasn't possible ect,. and then one day she had enough and was tired of hearing I want to live with daddy, she looked me right in the eye and said and I quote "your wish has been granted" walked in my room and packed my clothes, nothing else in the room could go, put me in the car and started drivivng, I can remember sitting there thinking this isn't happening, about ten minutes into the drive I was so upset at the fact she was actually taking me, I started begging to go home, 5 minutes later we were on our way home, and I never said those words to here again.
Fast forward to my own kids, my husband and I have been married for 17 years but five of those years we were seperated, and he had a couple of kids during this period, and very little contact w/ our 2 children, but that didn't stop the " I want to live with daddy" when things weren't going thier way, and your right it HURTS to hear those words, and then one day like my mom, I was sick of hearing it, they were 3&4 at the time, and I did exactly what my mom did, only thier clothes, and told them how much I loved them and would miss them and how sorry I was that they didn't love being with me as much as I loved being with them, and started driving, luckily a few minutes in they changed thier mind, And I say luckily because I had no clue where thier dad was, he only called us occasionaly.
Will this work in your situation who knows? But it is a thought, also the age of 4 is a trying time already, sometimes the most easy going infant/toddler can become really difficult around this age, some of it, I think is the fact that they are capable(sp) of doing so much but as parents we start putting down stronger boundries and things become a little less "carefree". I would say be patient,and don't acknowledge the bad. And one thing I think one of the other mothers mentioned is making time only for her in the evenings, not just the weekends, that is a long time to a 4 year old, the equvilant of a month for us.
I am raising my "step"-children, have been sisnce they were very little, and are mine in every sence of the word, but for the first few years I did very little of the "punishing" that was my husbands job, I did discuss what I wanted to see be done with him but the actuall punishing was done by him, and when he wasn't home I would use a chart to show what behaviors they had that day, and not just the bad but the good also, and then I would let them know what would be discussed with thier dad when he got home, obviously he couldn't use time outs for the actions that happened when he wasn't home, so we did things like take t.v time or removed a toy from thier rooms ect,. I am lucky today they see as thier mom and we are a large family 7 kids in total our older 2 his 2 and then our younger 3, and have no issues correcting them today, but it is a process, and I see that you and your husband have been togather for most of Hannah's life but he may need to pull back just a little and give you and Hannah some time to work through this, and maybe instead of focusing on Hannah, become that much more involved in Aubree, so that you have the spare time to help Hannah get through this transition, I don't know if that helped any, but I will say good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J.,
I agree with having her be a helper. I think that if you were to involve her with everything it could help. My son was 2 and a half when his little brother came. I let Noah get the diapers, wipes, bottles, pick out his clothes, ect. It took longer to have him help be he always loved to so it didn't matter that it took longer. Good luck.
Chris

1 mom found this helpful

When we experienced this problem, my pediatrician told us to refuse to reward the bad behavior with any attention, negative or otherwise, and to ignore the child when she behaves this way. We were instructed to calmly inform our daughter that her behavior is unacceptable and that we will talk to her only if she choses to behave in an acceptable manner. Although this proved nearly impossible with our older daughter, who sees her chief role in life is to break us(LOL) and who will scream and carry on for hours and force us to give her negative attention, we have found that removing ourselves from her immediate vicinity with the same admonishment about appropriate behavior has been successful. As for dear old Disneyland Dad, she doesn't mean it when she says she wants to live with him--she would much rather be with you. The more comfortable and safe a child feels with his/her parents, the more he or she will push those boundaries. And I can see from my own daughter's behavior, your daughter has found a set of really effective ways to push your buttons; don't let her. But I would make sure she had extra special one-on-one time with you at bedtime, just an additional fifteen minutes or so, to talk about her day or what is bothering her or anything she might have on her mind.

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I say let Hannah be involved with the baby, like helping with diaper changes, or if you need to give the baby a bottle, let her hold it, or let her check on the baby for you once in a while. My son was 5 when my #2 was born and he had a time adjusting, but we got thru it. It involved a lot of cuddling with the three of us, but they are very close today, she is 3 and he is 8. I let him know that this baby wasnt just mine and daddy's but his as well, which always was funny to hear him tell someone that it was his baby. Sure they fight, but what family doesnt get into that once in a while. I just hope when both are teenagers, that bond will still be there. Good Luck and Congratulations.

PS As for your Husband, well they have a harder time understanding kids, so it might take some time and patience to get thru to him about Hannah, but keep trying. With him helping, it will make things smoother for both girls.

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I just had a baby of my own. She is 5 weeks now and I also have a 5 year old. My husband and I are together and we still have trouble with her. Since the day Madilyn was born my oldest has "felt" left out. She is constantly saying that no one loves her anymore and that she wants a new mom and dad. With all of my hormones and everything it just makes me tear up, and so one day my daughter said she wanted a new mom, with my husband there and he said, "Fine, pack your stuff and go find one!" He helped her pack and she was crying the entire time. He then sat down with her, because she didn't want to go, and he told her that the only reason I paid so much attention to Madilyn was because I was the only one that could feed her. After about 30 minutes of talking to her she is doing better, but she still gets upset. I think it is natural. My mom said that when I was born my oldest brother asked if they could sell me. Now it is funny, and it has been a family joke for some time, but at the time it was really upsetting to my mom. Unfortunately it is something we all have to deal with the best way we know how. I think you are doing the right thing, it just will take some time! Good Luck!!

A.

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I had the same problem with my oldest daughter when my son was born. Granted the age difference was smaller, there is only two years apart for them. But what I did was make her "Mommy's Special Helper" with the baby. I would ask her to get me diapers or the wipes or help feed him (very messy - but it worked) as my son got older. We also got her a baby of her own and she would "change the babies diaper" while I was changing Michael's. Little things like that.
Good luck with the "Disneyland Dad". I can't even imagine what that might be like for you. I do agree with the previous poster that it isn't fair for you or your new husband to always look like the bad guys. As for your new husband, just talk to him and explain that although it isn't right for Hannah to get away with things she isn't supposed to be doing, you have to pick your battles. Especially right now with her going through this adjustment. I wish you the best.
L.

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J.-

Try to do everything with Aubree at Hannah's level. Change her diaper on the floor or the bed so that Hannah can sit right there and watch what you are doing. Let her sit next to you on the sofa with a book or her own baby when you are feeding Aubree. Also, when Hannah asks you to play a game with her or read her a book, it is okay to say, "I will as soon as I get done feeding the baby" or "right after baby's bath" but then DO IT! If that means baby needs to cry for 10-15 minutes, so be it. Hannah needs to know that you will come to her when she needs you just as you go to baby when baby needs you. When my youngest was home for 3-4 weeks, we went through the extreme jealousy with the older one. We made time for him (letting the baby cry at times), did everything on his level, and made him the #1 helper (getting diapers, feeding baby, etc.) My youngest is now 8 months old and the 2 of them are best of friends. The older one wants to play with him (as difficult as that may be at times!) and there is no jealousy at all. As for the "Disneyland Dad", Hannah will continue to use 'I want to live with Daddy' for years and years. My step-kids have been in my life for just over 7 years, and they live with their mom fulltime, we see them on the weekends. After much time, we now have a very good relationship with the ex, but I can not even count how many times the kids have told her "I want to live with Dad". You will also hear, "I don't have to do that at Dad's house", "Dad doesn't make me do that", "Dad's nicer", and it goes on and on and on. She is only saying that to you because she is upset and she is trying to hurt you to get what she wants. Just 2 nights ago, my 11 year old step-son told his mom that he wanted to live with his dad after she got on his case about forgetting homework at school. She told him, "Fine, pack your things and I'll drop you off this weekend". He instantly started crying and said, "no, I really don't want that." They are acting on the moment and just venting their frustrations the only way that they know how. Your ex won't be hearing "I want to live with Mom" but he'll be hearing plenty of other things when she's expected to clean her room or he has to tell her 'no' when she wants a new toy or to go do something fun. As for your new husband, it may just take him some time. Being in his position, it can be very difficult to know the boundaries of discipline and such on your step-child. Be honest with him and talk to him about it. Let him know what bothers you, but also reassure him that he is as much a part of raising Hannah as you and your ex are. Within time, it WILL get better. Good luck!

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I am a single mother of two and I can definately relate to how you feel. My oldest son Evan is 22 months and my breast fed baby Ian is 2 months. I also work a full time job. When I get home, Evan is trying hard to get my attention. Just as soon as Ian is sleeping for the evening, the rest of the time is Evan's. We do whatever he wants. Sure, I am exhausted, but everyday is spent dividing my time between the boys. I believe there is time everyday for each one. As for your husband, if you can't play with her, maybe he can step in and hang out with her. Timeouts are good, but not all the time. She can't be that naughty. She's just wanting attention. It will get better. Hang in there.

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This sounds like the EXACT same thing I am going through...I have a newborn, too...a 7 week old boy. I also have a just turned 4 year old son and a 2 1/2 year old son. I thought that my 2 year old, who is quite the mama's boy :), would have a harder time adjusting to the newest addition. I was way wrong. My 4 year old did the SAME thing. He started lying and acting out in different ways. I mentioned my concern at my son's 4 year old check up last week, and my pediatrician told me this: "Imagine if your husband brought home another woman. THat's how your child feels." When you think of it this way, I can understand why they would act out...and my son is getting better week by week. Even if you spend extra time with her, it's still not the same, 100% of your attention that she used to get...but in time, she'll adjust. Just don't stop trying :) Good luck!!!

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Does your husband have a solid income? The kids need to be priority...do with less and quit your job. The preschool years go by too fast and they need you home. Thats what will work.

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J.- I love that you do mommy time with your daughter it is so important. When you get home from work maybe you can go out of your way to say hi to her first and give her the first hugs and kisses. I also agree with having a little helper not only is it nice for you, but she will feel like an important part of the family and maybe you can do a reward chart when she is helping, stickers always works for my son. As far as your husband being hard on her just talk with him and let him know how hard it must be being an only child for 4 years and now having to share EVERYTHING including mommys love with someone else (not only your new baby but a fairly new daddy too), I hated my brother (at first) because after 6 years of being an only child it was hard to share especially my mom with someone else. I am sure and I know you probably have heard this before but she is probably acting out for your attention. Look back when she acts out do you and your husband stop everything and turn your attention to only her? The acting out is a quick fix, just involve her more and when your exhausted and sit on the couch for a quick rest ask her to snuggle with you for a minute I'm sure it will be special for her and you. Good luck I wish you the best.

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