8 answers

Please Help with Sibling Rivalry

Ok, so my older son is going to be 3 in November. The baby (also a boy) is 9 months. We had the normal issues right after he was born. It got better for a while. The older son loves the baby very much and a lot of the time he is very gentle and loving with him. He worries and tries to comfort him when he cries. He brings him his paci and stuff that he drops. He can be very sweet to him. But lately, he started getting really upset when I need to nurse the baby again. He tries to push him off of me and the couch when I'm nursing him. Part of it I'm sure is that now that the baby is mobile and getting into his stuff. I try to grab the baby and direct him to his own toys every time that happens, but let's face it, sometimes I have to cook something or G-d forbid go to the bathroom for a minute. I can't keep them apart all the time. My older son is in preschool during the day so it only happens when he comes home and on the weekends. Being not even a 3 year old yet he doesn't get that babies just do that. He gets mad and I get why he gets mad. I know I can't expect him to understand. So I need creative advice for minimizing these incidents when my son gets to mad at the baby.

Also, it's becoming a struggle to get him to follow his routine in the morning and at night and everything seems like it's becoming a struggle. I am thinking of doing a morning routine chart. Has anyone had any luck with that at this age?

I'm at a loss. I don't want my older son to feel like he has to give up everything because of the baby. I try to spend as much cuddle and special time with him as I can. But I am only one human being. I also don't want the baby to feel like it's ok for his brother to constantly grab stuff away from him and for me not to do anything about it. And he needs love and attention too

Please don't suggest punishments or bribery. I don't believe in either.

Thanks!

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks everyone for the great advice. Yes, the dad (my husband) is very much in the picture. He takes care of the boys in the morning while I'm in the shower. He doesn't do very well with staying focused on getting him through the morning routine so when I get downstairs after showering (dying for my cup of tea and a slice of toast before I have to nurse the baby yet again and put him down for a nap) I have to take over dealing with the drama and tantrums of what daddy didn't manage to get done before he takes him to preschool. And when he comes home from work he takes care of them while I take my second shower (to clean myself from all the split-up and such) and then he does their bath and I help with the after bath stuff. I then put the baby down. Daddy does snack and watches Thomas with my older son and then I do story time and cuddle time before he falls asleep. And he helps out on the weekends a lot. So even though he's not perfect, he does do his part of being there for the kids. But he has a hard time staying focused on the routine (always has had trouble with routines) so he doesn't respond quickly to my son's needs and my son being so young gets frustrated and throws a tantrum. So that's a big part of the problem.
But I will try the reward system (any ideas of what are good rewards that aren't teaching him to be materialistic?) because it does fit my parenting style rather than bribery. And I will try to do something just with my older son as often as I can. Today I got a sitter and picked him up from preschool and we went out and did something fun just the two of us. Wouldn't you know it, he was incredibly well behaved. He was also really sweet to his baby brother the entire rest of the afternoon and early evening and really did well. So I will try to do that as often as I can. I will also really try to read to him while I'm nursing the baby but I think that will be a bit of a challenge.
Also, he was in day-care and just switched over to a new preschool, which he absolutely loves. He has no trouble saying goodbye in the morning. He always goes happily and looks forward to it. And is always happy when I pick him up. He loves his new teachers, friends, and routines at school. So I highly doubt that transition is the issue. He also naps well and sleeps well and enough so that's not the issue.
He also eats very healthy foods and doesn't eat candy nor does he drink juice.
I will keep you all posted. Thanks again!

More Answers

Oh, I so feel for you. My oldest is soon to be 5 and my youngest is 1.5. The baby getting mobile phase is difficult.

Some options, one really really heap on the praise when oldest is being nice to the baby. Then the association is made that being nice to the baby gets me attention instead of the reverse.

Also, perhaps you could have a special toy (or even a doll baby) for when you nurse. Then your oldest takes care of "his" baby, or play with this super special toy only at nursing time.

Also, if you don't have one set up, now is the time for a playpen. That way, you can put the baby in it while you have to use the rest room, answer the door whatever. Otherwise it really isn't safe to leave them alone together even for a second.

You also could try a reward system, with stars or tokens that get taken away or earned for good behavior. At the end of the week, if there are so many tokens, your oldest gets to spend a special hour with just mommy, or whatever reward works for you. The nice about this system, is that usually the threat of taking away a token, will stop negative behavior.

Otherwise, hang in there. This is a phase, if you are consistent about what is acceptable behavior, you oldest will come around. It may just take a while. I was fond of telling all my friends that I felt a lot like my job was to keep the oldest from killing the youngest for a while. However, the oldest does have to realize he is not the center of the universe, and while it feels bad (he used to be) in the long term it is a good life lesson.

My son used to show jealousy when I was nursing his little sister. They are 25 months apart. What worked for us was while I nursed the baby on the couch, I would read to my son. I had to use plenty of pillows to prop up the baby while my other hand held a book and/or the toddler, but it worked most of the time. At least that allowed him to feel snuggly and special with me and minimized the jealousy. A bit of multitasking can save a lot of stress. HTH

Good advice below, but I wanted to add: Is the boys' dad in the picture? You don't mention their father at all. Maybe he's not in the picture, in which case it's moot.

But if he is in their lives, even if he's working all day, it's his role to help you with this as much as possible when he is present--you need a break from being in charge of both boys all the time. I hope dad isn't coming home and "doing his own thing" in the name of "I need my down time after work" like some dads do, while the mom struggles on just as she had to all day long. He can help your older son do his a.m. routine (if dad's not at work aleady), or do the routine with your older son on weekends, or give your older son extra attention evenings/weekends, or take over the baby (with a bottle of pumped breast milk) while you and your older son go out on weekends, or while you get out blessedly alone....

This is all in addition of course to good ideas like charts, more responsibilities for your older son (to make him feel in control and like a "big boy"), etc. as has been suggested. But you should not be dealing with both boys' needs all alone if their dad is around at all.

One other thought -- You say you don't believe in bribes, but don't confuse bribes with rewards. As someone else suggested, a rewards system can be effective. Rewards aren't bribes; they come after the desired behavior, not beforehand as a way to "buy" that behavior. Rewards can and should include things he really likes and wants, his particular currency, and that may be things like a new toy car when he gets X number of stickers or ice cream when he gets Y stickers. Those aren't bribes, they're rewards you promise in advance and follow through on giving when he does well and withhold, kindly but firmly, when he doesn't. Just my two cents on "bribery" because I've seen parents equate rewards with bribery a few times.

Did your older son just start preschool? It sounds like he is really just reacting to your attention to the baby and perhaps he needs some one on one time with you. One thing we do is when I nurse the youngest I ask the big ones to bring me a book and I read to them while I nurse. It can be a challenge, but it can be done and they actually look forward to it now. Also, I found that starting preschool made my son have a hard time with rules at home. I try to give him a very small amount of options so he feels like he is in control of something. I have heard that being in school is fun but they all of a sudden have no say in what they do when and they can take it out on you when they get home. Let him choose which pj's to wear or whether to brush teeth first or read a story first. Giving him that small amount of power may be enough for him to stop fighting the inevitable. Good Luck!

If he grabs something away, he not only has to give it back, but also find something that the little brother likes to make him happy -- replace taking with giving. Praise the giving. (Giving something else interesting might have the added benefit of shortening the baby's turn with the coveted item, and let the big brother know this.) If the baby is playing with one of the older boy's first, it's the baby's turn -- and babies have short turns -- older brother can wait. If he's worried about something getting broken, etc., then it's a baby's naptime only toy.

Also, I learned to use the language, "that makes the baby happy when you give" rather than "that makes mommy happy when you give" because the latter phrasing is too abstract and confusing.

The reading a book is a good idea, but if you find that you need an alternative, something that I sometimes do is ask, "what would you like to play with today while I give your little sister milk?" And list the Duplos, puzzles, or other engaging toys that require my assistance to get out. Then I make sure my 3-year old is engaged before starting nursing.

With some creativity you should be able to find safe places (shelves and tables) for at least some of your 3 yr old's most precious stuff. Explain to him that you want to help him keep it safe so it needs to stay there while the baby is around. If the 3 year old wants it down when the baby's in the same room, it's fair game for sharing. It also helps to have a playpen or gated off area that the older one can play in undisturbed.

In order to enlist your son's cooperation in following a routine, it helps to let him choose some of the options involved, i.e. "today is Monday, so it's Josh's day to decide what we eat for breakfast! Is it going to be pancakes, cereal or eggs? I wonder what Josh will choose?" Also, if your son is into pretending, you can use that to help make the routine fun: "All right, Sir Josh, you are going to need some super strong socks today to fight a really big dragon--let's find the toughest ones in your drawer!" And finally, for every dreary, onerous part of the routine that your son drags his feet with, there should be a nice thing that follows, not bribery exactly, but something he looks forward to. "As soon as you finish going potty, we can put on the Bug Song CD to listen to while we get breakfast ready."

Would it work to ask your older son to show your baby something else he might be interested in when baby gets into big kid's stuff?

Life with sons is busy! My boys are much older now and still fight over stuff. One thing that worked when they were little was to take the object away from both until they were ready to share or just later when it was forgotten. Even 9 month old babies understand when you tell them to leave big brother's toys alone. And the baby being talked to the same way you talk to the older one will make the older one much happier.

You may need to rethink the toilet on your own plan though. As unbelievable as it may seem, brothers can't be left unattended even for a bit. I couldn't really leave my sons unattended at all - even alone when the older ones were at school - because they were so active and just don't have the judgment needed to stay safe. Our playpen was only for those occasions when I really needed the baby safe - to drain boiling water or use the bathroom or clean up older brother. It is a busy, crazy time but take lots of pictures because they grow up fast.

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