2.5 Year Old Out of Control with New Baby in the House

Updated on August 18, 2009
A.M. asks from Milwaukee, WI
9 answers

I'm looking for help and support here fellow Mama's. I am the proud mom to a 2.5 year old son and we just had another son who turns 6 weeks old today. I knew to expect some sibling jealousy with my older son, I just never expected it would be this tough. Before the baby came I would describe my son as sweet, happy, helpful and generally well behaved. We had great routines and while he did do some of the typical 2 year old push back, we could easily get him back on course. Enter the little brother and it seems like everything we have worked so hard on with my older son, has gone out the window. He listens about 50% of the time, his favorite response to any question is NO! and he has become very aggressive, particularly to me -- hitting and kicking. Even more troubling is the fact that I think he is just very sad (depressed??) -- he's woken up from naps (not early, at the normal time) and just laid in his bed and sobbed - nothing my husband or I do can console him.

Everyone says it will get better. I know that it will, eventually. But I am looking for tips to get through this now and stories from other mom's as to how things in their house eventually went to a new normal. Because his behavioral issues are all over the board, it is hard to know how to deal with them. It's not like we are dealing with one issue... he's resisting bed time and naps, he is aggressive when he does not get his way, and on and on.

We've tried all the typical things... we ask for his help with the baby, we praise him like crazy for all good big boy behavior, we have been giving him as much attention as possible (one on one if possible). He still attends daycare during the day, so his routine has stayed very much intact.

Any other advice for a Mom who is at her wit's end. It's hard to be happy and excited about the new baby (who is just wonderful) when you feel like the happy family you had is suddenly not so happy anymore!

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answers from St. Cloud on

Hi A.! I went through this when we brought our baby girl home. My sweet, compassionate, loving, secure son TOTALLY fell apart!
We felt so bad about disciplining him for his behavior because we thought, "His whole world just fell in, we can discipline him now!" But the reality is that kids feel loved when they have boundaries. We always showed love to our son, included him in every part of our day and spent one on one time with him so we knew he wasn't feeling neglected. As soon as we re-introduced consequences for bad behavior (consistently) he was back to NORMAL!
Boundaries are such a safe thing for kids. Be consistent with whatever discipline your family uses and have lots of one on one time!
Congratulations on your new baby!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from La Crosse on

I find that playing the game, "What can baby do? Baby really can't do anything like big brother can!" with the older child is very confidence-inspiring for them. Just hold big brother close and talk about all the inadequacies that little brother currently faces (i.e., "he doesn't even know how to brush his teeth! baby brother can't open a door! he doesn't even know what spoons are for! silly baby. I am so glad I have you, big brother, because you really know a lot and you aren't just laying around crying and pooping like little brother!!" (caution: this can get pretty silly).. and chances are that big brother will walk away from that conversation with a whole new perspective, like my big girl did when she was that age and struggling with her newborn sister. We used to play that all the time, and the best part is that the baby has no idea what you are talking about so nobody's feelings get hurt. Baby only hears the voices of the people he loves speaking to him.

Then again, when all else fails, it is perfectly fine to go to the dollar store and buy a ton of little toys, wrap them, and put them in a 'treasure chest' for big brother to access when he does an extra-special helper chore for mommy or the baby (like fetching a diaper or bringing mommy a cup of water).



answers from Minneapolis on


We saw some of this when #2 came along. One thing we did was every Saturday morning (during baby's morning nap so as not to interrupt the nursing schedule) I took my oldest out on a "Mommy and Me" date while dad stayed home with the baby. We went to the park or got a treat or played on the playground at McDonalds, etc. My daughter was so used to having my undivided attention for so many hours in the day, it was hard for her to learn to share me with her little brother.

Nursing became "storytime" and I would have my older child bring me books to read her while I nursed.

I also established a predictable "one on one" time every day for every child. Now that I have four children, it's a little tricky. Thankfully everyone's sleep schedule is just a little different and I can give attention to one while another is sleeping, doing homework, at school, etc.

It is a hard adjustment, but I am glad I didn't wait any longer. My parents waited until I was 6 to bring along a sibling and I was in college before we got along or had anything in common. My husband and I intentionally spaced our children close together so they could play together sooner. I know it is hard to see it now, but a sibling is one of the greatest and long lasting gifts a parent can give to their child.

Best wishes,



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi A.,
Congrats on your new baby!

We TOTALLY went through the same thing when our youngest was born. I have a scrapbook page dedicated to how tough it was for our oldest to adjust, and it still makes me cry to think about how hard it was for everyone. Enter a new(again) mom's emotions and I felt like you did--sad, guilty, worried, and not able to "enjoy" the new baby in the same way. Others have already given some great advice, including that it WILL get better. Really, it will. In the meantime, I suggest two things that helped me: 1) carve out 1-on-1 time with EACH child. I say this because your oldest will appreciate that consistency from when he was alone with you. It will feel familiar and cozy and intimate to spend time with only you. Likewise, spending 1-on-1 time with your baby without the older one around will let you ENJOY that baby and indulge in those snuggles and stares without having to look over your shoulder to see if the older one is noticing that bonding. It's really hard for them to watch. 2) I know you are only on maternity leave, but I would suggest finding a mom's group in your area. (I myself belong to our local MOMS Club chapter--momsclub.org.) In the short term, it will give you other moms with whom to commiserate and share ideas, social outings, and nice distractions for your older son. ("Wow, the baby comes and suddenly I get to go to new playgroups with my mom and make new friends!")

Hang in there!!



answers from Minneapolis on


I am sorry that you are having such an emotionally mixed time of it with your older and younger sons. I have one child, so I do not know what you are going through, although I work with some moms who have had some frustrating times also, like having the first one say, "Mommy, I never think about hitting the baby", which of course means, "Mommy, I am thinking about hitting the baby, but I haven't".

The suggestion I will pass on is this, address it in a straight forward way. Take out some dolls to signify each member (or cars) and talk about the changes in the family. Pretend you are the older son saying how he feels since his life has changed so drastically. Or, you could always get some books about big brothers who were angry about the new sibling because they were worried there wasn't enough time or love. Or, even cheaper, you can make a book with photos about the evolution of your family. You and your partner, then him, then the baby, and write about all of the wonderful and sad feelings the family experienced.

Good luck and I hope you have strong support in your life,



answers from Milwaukee on

I feel for you! Could it be that your son is jealous that the baby gets to stay home with you while he goes to daycare? Even if he likes his daycare and all that, he may not be able to verbalize or even realize his own jealousy/resentment an thus takes it out so negatively?

My friend is going through the same thing right now, and that's the only thing they could figure out....

Hang in there!



answers from Rapid City on

Aww he is feeling replaced. His security was in his schedule and now that has changed to include a little brother. He is no longer the baby and doesn't understand why life changed so much. He is also only 2 so his ability to voice his feelings are harder. Once he gets use to the new routine he will start feeling secure again as long as it is in a positive way. When he acts out give him the words that he needs to explain the feelings he has. Say "I know you don't like that you don't have all my attention now with a little brother, but I still love you more then ever." Tell him how special he is, he will always be your first born and the one who made you a mommy, no matter how many children you have. Cuddle with him and tell him funny things he did when he was a baby and how he needed a lot of attention with feedings and diaper changes. This way he understands that this little brother that came into his life and stole his moms attention (which in some kids equals love) isn't getting special treatment, but the same treatment that he had at that age. Point out all the things he is big enough to do. Have him help you cook dinner, sit the table and fold the washclothes. Take time when hubby is home to spend alone time with him or have grandma watch the baby while you take him to the park once a week or something just the two of you. He needs to know he isn't replaced and that you still love him more then ever before. As far as his laying in bed crying after his nap, go cuddle with him and tell him how much you love him, how proud you are of him. Make it about him and not the baby.



answers from Minneapolis on

2.5 year olds are still very much their mama's babies. I recommend 2 things. Being consistent with expectations and punishments, understanding you are dealing with someone still on the tail end of their babyhood. And next, I HIGHLY recommend he has some one-on-one time with both his parents on a very regular basis. Even 1/2 hour a day if you can swing it. Make sure it's all about him and he is getting a lot of cuddling. It might be the right time to do this as soon as he walks through the door home from day care. I'm sure this feels really unfair to him to be sent away while baby gets mommy all day long.

What I wouldn't do is play the "you're the big boy" card. My parents did this with my brother and I and I seriously resented it. My brother and I were only 19 months apart. When you have kids less than 3-4 years apart, you can't necessarily expect that older child to act like the "big kid" all the time. Especially when stressed. If you don't see some improvement soon, it may be time to talk to a child psych or something along those lines. I had a friend need to do this with her 3 year old when she had twins come along. It made a world of difference for them.

Good luck and hang in there!



answers from Des Moines on

Hi A.! I may be wrong here - I can only comment based on what I know from my own experience - but, while it sounds extreme I would encourage you to get your son into counseling. My sister and I are 3.5 yrs apart. My mother has often told me that when she went to the hospital to deliver she "left an angel and came back to a devil" in my sister. My sister from day one asked if mom and dad would 'return me' for a puppy. She too went from being a very compliant and mild child to being very depressed (sobbing as you mentioned) and angry. It got to the point where she would act out toward me - biting my fingers and toes, etc (hard enough to draw blood!).

As a result, we never bonded and never got along growing up. I tried to get her to "like me" every way I could and she just could never get past my "violation" of taking away her mommy! To this day she will throw out a "well I never wanted you - I wanted a puppy!" comment. While she does it in jest now, there are still undertones. And sadly I am 35, she is 39.

Again - our situation may be extreme... but I would just encourage you to get as much help as you can with his feelings! Best of luck to all of you!

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