Helping an Older Child Adjust to a new Sibling

My sister in law told me a horror story about a three year old boy who put beads in his baby brothers mouth because apparently he was jealous of all the attention the baby was getting. I was mortified. I was also pregnant with my second child. I am not sure what her motivation was other than to terrify me.

There were other stories just like it. Another boy filled his little sisters mouth with Cheerios because he was helping to feed her breakfast. Everywhere I went, there was another story about how a jealous sibling had tortured, injured and nearly killed the much younger child.

With all the things to worry about, blind cords too close to the crib. Poisons. Electrical plugs, open toilet lids and the normal stuff, I was not looking forward to having a toddler intentionally go after my baby out of pure jealousy.

After a lot of reading, thinking and praying, I decided to start coaching my small boy, Phillip, about how cool it was to be a big brother. He wasn’t old enough to play alone outside and he had plenty of time with mom and dad up to this point. Therefore, I didn’t want to talk about what a great playmate he would have as he already had that with us and I didn’t want the expectation to be that of an instant playmate. I knew Phillip would be disappointed when I brought home a little blob, wrapped in swaddling clothes, that could barely move his own head, let alone run and play with him. I quickly decided that this approach would not work for us.

Every where I went people talked about the new baby. I would always shift my focus to the, yeah, but it is way more cool to be the big brother like Phillip. The big brother was the cool thing to be. This was the highlight of every conversation. If only I got to be the big brother. Being a mom and a girl, I never got the privilege to be a big brother like you. How cool that would be and how lucky are you Phil?

There was also a lot of focus on how helpful a big brother is and also will be once the baby came into the world. We emphasized the fact that the baby would never be able to do all the things Phil could do and I so depended on his abilities to run and get things for me that I couldn’t do when I was tending to a baby.

Phillip was the big brother and the new baby would turn out to be another boy, Sam. Sam was a handful and Phillip lived up to his responsibilities with flying colors. He was helpful, loving and kind to his brother. The worst thing he did was push Sam in his swing by pushing on his head. It was a little too high too. Sam is 15 today and he seems none the worst for the experience.

It seems I selected the right course of action by playing up the big brother role. Of course today he still seems to think he can push his brother around the house…only now, Sam is out of the stroller and not so appreciative and patient.

Sometimes it is just difficult to know what approach to take.