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Terrible Twos and Sibling Rivalry?
Sisters
maideleh wrote in parenting101
Rivka is going to be two in a couple of weeks(!) and sudenly she's gotten downright mean to her baby sister (Abigail, 7 months). Previously, she's been very sweet to her and eager to share. Any time the baby cried she would run to give her a toy or pat her and say "shh, baby" or pick up whatever she dropped, etc. Any time she had a treat we'd have to stop her from giving some to Abigail. There were lots of kisses and cuddles and cuteness all around.

Except, now she seems like she's being purposefully nasty to Abigail. She snatches toys away from her and doesn't even play with them. She just takes them, throws them out of the baby's reach, and watches her cry. She'll start to hand something to her, then snatch it back when Abigail reaches for it. She has walked up to her and hit her out of nowhere a few times. She's also started to freak out if my husband is paying any attention to Abigail. She tries to wedge herself between them and throws tantrums if he plays with her. She tried to pull Abigail out of my husband's arms.

So, I guess something has changed in her mentality towards the baby? Is she just now suddenly capable of experiencing jealousy? Is she experimenting to see what makes the baby cry or something? Is she just being a terror because she's about to be two and that's just what happens?

And, more importantly, what do I do about this? I've been reinforcing "nice" and "gentle touch" and reminding her to share. I've explained to her that whatever it is she's done is not nice and has made the baby cry. I've put her in time out a few times for particularly unacceptable incidents, but she's not really grasping time outs yet. I've made sure to give her extra attention during Abigail's nap and my husband has done his best to give her extra one-on-one as well. If there anything else to be done?

emma was great w/ her baby cousin (who might as well be a baby brother since we share a wall of our house and they're very often together) until he was more mobile, then she got really annoyed at his presence around her stuff and would lash out at him. so, i'mma say it's probably normal, esp since she was little when her sister was born (as was emma when her cousin was born, 19 months). he started getting mobile around 26ish months for her, and yeah, terrible twos or whatever set in. just keep on keepin' on and when she realizes that she can do/have xyz and the baby can't, she'll break off and let it happen.....i think.

we have to redirect the cousin more now because he'll toddle over (started walking at 10 1/2 months, LULZ) and want what she has and she'll have been playing nicely alone and freak that he's in her space, but as long as we redirect HIM to leave her alone she's chill. she'll even stop what she's doing if we ask her to give something to him in order to leave her alone. she's like "aight, i'll even bring it to you if it means you'll give me my effin' space!", and give him a toy and then go back to her corner.

ah, children.

eta: i didn't give any advice for how to help the situation, lol. um, try asking her to give the baby something she doesn't want to play with (that the baby can) so the baby will be occupied and not bother her? i don't mean to sound like pitting them against each other, but since 2 year olds are very territorial, i've found at least w/ mine, giving her the option of "take THIS so you won't touch MY toy of interest" at least diffuses the material fights. as for the niceness and gentle touch, just keep reenforcing and grit your teeth. growing empathy is a slow process w/ lots of setbacks.

Edited at 2012-11-12 10:48 pm (UTC)

I've been dealing with this for 6 years! The #1 thing you need to do is don't blame yourself! Sibling rivalry has been happening since the dawn of time! My children are wonderful, sweet, respectful individuals. When they're together, at home, it's a totally different story. I've done everything in my power to help these 2 get along and a lot of times, it just doesn't happen. They terrorize each other just to terrorize each other. What helps me out is focusing on wonderful, respectful adults who are great at getting along with everybody, and hearing their stories about how they didn't get along with one of their siblings. Or parents who's children hated each other growing up, and are now the best of friends. We all know these people. Find them and hear their stories. They really help with the mommy guilt. For us, it is what it is. All I can do is cherish the times when they are nice to each other. I can see they truly love each other. Until one of them looks out of the other's window. Then it's ON! I've grown to consider it daily practice in conflict resolution. If they can learn to tolerate each other (which I've seen great strides), they can learn to tolerate the rest of the world.

I know this isn't the most encouraging advice and I'm sorry for that. I'm sure others will chime in with something better. But, for me, I can't really narrow it to be more specific. I mean, what are you supposed to say when they're like "He looked at me AGAIN!" or "I just KNOW she's making that face to make me mad!" or "He stole my seat! I called seat check when I woke up this morning *10 hours ago*".

I will admit I only have one so I have no experience with this, but maybe try to encourage her to be the "mommy" to her stuffed animals? Have her feed then, dress them, give them hugs and kisses, put them to sleep, etc. When my two and half year son is getting really wild and violent, a lot of time that energy dissipates when I ask him to get one of his babies and take care of them.

My 4-year old is the same with our 8-month-old. Was completely fine until he was mobile. Now that he can crawl onto her or play with the toys that she wants, we've gotten some kicking & hitting. She gets frustrated that he's doing things on his terms and she can't convince him otherwise. Admittedly it's a little easier to to reason with a 4-year-old, but only barely. ;) Sadly, it's just the beginning of sibling-ness. It sounds like you're handling everything the best you can!

Yep, mobility changes everything. It's a scary and challenging time for your toddler. They need to trust you to keep them from harming their sibling. So stop anything that can cause REAL SERIOUS HARM right in its tracks by separating the siblings immediately (and then giving most of your attention to the injured/potentially injured party). And they need you to trust that they don't *want* to harm their sibling. Give them some of the benefit of the doubt. Babies can be annoying! And by the time they're mobile they're not TOTALLY helpless. They can take a little rougher attention from big sib. Try not to intervene unless big sib is brandishing metal toys or the screeching gets out of hand and bothers you.

I pored over the books Siblings Without Rivalry and "Mom Jason's Breathing On Me" when mine were that age. If you can set the stage when they're young, you'll have a great sibling relationship on your hands. You can't expect them never to fight, but you can expect an underlying deep bond of sibling love. I don' t know, mine were like that at that age -- hurting sister was the first timeout-worthy infraction my son ever engaged in -- but today (at 6 and 3.5) they can play (and fight) for hours on end and brother negotiates every night to have sister sleep in the spare bed in his room. Hang in there!

Edited at 2012-11-13 02:17 am (UTC)

I went through a similar phase with my older child at around that age. I did what you did: encouraged gentle touches and explained that hitting/snatching toys/what have you is not nice and it hurts the baby. I remember it happening when her younger brother was right around 6 months, and I thought it had to do with the fact that he finally did more than just lay there (he could sit and caterpillar crawl by then) and she was used to only giving him things instead of him coming to get things, you know? It got better by the time he was a year old. Or maybe he was just big enough to push back by that age.

Anececdotally, I've found that the worse siblings are to each other as children, the closer bond they have as adults. So if it was me, if no one was actually bleeding, I'd do my best to just let them get on with it; I'd discipline the tantrums the way you do any other tantrums (But, for tantrumming, not for the sibling rivalry), and I'd have disciplined for trying to pull the baby out of Dad's arms -- there are some things, things which will cause Real Harm, which must be seen as Crossing A Line; but outside of that, I'd say take a deep breath and grin and bear it?

My now-4-year-old's feelings towards his sister range all over the spectrum, depending on the day. He really started to feel jealous when she got old enough to interact with us, and especially when she became mobile and could crawl or walk to us for pick-ups or hugs.

Most of the time, he's fine with her. Then he'll tease her (take toys away, keep her from opening a drawer or cupboard, etc.) or be way too rough in his play. She's 15 months, so she's old enough to have opinions and voice them.

I would say that what happened is your baby is no longer a moving doll to your older child. She's starting to realize this baby is competition and has her own opinions. In your older daughter's mind, the fun toy is now a real person, and therefore an interloper.

Their relationship will stabilize, but your primary objective right now should be to make sure she's not hurting the baby. She doesn't have to like the baby or be affectionate, but injury and teasing are definitely out of bounds. Don't force them to have an idealistic relationship with each other - your older child is still too young to realize the world isn't just all about her and what's happening to her - but do keep her from hurting her sister.

She's also learning cause and effect - she takes away a toy, and the baby screams. She's not doing it out of meanness, any more than dropping toys repeatedly over the side of her high chair is intended to drive you nuts (hey, look, gravity works!), but it is still an acitivity you'll have to curb.

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