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Managing Sibling Rivalry
by Rebecca Garland

A second baby is a huge blessing and one that is even easier to enjoy than the first. You already know the basics of parenting and the mysteries of babies and how they work are behind you. You can relax with your prior childrearing experience and prepare to greet your new arrival.

There is one small road bump on the way to the birth of your second child, however. You know what to expect from yourself, your spouse and the new baby. But what should you expect from your older child?

Sibling Rivalry
Sibling rivalry is not something to be feared, it is something to be expected and managed. It is extremely rare that an only child goes from his solo and revered status to playing second fiddle to a squawking infant.

Lucky parents may have a child that loves her new brother and greets each day ready to help Mommy and Daddy in any way she can. Other parents are faced with temper tantrums and stubborn fits. Both are perfectly normal reactions to a new baby and the lucky parents can feel especially blessed.

Sibling rivalry, however, is one of those things that never goes away. The toddler who adores her baby brother initially may grow annoyed with his presence when he starts taking her toys. The toddler who had such a hard time adjusting immediately after the baby’s birth may settle into a new routine and become baby’s best friend – until they start fighting over the latest video game a few years down the road.

Managing Sibling Rivalry
No matter what age your first child is when the baby arrives, there will be a period of adjustment for everyone. Older children seem to adapt more quickly which may be testament to their maturity and outside interests, but younger children may be a bit more adaptable overall as everything is still relatively new to them.

To help your child and family adjust to a new arrival:

Give your oldest as much attention as possible. Sibling rivalry at its essence is a contest for attention and a need for validation. Does Mommy still love me as much as she did? Does she love the new baby more?

Convince your child that there is no question of your love. Give her attention constantly, even when feeding and holding the baby. Read to her, sing to her, snuggle together with the baby and watch her favorite show. Tell her you love her and show her that love. Let your laundry pile up and the dishes go unwashed if it means you and your oldest child spend quality time together bonding.

Make your oldest feel proud to be the Big Brother or Big Sister. Nothing feels better than pride in a job well done. Encourage your child to be the Big Brother or Sister. Create all kinds of special jobs for him or her to do that are fun and require responsibility.

Perhaps Big Brother can pick out just the right diaper or hand Mommy the wipes. Big Sister might be in charge of shaking the bottle or carefully spooning out some baby food. If your older child wants nothing to do with the baby, offer her the chance to help anyway. If she says she doesn’t want to, tell her that’s perfectly fine. She may have mixed feelings still, so be sure to praise her for her patience or for doing a good job being quiet while the baby is sleeping anyway.

Find distractions. Lots of older siblings have distractions that remind them how great it is to be a big kid and give them a chance to blow off steam. Classes, sports and preschool may be great options to give an older child some fun in his day that has nothing to do with the baby at home.

Reward good behavior. Children respond well to praise and tangible rewards. Praise your child often for even the most mundane things, so long as they are something you want to continue. Even if your child is having a hard time adjusting, catch him doing something well and praise it lavishly.

Occasionally buy a special treat such as ice cream, new crayons or a new toy. Tell your oldest this is a special treat for being such a good Big Brother or Sister.

Try to ignore bad behavior that stems from sibling rivalry unless it is a blatant disregard for existing rules. It’s been shown time and again that rewards for doing things right are much more effective than punishment for wrong doing.

 

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