Tuesday, September 4, 2012

20 Toddler tips in 20 days 9. Sibling Rivalry

Toddler Survival Tip #9

9. Sibling Rivalry

Did you know that a crying baby is practicing social skills? Crying brings adults, who provide food, comfort and entertainment. By 4 months, they begin to smile, giggle, coo, mimicking and interact with their environment. They feel they are the only important ones in this world, they don't even recognize themselves in the mirror as 'them' until about 12 months. Between 12 and 24 months they finally discover that other people are held in this world too.

It doesn't stop with just the discovery of others in their environment, toddlers also want to know what and how these others play a part in their world.
It's no wonder they often hit, bite, push and fight to discover how to get along with others.

So what do you do when your precious little ones are squabbling, pinching and terrorizing each other? Again, I refer back to your number one job - teach. 
We must use distractions, SUPERVISION, redirection and giving reasonable limits.


1. Social Skills must be Taught!
They don't come naturally for all children, social skills must be taught. With the addition of siblings, comes opportunity. How better to teach them to share and cooperate than everyday all day long with their siblings. 

2. Access. Don't expect your 2 or 3 year old to be tolerant of a younger baby for too long. It's important to teach them to share and be tolerant indeed, but after a full day of having the baby knock down all your blocks, rip apart your train tracks, eat your last berry, chew up your favourite doll's nose, there's a limit to their patience. We think, "they need to LEARN to get along", and this it true, but who is teaching them? How are we teaching them? Who is overseeing the everyday, all day activities? Observe how they get along. 
Picture your husband coming home saying, "Honey, you know I love you, I love you so much that I decided to bring home another wife. I want you to know that I have enough love for both of you, so don't be jealous, be nice and get along."  

It's hard for children to instantly be tolerant of siblings, it takes practice and patience and bonding time.
This is a great article about what to do before bringing a new baby home.

3. Space. Give them some space. Allow your older child to have a quiet, safe spot to go where the baby can't get at them. Let them have some breathing room and time to just be alone. We all need alone time in our lives at some point. Especially if things have been hectic or different. We have a book corner and we have a play room. I will sometimes gate off the playroom and ask my older son (3yrs) if he wants to play with this trains or something quietly in there and take a break from the baby.(14m) Often he will answer yes. He can take anywhere from 15 - 20 min of alone time until he asks to be back with everyone or he wants his brother to join him. I think it's important to give them a choice of when to be tolerant and when they need space.

4. MINE! Have you ever seen a "everything is mine" child?  Or do you have one? I can be frustrating trying to teach children that not everything is theirs, but they are only doing what comes natural to them. Under the age of 2 children are egocentric - they are the center of their own world, this is normal and natural. They simply thing that all things belong to them. Don't try arguing just teach. Example, "My purse!" Say, "Oh you like mommy's purse. Want to help me carry it?" Don't invite a power struggle, give her accurate information and a  way to make a contribution. "My cereal!" You are hungry for cereal, want to help pour some of the cereal into mama bowl and then your bowl?" "Nice sharing the cereal." "My car!" "You think your brothers car is cool! Maybe he has a different car to share with you." Get your older one to give him an alternative toy. Toddlers love to help! 
Remember:mo amount of logic or lecturing will change their point of view at this age, it is how she see's her world. Find a way to invite cooperation.

5. Peer Teach. Give your older child small jobs to help out the younger child. The usually love 'getting stuff' for baby. Get them involved in an important role so they still feel secure and love. Don't expect them to be all grown up by age of 3. They are still very young and need lots of guidance and reassurance.  
Personal Example: What I do with my boys is if my 14 month old wants what his older 3 year old brother wants. (which is everyday) I tell my older son to get another alternative toy for him to play with. I can't be the one to give him a different toy, he wants his brother to do it. He follows him around and wants all his stuff. I teach my older son, show him how you play, he wants to learn how to play with you. Give him a quick hug or kiss and he'll leave you alone right after. I know my kids as I observe them. I try to teach my older son quick tricks like this to help stave off any long term annoyance a baby may have on an older child.

If there is some aggression between siblings, refer to my aggression toddler tip blog http://babysignlanguagewithstickyhands.blogspot.ca/2012/08/20-toddler-tips-in-20-days-today_27.html

Remember validating feelings and giving out hugs can calm a storm pretty quickly. If one child in particular is always being quite aggressive, they may need more one on one time with you, some attention and love can sometimes cause anxiety and fears.

Feel free to contact me or comment for any other information.


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