Sibling jealousy and conflict, although frustrating, is a normal development when a new baby arrives. While some children may start to act up within the first weeks after the baby’s birth, others may have strong reactions later on, when the little one starts crawling, walking, and playing with toys.
It’s really not surprising—parents’ attention is focused on the baby’s needs. At the same time, parents tend to expect more independence from the older child. All of this adds up to a new role that the big sibling has to grow into pretty quickly. This amount of change in expectations and life at home is enough to throw even the most mild-mannered child off balance emotionally.
Certain misbehaviors are especially common. Attention seeking behaviors, like shrieking or refusing to eat, or regression to baby-like behavior, or hitting or taking things from the baby are all common. And if the older sibling is a toddler, being less able to communicate with words makes their behaviors and reactions more exaggerated.
Young children benefit from parents showing them how to be an older sibling and manage conflict.
Managing sibling conflict is a challenging aspect of parenting, no matter how common you know that the behavior is. By staying calm, maintaining connections, and encouraging your child’s social growth, you can help guide your children toward a more positive relationship with each other. For more information about helping children to develop a positive connection, watch Sibling Relationships: Help Young Children Connect in Positive Ways, with Peace at Home expert, JoAnn Robinson, PhD.
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