I have just had my third baby boy and my second child (3) has turned into someone I don’t even recognize. At first he was very upset about the baby and asked us to leave him at the hospital. When we came home, my husband and I had to be super watchful with him because he was rough with the new baby. This was so different to our oldest son (6), who was besotted with his new baby brother.
Now, two months later, he is much better with the baby but his behavior is impossible. He literally doesn’t listen to a thing we say. We may as well not be talking! What are we doing wrong?
It certainly sounds like your little one is struggling with having a new “baby” in the house. Take heart, you are not alone with this problem and there are many things that your husband and you can do to bring harmony back into your home!
You have done nothing wrong. The birth order of our children and its effects has received attention from parenting analysts all over the world. Entire books have been dedicated to this subject. You may want to check out some of these.
Keven Leman’s book “The Birth Order Book” is worth looking at. He has also written a children’s picture book called “My Middle Child, There’s No One Like You.” I find children’s stories a wonderful way to help them understand their feelings and to springboard further discussion about things that may be worrying them. Books can help children put their feelings into words that they may not have been able to do before.
Your three year old has had to, very abruptly, give up his previous status of “baby.” This is very difficult for him and he is doing everything he can to hold onto you your undivided attention. This often exhibits in “bad” behavior. The reality is that he is no longer the baby and your attention has become more divided. So what do you do? Make the times when he is not acting out really count. Even if you can’t reinforce something he is actively doing, compliment him generally. Say things like, “Mommy and Daddy are so lucky to have a boy like you. We love you this much.”
Try and avoid reinforcing him as a big brother unless he is doing something like passing you a diaper. Even in this situation, let him know that you love him for himself. So say something like, “Thank you for being such a great helper. Are you an amazing helper like this at school too?” When you are able, spend intensive “love” time with him. Extra hugs, kisses and “I love you’s” go a long way with a child who feels displaced. Also let him know that he may not be your youngest baby but he is still your baby. Bring out his baby books as a bedtime read.
Bad behavior should never be tolerated but you can use these times to connect positively with your child too. Parents generally know why a child is acting out. In this case, your little boy is feeling left out so before you discipline him for his “bad” behavior, let him know that you understand his perspective. This is more than reflecting his feelings; it is saying something to him that really lets him know that you get him. For example, if he throws a toy at his older brother while you are feeding the baby, you might say something like, “You’re mad because you want me to play with you and it makes you sad that I’m always feeding the baby. I can see that but you still can’t throw things at your brother because that could hurt him.”
This alone will often calm your child because children (and adults) like to be heard and understood. This doesn’t remove the need to discipline his bad behavior. If hysteria ensues with the discipline, reflect his perspective in the same way. For example, “I know this is really not what you want but when you thrown a toy at your brother you always get a time out.” Showing empathy to a child who is misbehaving does not eliminate discipline, it simply introduces another element that will impact is behavior more long-term. I hope this helps!