Question: My firstborn adjusted very well when we brought home his baby sister. Now suddenly, he is jealous of her and hits her when he thinks I am not looking. He just turned two. How should I handle this?


Big brother may be finding that the novelty of a new baby is wearing off, especially now that the excitement is over and daily routine has set in. We’re betting that mom and dad are busy and days are full.

Your son is also moving into a new stage of development where he is learning to become more autonomous and assert his own preferences. This does not mean, however, that he should be permitted to hurt his little sister.

The root of the problem

When you witness aggression, stop for a moment and ask yourself what has been going on in his world. Has he had a hard time getting your attention? Is he frustrated by something? Has he had to take a back seat to baby’s needs more than usual for some reason?

Though his words may still be somewhat limited, try to ask some questions to get him to identify what he is feeling. ("I feel sad / mad / unhappy / frustrated / left out, etc.") Encourage him to find ways to tell you what he is feeling and what he needs. ("Mom, I need a cuddle," or "Mom, I need a story now.")

Promise that you will do your best to meet his needs if he can use his words to tell you what those needs are – and do your best to follow through when he does. You want him to find great success in using his good words appropriately.

Set clear boundaries

Remind your son that Jesus loves little children and that Jesus would want him to treat his sister with kindness and care. Return to the unacceptable behaviour and set a boundary clearly. Encourage him to have a "re-do" such as offering a small gesture of affection, either physically or maybe some type of playful interaction with baby (play Pat-a-Cake or Peek-a-Boo or find ways to get her to smile or laugh with him). This will create happy bonding experiences for both of them and model the type of interactions you’d prefer to encourage between them. Give him lots of positive feedback for doing this.

Wendy Kittlitz is vice-president of counselling and care ministries at Focus on the Family Canada.

© 2015 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.

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