little kids & BIG CHANGES: how much help does an older sibling need when a new baby comes along?

What do you do when you want to blog, but you ALSO really, really want to take a bath and hit the sack? Why, fish something out of the mailbag of course. It's already written and at least one person in the universe is interested in the answer.

Today's question is from reader Sarah . . .

Hi Kendra!
I could really use your advice. I read your blog religiously and look at your parenting advice and experience as highly as I would my mom's. However I've never heard you address this issue and it is killing me.
I had a daughter 2 months ago, when my son was 23 months old. My son is the sweetest, most adventurous, spirited, independent, mama's boys boy around. Obviously I'm crazy about him. But ever since my daughter was born he is clearly struggling. He gets very overwhelmed easily. Hits angrily constantly and just has a very different spirit about him. We still have lots of special alone time. I have to get this hitting and misbehaving under control.
Any thoughts/advice on discipline and helping him!
Thank you!
Prayers for you and your beautiful family

Dear Sarah,

Thanks for your kind words and congratulations on your new baby!

As to your question, as always I can only answer based on my own particular experience with my own particular kids, BUT . . .

I would caution you against attributing your son's behavioral changes to becoming a big brother. He's two. He's just BARELY two, he's MOSTLY one. Little dude was always going to find something to be upset about. It just so happens that there's also a new baby in the house.

Personally, I would be really careful to not suggest to him that he's upset about the baby or about less time with you. I'd subtly but often reinforce how lucky he is to have a new sister, and I'd make sure to never associate in his mind any of his outbursts and general two year old behavior with his sister.

His behavior is his behavior, and it just gets addressed as such. I'm careful to not say things like, "I know you are tired but you can't . . ." The same thing applies to "hungry" or "sick" or "jealous" or whatever, because I don't want to give my kids excuses. We're all sometimes tired and sick and whatever, (and *I* do take that into account myself when I'm dealing with their behaviors) but it's still not okay to behave badly. We still all have to try to control ourselves. So I try not to give them excuses for their behavior. I just address the behavior.

Most importantly, I would just reassure YOU that you have given your son a great gift in giving him a sibling. Yes. Babies change things, but it's for the better. Your son will have an extra person to love him and pay attention to him HIS WHOLE LIFE. He'll learn to share and to compromise and to entertain himself. He'll learn to run and get a diaper for you. He'll try to sing to the baby to comfort her in the car. He'll feel useful and helpful. It's all, all good stuff. There are no negatives for him in this situation. You love him and are taking the very best care of him. It is good!

Of course that's not to say his behavior doesn't need to be addressed and dealt with. It does. You're already doing the most important stuff, like spending time with him and loving him. Other than that, I don't think it requires special parenting techniques. It hasn't in our house. Just the same old being the boss of a one year old and always meaning what I say kind of stuff.

Here are the links to some of those other posts.

This is how we prepare kids before the new baby is born:


And how we deal with discipline, in general:
And how we deal with toddlers, specifically:
Everything in parenting is a season, this too shall pass. Congratulations on your lovely little family. I hope you're getting some naps. I need naps.


Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or a child psychologist or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.