When Older Siblings Attack: Teaching My Toddler To Be Gentle With The Baby

By Dawn Papandrea

Shared by Meghan
Bringing a new baby into your home can take some getting used to — for everyone, especially the child who’s had your full attention until now. Over time, your big kid will be your little one’s best friend, but in the beginning, it's up to you to set the course for a smooth transition.

Practice Makes Perfect. I did some practicing beforehand, when I became pregnant with my second child. Everything from using a baby doll for some role -playing, to having my big kid talk to my growing belly, helped him bond with the new baby before the big day.

I explained that babies have to be handled with care, just like a puppy or kitten, and I was specific with details. He knew not to touch the baby's head, or squeeze him too tightly. With kids under two, it’s more difficult to get that point across, so you can show your child by taking his hand and softly stroking the baby's arm.

Righting the Wrong. I quickly and firmly corrected any roughness. If big brother bonked baby on the head with a toy or pushed the baby's swing, I knew there were good intentions behind it -- he just wanted to play with his little sib. Nonetheless, I had to set some firm ground rules so that no one got hurt. I took some extra precautions, too, like trying to keep the hard plastic toys or wood blocks in a designated play area away from the baby, and never leaving them unsupervised.

Helping Hands. I made my big kid my helper. When I suspected that my first-born was feeling sad or left out (which could lead to some aggression toward the baby), I pointed out that the new baby was his to enjoy, too. I promoted the new role of big bro as an important one, asked for help during diaper changes, feedings, or bath time, and tried not to use dismissals like "not now, the baby needs me."

Just the Two of Us. I took time for just the two of us, too. I found moments in the day to snuggle with my big kid, read a book together, or play. And I indulged him a little if he wanted to be babied – some regression felt normal. I remember my older son asking if I could wrap him up in a blanket after seeing me swaddle his baby brother. I did as he asked, and I could tell how special it made him feel.

Even if it's tough at first, with a little guidance, your babies will eventually become the best of friends.

Dawn Papandrea is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, women's lifestyle, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in Family Circle, Parents, WomansDay.com, and more. She lives in Staten Island, NY with her husband, two fast-growing boys, and a living room full of toys.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.