Kids react in many different ways when siblings are born. It is common for toddlers to feel like they are being replaced when a new baby arrives because so much attention is being devoted to their newborn siblings. It’s also very common for toddlers to act out in various ways.
In most cases, their behavior has less to do with anything you’re doing and more to do with how toddlers see the world. The typical toddler is very black and white. It’s easy for a toddler to make the jump from “Mom and Dad are busy with my new little sister” to “Mom and Dad don’t love me anymore.” This can be devastating for a toddler, so it’s natural to act out to try to regain the lost attention and affection. Here are some common ways toddlers show this deep-seated fear:
1. Regression. After the newborn arrives, your toddler might begin bedwetting, reverting to diapers, wanting to use a pacifier or bottle, and wanting to breastfeed and/or sleep in your bed. These are all normal. These behaviors are a toddler’s way of searching for attention, and they believe that by mimicking their sibling, they will get it.
Don’t give in. Explain calmly to your child that those behaviors are for the baby and that you love them no matter what. Let your toddler know that it’s okay to sometimes feel like a “big kid” and sometimes feel like a “baby.” Ask your toddler if he or she would like to be held like a baby or to be rocked to bed again but only for a few minutes. By not giving in and validating their emotions, you will help get them past the regression. Acknowledge and appreciate his/her current age appropriate behavior. By doing this, you are teaching your child that you appreciate and look forward to your child acting his/her age and pay attention to their age and developmentally appropriate behavior.
2. Temper tantrums during normal baby-related activities, including nap time, feeding, changing, and bathing. Again, validate their emotions but do not give in to the tantrum. Allow your toddler space to let out his or her feelings as long as it does not interfere with the baby’s care. Ask toddlers if they would like to participate in helping care for the baby. This highlights their “big brother/sister” status and improves their self-esteem because they feel needed.
3. They tell you they don’t love you anymore or they want to you to leave. As tough as it is to hear this, it is normal for your toddler to say it. Try to not take it personally or think you are failing as a parent. Let your toddler know that you love him or her no matter what. Try to spend some one-on-one time with your child, even if it’s for short bursts.
Reviewed by Eva Benmeleh, March 2020
- Let your child know you understand this is a hard adjustment for them and you will help them get past this.
- A toddler’s biggest fear and source of acting out is that he or she will no longer be loved.
- Help them feel like a part of the family by spending one-on-one time or enlisting in their help to care for baby.