Being pregnant with your second baby brings on a whole new set of emotions that you don’t experience with your first.
Yes, you’ll feel all of the same excitement for decorating the nursery, shopping for adorable little clothes, and snuggling a new baby, but there’s something else, something big, that you’ll experience for the first time…
An overwhelming feeling of worry, curiosity, and concern for your first baby.
Will he feel sad?
These are all legitimate concerns and your crazy pregnancy hormones will only amplify them!
Even though you may feel worried about the new family dynamic, you’ll also be really excited to introduce your first child to his new best friend!
Fast forward to delivery day…
You’re sitting in the hospital bed snuggling your brand new baby and at the same time anxiously waiting for your first child to arrive so he can meet her.
Grandma walks in with arms in the air ready for hugs.
Grandpa follows with a big smile and a loud “Congratulations!”
And then comes your first little love bug…
He looks so big walking in. So grown up.
He walks in slowly and hides behind Grandma and Grandpa, unsure of what’s to come.
You assure him that everything is okay (mom laying in a hospital bed hooked up to monitors is a little scary) and tell him to come closer so you can give him a big hug and a kiss.
A big smile appears on his face and he walks towards you.
Cue giant alligator tears (mine not his).
This little boy’s whole life is about to change.
Understanding Your Child, Yourself, and the Situation
In order to successfully navigate life with kids, it’s important to understand the reasons why they do the crazy things they do!
Knowing the WHY helps you make decisions that truly get to the root of the issue instead of just fixing it temporarily with a bandaid. A temporary bandaid doesn’t set your child up for future success with handling big emotions, engaging in social relationships, or developing positive self-esteem and confidence.
All extremely critical areas for true happiness in life!
With regard to sibling relationships, the WHY is based off of a child’s primary goal: to achieve belonging and significance.
- feeling emotionally connected
- feeling secure about his place in the family dynamic
- feeling capable
- knowing that he makes a difference
- understanding that he contributes in meaningful ways
- feeling that he has personal power.
Birth order plays a huge role in a child’s feeling of belonging and significance.
As you can see from the table, a middle and youngest child has a decreased sense of belonging and significance compared to a first and only child who has a high sense of belonging and significance.
This must be taken into consideration when new members are added to your family!
“…the dangers of favoritism can hardly be stated too dramatically. Almost every discouragement in childhood springs from the feeling that someone else is preferred.” -Alfred Adler
In this post I am going to share with you 5 tweaks that you can make in order to help create a positive relationship between your children!
5 Simple Tweaks That Will Help Prevent Sibling Rivalry
Remember that our chief goal to make each child feel an increased sense of belonging and significance. With that in mind, here are 5 ways to achieve that in order to help prevent sibling squabbles:
1. Prepare and Involve Older Child
A big change like adding another member to the family can throw a child completely off track if they aren’t adequately prepared. The best ways to prepare are to read books and role play.
Here are a few of my favorite books to help a child understand the new experience that will be happening and to spark a discussion about it.
- The New Baby by Mercer Mayer
- The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- I am a Big Sister/Brother by Caroline Jayne Church
- Big Brother Daniel by Angela Santomero
Role playing is another powerful tool to help a child mentally prepare for a baby brother or sister. This is a great way to teach them how they can help out with the baby and meaningfully contribute to the family. Remember, being a big brother/sister is a brand new role for them so they’ll need some training just like we do when we start a new job!
Here are a few items that you’ll need to “play house” with your toddler.
- Baby doll
- Pretend food
- Doll clothes (and diapers!)
You’ll want to practice tasks such as:
- Putting the baby to sleep
- Throwing diapers away
- Feeding the baby
- Bringing you a burp cloth, diaper, bottle, new clothes
- Being quiet when baby is sleeping (you can thank me later for this one)
- Playing gently with the baby
2. Avoid labels (positive and negative)
Parents often label their kids without even realizing they’re doing it or realizing the negative impact it can have. Even if your second child is still a baby, it’s good to start trying to break this habit now so as your kids get older, you can avoid the problems that come from labeling.
When you label one of your children as “smart” or “athletic”, then the other child interprets that as they must not be any of those things. We are naturally drawing comparisons even though that’s not our intention.
Another problem with those labels, even though they’re positive, is that your child may feel pressure to be that label or to perform according to that label.
The issue with negative labels are probably pretty obvious to you, but you still may be using them unconsciously. Saying something as simple as “ugh, you are so annoying right now!” can have a profound effect on your child’s self-esteem and view on who they are.
Children become their labels. You must be careful what you are telling them they are.
3. Don’t create unnecessary competition
Not all competition is bad. There is definitely such thing as healthy competition. But the problem comes in when competing becomes a regular thing in your household. Many times parents use it to “manipulate” their kids into doing things.
“Let’s see who can get in the car the fastest!”
“Who’s gonna clean up their toys faster?”
We’ve all heard these right? It gets everybody up and moving! The problem is, there is always a loser. The winner/loser mentality can start to cause friction between siblings.
Instead of creating competition, try engaging your kids in activities that stress cooperation. Again, even with really young kids, it’s good to start encouraging these types of activities so it’s something they are used to from the very beginning.
4. Spend quality time all together
Spending time completely immersed in your children’s activity of choice shows them that even though there are 2+ of them, they still can get your attention in a positive way. It also allows you to demonstrate ways they can successfully play together and truly enjoy each other’s company.
5. Avoid victim and bully training
This is a huge one that is not usually talked about. Often times parents unintentionally assign their children “victim” and “aggressor” roles which only perpetuates the problem and causes our kids to fill those roles.
We do this by assuming the oldest (aggressor) is always at fault and rescuing the youngest (victim). The youngest may quickly catch on to the fact that they get lots of attention by playing the victim (even if they actually started the conflict in the first place) so they continue to poke the older one just so they can get more attention.
Alternatively, if the older child continually hears that they are the “bully”, the “naughty one”, or the “aggressor” then they may assume that label and continue to live up to it. Young children don’t yet understand that who they are is constantly changing and growing. They take the characteristics they are told they are as concrete facts, unchangeable, which can be very hard to break down the road.
To avoid victim and bully training, try addressing them all together by using a word like “kids”. By refraining from calling one of them out individually, they don’t receive an implied label or assume an unintentional role. Both kids are treated equally.
Now It’s Your Turn
You now have the tools to set the foundation for a great relationship between your children. It’s always easier to prevent (as much as possible) than to fix a broken relationship down the road.
This is not to say that your kids will never argue or fight, but setting up your environment and choosing your words wisely will help decrease the amount and frequency.
When your children do inevitably get into their squabbles, we can move forward with teaching them conflict resolution skills. More on that in part two of this Sibling Rivalry topic.
Here’s a recap:
- Prepare and involve older child
- Avoid labels (positive and negative)
- Don’t create unnecessary competition
- Spend 1-on-1 time with each child and all together
- Avoid victim and bully training
Enjoy those sweet babies!