Years ago, you made it through the trials and tribulations of gingerly introducing a new baby to their older sibling.
You negotiated the older child’s hesitancy and emotions regarding the new family member.
It wasn’t easy but eventually, you got your household stabilized.
Now, your bundle of joy is a little older – a toddler – and seems to have a problem living peacefully with their older sibling.
Sibling rivalry rears its ugly head! What can you do?
In most cases, you have nothing to worry about, but you are in for another test of your parenting skills because your toddler is probably jealous.
Is your toddler jealous of an older sibling? If so, it’s okay and it’s natural, and there are some steps you can take to quash this sibling rivalry before it gets out of hand!
Nobody said bringing up a toddler would be easy, right?
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Sibling Rivalry – Why your toddler is jealous of their older brother or sister
Your toddler is no longer a little baby with a new sibling. But, they can still experience a little separation anxiety, every child does to some extent.
All toddlers have a profound need for security, and some are more sensitive than others. Making matters a bit more difficult, they are at a stage in their development where they are still trying to make sense of the world around them and learning how to communicate.
Consequently, when they see you paying attention to an older sibling – such as when you help them with homework or just engage in a longer conversation or playtime – they can become threatened, frightened, and, jealous of the older child.
The good news is that your toddler has reached an age when they can rationalize and understand a greater sample of words, so you can help them deal with their first conscious experiences with handling unpleasant emotions.
Read on for a few tips to help you help a toddler who is jealous of their big brother or sister.
How does your toddler express jealousy?
Each toddler is different, but here are some of the most common ways that your toddler might express jealousy o an older child:
- Lashing out physically. A lot of times this is an expression of frustration because your toddler doesn’t feel heard and has yet to have developed the language skills to express themself.
- Becoming anxious. If your toddler has feelings of anxiety, they might become overly clingy, follow you from room to room, or develop a basket load of fears or phobias about anything from the dark to monsters or even certain articles of clothing.
- Becoming very possessive. Your toddler might become extremely possessive about toys, clothing, and, of course, their prized possession – you.
- Becoming extremely picky eaters. Food is a common battleground for toddlers, but a jealous one might act out by upping the ante and severely limiting the food that they will accept.
- Imitating. An annoying habit that children might develop! Imitating the person of whom your toddler is jealous
8 things you can do if your toddler is jealous of their sibling or older child
It is difficult to tell if your toddler is acting out because of jealousy or for some other reason. Regardless of the cause of their new, difficult behaviors, here are some things you can do to help take the air out of the balloon:
- Acknowledge your toddler’s feelings. Remember that your toddler doesn’t understand their emotions and doesn’t know how to communicate effectively, so you should try to avoid scolding your emotional toddler. You want to assure your toddler that their feelings are okay.
- Listen to your toddler. You want to try to be patient while listening to your toddler explain why they’re jealous of another person or older child. You might figure out that your toddler needs a boost in confidence or self-esteem.
- Set a good example. Toddlers are little sponges, and if you model behavior that is cooperative and if you compliment people on their attitudes and behaviors, your toddler will learn how to emulate and thereby manage their feelings of jealousy.
- Start each day with special one-on-one time. Spend a few minutes with your toddler during which they are the exclusive center of your attention. This will help them soak up your love, feel special, and diffuse any feelings of anxiety or jealousy that might otherwise crop up when you start interacting with their older sibling. You can also use this time to strategically get your toddler involved with a toy or activity that will keep them occupied.
- Carve out some additional one-on-one time during the day. Toddlers crave attention and need the security that they feel when you give it to them. During this time, get playfully physical once in while by roughhousing in a way that causes your toddler to laugh. You will be rewarded with hugs.
- Make your toddler feel unique and worthy. Avoid comparing your toddler to anyone else, especially an older child. You might think you are providing an example, but your toddler may interpret that you love the other child more or that the other child is better.
- Emphasize teamwork. Few things are more effective at diluting jealousy than learning to engage in cooperative behavior with their brother or sister. When you create situations in which your toddler and their older sibling work together, help each other, share a goal, and learn to place value in their combined efforts. Your toddler and the older sibling are less inclined to be jealous of the other while learning valuable lessons that will last a lifetime. Put a stop to sibling rivalry!
- Read to your toddler. Quality children’s books are full of examples of positive problem-solving and cooperation.
Your toddler was once the new baby
Also, it is worth reminding your toddler that they were once the new sibling and took all of your attention!
It is perfectly natural for your toddler to develop feelings of jealousy towards your older child from time to time. Your toddler is at an exciting time in their life, a time filled with discovery. It is also a time when your toddler first gets an itch to be more independent but hasn’t yet developed the confidence or skills to wander too far from the security of their parents.
The toddler’s world can therefore be a threatening place. They want to protect their turf and their relationships – and their relationship with their parents is the strongest of these. When your attention is averted for any reason, it can trigger feelings of jealously.
There are several things that you can do to help guide your toddler through their jealousy, even when you need to spend a lot of time with your older child.