Family

Dealing with sibling rivalry

Author: Canadian Living

Family

Dealing with sibling rivalry

I never noticed before that our daughter Brooklynn, who is three years old, wanted so much attention, because she was the only child. But when Mia was born, it became clear that Brooklynn thought she had the run of the house. And she did. She wasn't used to the word no and that was our fault. I know that.

With Brooklynn, we never followed a set routine. Instead we fit her into our routine. If we wanted to watch a show at night and she wanted to stay up, she could. And she still sleeps in our bed. Now I think I should have put her in her own room before the baby came. But at the same time, I like having her in bed with us. I like that we're all together.

About two months after Mia arrived, Brooklynn started having meltdowns -- screaming, hitting, kicking and yelling -- if she didn't get what she wanted. I couldn't believe it. She's a really wonderful girl.

Often it happened at bedtime. I had a very bad day a while back when she did it twice to me -- once at Costco and once at Loblaws. But before that she had waited with me at the doctor's office for an hour and was as good as gold. She's such a good girl. It was hard to believe she could have these fits.

She also had a pretty busy agenda, which was another problem. She was taking ballet, gymnastics and swimming and going to Montessori school. I put her into lots of activities because I felt guilty about Mia taking time away from Brooklynn and thought she had to have lots to do to keep her busy. But it was too much for her and for me. We were constantly rushing.

I was busy and felt guilty. I knew that when I lost my temper or didn't know how to deal with her, it was because I was tired or I hadn't eaten.

I was emotional. Then one time I smacked her on the bottom and it really upset me. I was turning into a mother I didn't want to be.

Establishing routine

I talked to Dr. Cathryn Tobin, a pediatrician, and she said that Brooklynn was reacting to having a new sibling. I didn't realize it was connected because she was never upset with Mia. She's loving to Mia. Dr. Tobin said it would help Brooklynn to know our structure, and she needed a routine. She said to watch for when she is getting tired, bored or hungry and try to intervene before she has a meltdown. So now if I have to go shopping with Brooklynn, I'll do one thing, not three, and if it's a school day, I won't take her with me. She's only taking swimming classes now; the other classes have finished, and we didn't re-register. I now notice when she's tired or needs a nap -- I'm more in tune with her. And when I make her lunch, I also make myself something to eat. I'm no longer getting mad at her because I'm hungry.

Now at bedtime, there's a routine. Maybe not always a bath, but books, then bed. Now that she's getting into more of a routine, she's falling asleep on her own. She's still in our bed, but she has slept in her own bed a couple of times. We'll let her fall asleep in our bed then move her. And my husband, Joe, and I have more time in the evening now. We actually watched a movie together and had a glass of wine.

Now if I say no to something, I basically stick to it. We went to swimming lessons a couple of nights ago, and Brooklynn wanted to take some money out of the tray in the van to buy a treat. She wouldn't put it back, so I looked her straight in the eye and said, “Brooklynn, Mommy said no and when Mommy says no, she means it.” She put the money back and we went to class.

Joe and I are following the same routine with Brooklynn rather than having our own routines. And we're letting each other know what we've told her so we're both saying the same thing to her.

I'm working on using a calm voice. What doesn't work is yelling and getting overheated. And that one spanking didn't work; I felt so guilty about it, and it just made her more upset. My goal is not to make her afraid of me or to be an ogre, but to let her know that as much as I love her, I am still the authority.

Brooklynn isn't having as many meltdowns. Now we have many more good moments than bad moments. There are certainly things with Brooklynn that I've learned that I have to change with Mia. Discipline is hard work. It's easier to give in, but I'm sticking to my guns.

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Dealing with sibling rivalry

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