Question: “I’m trying to teach my toddler to be gentle with the new baby, but he’s often too rough when he hugs or plays with her. What should I do?”
First, toddlers aren’t known for their “gentle” touch. No matter what they’ve got their hands on (a toy, a crystal candy dish, a new baby sister), they’re not developmentally programmed to handle it with care. Second, your son’s doing what comes naturally — he’s curious about his sister, just like he’s curious about everything else. (If I poke her tummy, will she poop?) And third, there are likely some mixed feelings behind his “rough love,” especially now that your attention’s a shared commodity. When your toddler is too rough with his baby sister, try the following:
React… Intervene as soon as the playing gets rough and, in a calm tone, explain the importance of being gentle: “Your sister is very little, and when you hug her that hard she could get a boo-boo.” Back your words up by showing him how to play nice. To play it safe, don’t leave your toddler alone with the baby.
…but don’t overreact. Nothing encourages a repeat performance of too-rough behavior faster than an outburst from you. (If I squeeze the baby, she cries, and Mommy runs over and screams!) This negative-attention-is-better-than-no-attention M.O. always holds true for toddlers.
Nip the green-eyed monster. There’s bound to be resentment when your firstborn has to share the spotlight, so make sure he gets plenty of Mom-and-Dad time. Avoid negative commands that can make him feel excluded. Instead of saying, “Keep quiet — the baby’s sleeping,” try, “Let’s whisper so we don’t wake up your sister.”
Change the channel. When your toddler clearly has angry feelings about the baby, offer him another outlet — pummeling some play dough or jumping on a pillow.
Published: By What to Expect
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