Each member of the family needs an adjustment period once a new baby arrives. And if there is a kuya or ate at home, getting him accustomed to the new bunso might take bit of, well, mind conditioning. Sometimes it works. And then just when you thought everything was going smoothly, boom, you find your baby crying because the eldest hit her.
In a Q & A session on parenting hosted by The Washington Post, a parent had this dilemma. She shared her toddler had tantrums when his now 8-month-old sister first arrived. But it seemed like he got over it. He became "affectionate" especially when they let him participate in caring for the baby, an act, the mom remarked that "really got us through it."
Recently, however, the mom reported her son was showing signs of "jealousy and aggression" towards the baby. "As soon as he sees me interacting with the baby, he'll want my attention too." It came to point that he would randomly hit his sister. "He would look at me and say 'I hit [baby],'" the mom wrote.
The mom says she responded with this expert-recommended technique: Tell her child hitting is wrong, acknowledge his feelings of anger, and tell him he can express his feelings in another way, like hitting a pillow. Her son's response: he gritted his teeth "with anger on his face, like he's not sure what to do with his aggression."
The mom, who says her boy doesn't lack for attention, added while "he is very verbal for his age, he can't explain his feelings yet and I feel uncomfortable trying to explain to him why he is feeling what he is feeling."
So what now? Meghan Leahy, a certified parenting coach, reassured the concerned parent that her toddler’s behavior is normal, and the “hitting phase” will pass. “For now you are playing a game of distraction and kind defense,” said Leahy.
Acknowledging a child’s anger is still good parenting advice but it can't be done for every occasion since placing too much attention on the bad behavior can make it worse, said Leahy. Instead, take advantage of a toddler’s short attention span.
“When he is about to hit, say, ‘Oh, time to find our favorite book!’ And move it along,” she said. “And if he has already landed a hit, say, ‘Oops, okay, no hitting, let's find your truck and play digger!’”
A toddler becomes easily overwhelmed and overcome by emotions, explained Leahy. That’s why, even if the little one loves his baby sibling, jealousy can easily take over. Distraction and catching the misdeed before it happens helps extinguish the big emotions and redirect attention to somewhere else.
It's a strategy parents can use in different scenarios as well, like when dealing with a hyper or grumpy toddler. For example, when you want your toddler to stop throwing the pillows off the couch, firmly tell him no and then quickly distract him by offering to play a game or dance to his favorite song. And, a grouchy toddler won’t stay in a bad mood for long with an offer to head to the playground.