The Secret to Curtailing Your Toddler’s Jealousy

The Secret to Curtailing Your Toddler’s Jealousy

Want to eliminate jealousy of the new baby? Try this super clever trick.

By Nicole Fabian-Weber

Many people had warned me that it was going to happen, but it doesn't make it any less heartbreaking. My sweet, sweet 3-year-old daughter has become jealous of her 8-month-old brother. Big time.

When we brought our son home from the hospital, there were, of course, the natural jealousies and curiosities that we expected. But they were small and didn't seem to be an overall theme in our home. However, when my adorable baby boy started crawling a little over a month ago, everything changed.

As anyone who's ever been around a crawling baby knows, they don't stop moving. They're endlessly exploring and want to get their hands on everything. (Also, they're insanely, insanely cute.) So, when my son started making his way around our home -- and toward his big sister's toys -- she understandably didn't like it. It's one thing for a baby to lie on a mat next to her, right? But it's quite another for him to be all up in her personal space and beloved dolls.

At the same time, my daughter wants to play with my son’s toys. She’s at the height of the me-me-me phase, so it needs to be all about her.

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I tried everything (including crying, because I felt so bad that my daughter felt marginalized in any way ... and that on a few occasions she pushed the baby out of the way, making him bawl). Nothing worked, though. Scolding? Nope. Simply picking up the baby? For a minute, but then when I put him down, the same thing happened again. Time-outs? Definitely not. Threatening to take away the toys? Ha! Offering praise every time my daughter was kind to her brother? Ehhh, sort of, but not really.

Exasperated, sad, and quite honestly feeling like I was going to lose my mind (have you ever held a baby for an entire day while tending to your toddler?!), I reached out to an expert on this very conundrum: Tovah Klein, author of How Toddlers Thrive.

Klein, in short, told me I was doing it wrong. Instead of trying to curtail my daughter's jealousy and recent "baby" behavior, I needed to indulge her in it. Oh, you want to play with that frozen toy, too, sweetie? OK, you must be teething! Oh my gosh, are you learning how to crawl? That's amazing! Yes, you're right, your brother is way too little for this toy. This is just for you. (In other words, when my son starts crawling toward my daughter’s toys, I say he can’t have them, and we’ve decided on certain toys he’s allowed to use.)

And you know what? It worked. Almost instantly.

When I told my husband what I was planning on doing, he was skeptical, but willing to try. “What do we do if she hits him?” he asked. I wasn't sure. “I guess just tell her that's not OK and take the baby away?” I replied, even though that's what we had been doing. But so far, we haven't had to reprimand her once. She hasn't so much as looked at him sideways. The only interactions she's had with him have been hugs, kisses, and "crawling around together."


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My daughter has always loved her brother. Always, always, always. She lights up whenever he smiles at her, she loves "seeing his teeth come in,” wants to feed him when she can. But, as with all toddlers, her stuff is her stuff. Of course, it's important that she learns to share -- which she does at school -- but right now, there are a lot of changes and she's at the height of the "me" phase, so maybe I was asking a little too much of her? I mean, who would want someone coming into their house and taking all their stuff?

I thought that taking my girl out for one-on-one dates and making sure to give her lots of cuddles and kisses would take care of everything. But it didn't. I was expecting her to do something "grown-up," for lack of a better word, when she's still so small. By indulging her in her feelings, no matter how ridiculous they seem to me as an adult, I'm letting her know that I hear her, and she's still, and always will be, my first baby.

Of course, as a mom, I know that nothing with kids is constant, but for now I'm certainly going to keep with this technique, as it seems to be working well. Everyone seems happy and no one is crying, which is always a plus when you're a parent. And when we come to the next challenge, I feel like I'll be more ready, as there always seems to be a solution out there.

Or, you know, I'll just give Tovah Klein a call.

How do you deal with your toddler's jealousy?

Nicole Fabian-Weber is the mama of a toddler girl and a baby boy. She lives outside of NYC and writes for The Stir and numerous other online publications. She loves summertime and rearranging her furniture.

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