ASK MOM: Boy is jealous of baby brother, breaks mom’s heartJun 16, 2023 02:01AM ● By Mary Follin & Erika Guerrero
THE PROBLEM: My 9 yo son is jealous of his new baby brother, who is only a month old. I know this is common, but I’m worried about him, and I don’t know what to do. He’s a sweet, sensitive boy, and ever since the baby was born, he’s become somewhat angry, saying mean things about his brother, things like: “He can’t come in my room—ever.” The other day he told me he “hated me,” which about broke my heart. (He would never have said anything like that before.) I had high hopes that these two would love each other for life, and now I can’t see that happening.
MARY SAYS: Adjusting to a new baby can be tough on everybody, including you. I applaud you for addressing this issue now, even though you’re most likely exhausted. You have plenty of time to make changes as your children grow and get to know one another, but it’s a good idea to lay a foundation for a strong bond as soon as the little one arrives.
This tiny intruder has rocked your older son’s world, and he doesn’t know what to do about it. Thus, the acting out. Don’t worry about the extreme nature of his behavior; he’ll soon adjust to sharing you with somebody else. What you want to do now is help him adjust in a way that’s healthy for him and your new baby.
There’s a lot you can do about this, Mom, but you’ll need to channel every ounce of patience and energy you have—two resources that are probably running low right now!
Let’s make it easy on you and simplify the next steps:
- Examine your own behavior when both children are together. Is there any way you try to control their relationship? Do you say things like: “Shhh. Your brother’s sleeping.” Or “Don’t act so silly. You might bump into him.” Or even: “I can’t read to you now. I’ve been up all night with the baby, and I’m exhausted.” To the degree you can, remove yourself from your older son’s relationship with his brother. When you talk to your older son, talk about him, not the baby.
- That said, when you talk to the baby, talk about your older son. Something like: “Did you know your big brother hit a homerun last Saturday?” Or “Big Brother is learning fractions in school. He’s a real math wizard!” “When you get older, your big brother can show you how to draw people. He’s really good at drawing people.” As long as you’re cooing, smiling, or singing, Baby doesn’t care what you say!
- Ask your older son for advice about how to care for the little one: “Do you think Baby needs a jacket today?” “Baby sure seems fussy. Any ideas on how to calm him down?” “Do you feel like reading him a story?” Engage your son in helping you make decisions and solicit his help with small tasks. By doing this, you’re encouraging him to take responsibility for his little brother’s needs, a lifelong habit that will serve both of them.
By implementing these small changes, you will see your older son begin to engage in a more positive way. Rather than focusing on what he’s lost, he’ll begin to see what he’s gained—a brother, a friend, and a lifelong bond with another human being, one of life’s most precious gifts.ERIKA SAYS: Don’t be discouraged, mama! Your son has been an only child for the last nine years, and now he has to share his mama, get to know his baby brother, and figure out his new role as a big brother. There's a lot going on here!
Even though you’ve had nine months to prepare, for your oldest son, it's only been a month. I can assure you, he’s still adjusting to this quick and big transition. Here are some suggestions that might help things go more smoothly for your older son:
- Involve him when possible. For example, ask him to read his baby brother a book of his choice.
- Invite him to join you and the baby during playtime or tummy time.
- If you’re bottle feeding, let him help.
- Praise him when he’s being sweet.
- Remind him what an awesome brother you think he is.
- Carve out some alone time with him. For example, if you’re running out to the grocery store, invite your 9-year-old to join you. Maybe even stop for a quick treat on the way home.
ASK MOM offers parents two perspectives on today’s child-rearing issues—one from a mom with grown children (Mary), the other from a mom raising a small child (Erika). If you’re looking for creative solutions, or your mom isn’t around to ask, drop in!
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Erika Guerrero is a freelance hair and makeup artist, Erika K. Beauty, single-mama to one amazing boy, and author of She’s Not Shaken, a blog offering hope and encouragement to women in all walks of life.