Jealous of new baby

I have a four-year-old and a four-month-old baby. They get along well. In fact, my four-year-old loves the baby. The problem is she does not know how to listen. When I ask her not to do something, she does it anyway. She even runs across the street without me. Now she has gone back to peeing in her pants. Everyone is telling me that she is jealous of the baby but I don't feel that this is the problem. She gets just as much attention as she did before -- perhaps even a little bit more. Please help.

Question:

I'm afraid all your friends are right! These are indeed the classic signs of a child who is jealous of a baby. What you really need are methods to deal with the problem.

First, your daughter is acting out because she feels that she can't show any anger towards the baby herself. Clearly, she realizes that it is not okay to hurt the baby, or show any of the perfectly normal feelings of anger she must naturally be feeling. This is a very common reaction for girls. They really want to do what is expected of them.

However, where is that anger to go? If it doesn't have an outlet toward its real cause, it has to come out somewhere. So your daughter is taking it out on you. And what better way to make sure that she is still the center of attention than to cause a REALLY big fuss?

What you need to do is to help her to verbalize some of this normal resentment. Your daughter is probably feeling that the baby is pretty useless, and that it is really unfair to have something take up so much of your time and energy. When you are changing the baby, for example, tell your daughter that caring for a baby isn't always easy. Tell her that you are glad that she is so grown up now. When you have to get up because the baby is crying, comment that babies sure can be a lot of work. When your daughter is able to safely release some of her angry feelings toward the new baby then she will be able to stop acting out.

Let her know how much you appreciate her company. When you are alone with your daughter, tell her that you just LOVE having special big girl/mommy time with her. It is important for your daughter to see how wonderful it is to be the big girl rather than the baby.

One other point: Older children often test limits after the birth of a sibling just to make sure of their place in the family. One way of doing this is to misbehave and to be disciplined. Don't change your style of discipline, or the rules of behavior for your child. When children are given consistent limits, they know that they are safe.

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