Raising Kids Who Get Along: Bringing Home a Younger Sibling

raising kids who get along: bringing home a new baby

Most of what I know about raising kids who get along comes from my own parents, who successfully raised ten children spanning two decades – who all get along, down to enjoying goofy Google plus hangouts. Yesterday saw all ten of us, and my parents, on a G+ Hangout for the first time ever, along with several grandchildren, including all four grandbabies born in 2012. Thanks to modern technology we were able to span the globe, from California, Washington State, Utah, Florida, and Massachusetts to the more far-flung Ukraine and China! My raising kids who get along post is one of the most popular I’ve ever written on this blog (alongside 20 ways to cope with sleep deprivation, which I thankfully don’t suffer from nearly as much as I used to), so I thought I would share how we work on sibling relationships from the very beginning.

My parents did lot of things to help us learn to appreciate family. One of the most important was the way they introduced new family members. Here are a few things I learned from them about bringing home a younger sibling:

  • When a new baby arrives, the older siblings’ role as an older sibling is as important as the new baby. My mom always talked to us about the baby in terms of our relationship with the baby – so we didn’t feel that the baby was replacing us; he or she was simply enriching our lives.
  • Explain special treatment the baby receives in terms of the baby not being able to do things the older sibling can do. For example, a baby needs to drink a bottle or nurse because they don’t have teeth, so they can’t eat the older sibling’s favorite foods. The baby is carried everywhere because they can’t walk (or can’t walk very far/very fast), while the older sibling is a great runner!
  • If an older sibling expresses disgust or disdain for the baby having dirty diapers or spitting up, build empathy instead of distance by commenting on how nice it is that the older sibling doesn’t have to wear diapers any more, or knows how to keep their food in their stomach now.
  • Emphasize the older siblings’ ability to teach the baby new things. This makes them feel very important and valued, and helps them establish their own new role within the family. I also find that older siblings are often more effective teachers than I am!
  • When older siblings interact with the baby inappropriately, teach them an appropriate way to interact rather than getting angry or frustrated with them. I remember my mom having older siblings jump and do other tricks for the baby – and have found that very useful when older siblings were getting a bit too affectionate.
  • Talk about how much the baby likes their older siblings.
  • Give lots of positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior.
  • Allow room for the older siblings to regress a bit in the early months after a baby is born. There are a lot of changes happening in the home, and everyone is feeling more tired and strained than usual. Make sure the older siblings are still getting plenty of attention.

Are you looking for ideas of ways older siblings can play with the baby? This ebook has lots of suggestions – including activities that you can do at the very beginning of a baby’s life!

a book full of baby play ideas that will help you enjoy parenting a baby and bond with your baby.

My mom always felt that starting a sibling relationship off right went a long ways towards preventing resentment later in life – and I think there is a lot of truth in that. Here are a few other things I’ve added – not as time-tested, but they have helped us:

  • Have the baby bring siblings gifts, and let siblings bring baby gifts to the hospital.
  • Wear the baby when you want to give the baby a break from siblings.
  • Encourage siblings to look after a baby doll or stuffed animal while you look after the baby.
  • If siblings get rough with the baby and won’t redirect, sadly say that you have to remove the baby, because they aren’t being kind to the baby. I usually put the baby in a baby carrier at this point. Remind siblings that babies are people, not toys.

What are your best tips for establishing a positive sibling relationship from the very beginning?

Comments

  1. Tara says

    Thanks! Very current issue for me, well, soon, that is. :) Hope you are all well! Belated merry Christmas! Hoping you will start into the new year with much energy, faith, hope and charity!

  2. Jonai says

    Very good tips. I have a two year old and one year old and ive done a lot of those. Things. One thing ive always done was the baby had the same rules as my olderst. I wouldn’t let the baby take toys from my oldest just because he was a baby. I tried to use the same language with both of them.

  3. says

    OMG I love how your little boy is kissing the baby; so cute! As you know, this post is very timely for me! Even though my little ones aren’t born yet, I try to do what you mentioned in your tips, such as when my son kisses my belly, I say that the babies really like that and love him so much. I like your tips on how to discipline them when they get too rough, too. I already have that happening when my little guy inadvertently pats my belly too roughly, and I show him how to pat gently instead. Hopefully my kids will also get along really well!

  4. says

    You are definitely blessed with wisdom and experience. While we are not bringing any siblings home, this tips will be very handy even for short babysitting gigs that we are doing for our friends.

  5. says

    Lovely article. It was and is much easier for me to cope with sleep deprivation because my baby #2… sleeps ha ha My older daughter slept so little and was more high needs. The second one is so relaxed and easy-going (at least at the moment!).

  6. says

    Such a helpful post! I especially love that you mentioned about giving room for a little bit of regression among older siblings in the early months after a baby is born. Not a lot of mothers know that it is normal for some kids to regress whenever a new child is introduced to the home.

  7. says

    These are great tips! Thanks. A friend of mine has seven children and she often wears the baby so that the older children don’t mother it too much! :) I recently posted about our experiences in just telling our girls about a new baby: http://www.thekoalabearwriter.com/2012/10/five-tips-for-telling-older-siblings.html. They are already super excited about the baby, and about their roles as big sisters, so I hope that continues when the baby arrives. I’m bookmarking your post to remember this when the baby comes! :)

  8. Sara says

    I get your point; however, it doesn’t help for what happened in my family. It was never resentment on my brother’s part for myself being born (I’m the younger sibling), but my parents. My brother was a special baby. He was born not long after both my mom’s and my dad’s fathers passed away (on was within the month of birth). In addition, he was born with water in his lungs causing him to almost die. He was the first born, and the miracle baby, which left no room for the second child, me. As adults, my brother and I do not talk much. He’s a 27 year old still prone to temper tantrums and poor judgment, and if the topic is not on him he will find a way to leave or talk about himself. The sad thing is, my parents act like I’m to blame, often directing aggression and harsh words to me. As much as I want to agree with this post, I’m not sure if it could have saved my family.

  9. says

    Great post. I agree completely. With the age differences between my children (seven years between my boys, five years between my girls, and 19 months between my middle two), I found it especially important to talk to my children about changes that may occur when the baby arrived. I also like to talk to them about how lucky they are to have each other and how special that relationship is.

      • Heidi says

        I agree that it can be harder with larger age gaps, but there is still hope! My siblings and I (4 total) are all 3.5- 4 years apart. We fought “like cats and dogs” as mom used to say:). Now we are all grown and married and get along great. We are all neighbors and good friends! My mother claims it’s a miracle!! My mom did a few key things when we were teens that really helped us transition into friends. The first was to never “make” the older sibling drive us around a lot or to school. My mom told me, if you want rides from your sister (16 to my 13) you will have to be nice to her. I had to learn to get along or take the bus! The other thing was to send us off to college. We all learned to appreciate home and miss our families while we were away. She said we all came back sweeter after our first year of college. Good luck!

  10. says

    Meant to say how much I love your photos of your children in your recap!

    I think you are so right starting things off positive! I have things I still say all the time that have helped my kids develop a good relationship. I remind them about how much they love each other and always call attention to a like or interest they share.

    Great post series MaryAnne!

  11. says

    My kiddos always welcomed the new baby (I have four) but it is as they have grown older that they now don’t get along. I find it very difficult to be the peace negotiator all the time..

  12. Tiffany says

    For my second child, I made sure to pay attention to my oldest by asking him to bring books to me while I was nursing, and we’d read together. I have 4 kids (just had my 4th) and none of them have ever had problems with the babies. They don’t mind helping out because I think they like being involved. I do have to admit though that they probably don’t have a lot of resentment because they are all very young. I have 4 kids 5 yr and under.

    • says

      The closeness of your four kids might help, but your approach (making nursing time reading together time as well) sounds really lovely, and that has to make a difference. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Susan says

    Thank you for these tips and thoughts. I have a toddler and a newborn and this article is giving me some great ideas. Thank you!

  14. Laura says

    Love this! We just had our first baby 7 months ago and I’m already gathering up tips for how to keep her feeling loved when we grow our family someday.

  15. says

    I’m from a family of ten too! My mom always had me do what she did w the baby to a doll or stuffed animal. It must have worked bc I don’t remember being jealous about new siblings.

  16. Mairead Kiely Fyda says

    Loved these tips! I’m one of 10! Gave birth to 6 in 10 years love each one in their own way for who they are. Yes they each had a welcome home baby gift as we brought the new baby home. Now I just received the best reward! A First grand baby- so exciting. Most important is to give Thanks to the Source from whence each of us came!

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