I just want to share something that a child psychiatrist friend once told me about behaviour related to sibling rivalry.
When I had my second kid, my friend advised me to tell everyone around me NOT to tell my firstborn that it is his duty/job to take care of his younger sibling and that he must ‘grow up’ now etc etc. Of course, helping out like passing the diapers etc is great for participation, but her advice was essentially not to constantly make the firstborn feel like he is responsible for the younger one; all the ‘setting a good example stuff as a big bro/sis’ thing can come later.
It’s already hard enough for the kid to cope with a new sibling without everyone else highlighting the fact that he is now no longer number one. Made sense to me… though all the old folks at home thought I was mad to tell them not to say that!
Oh, my doc also suggested that we try not to frequently say things like ‘do this/don’t do that so that baby won’t trip/fall/can sleep etc’, or the older sibling will feel that everything is now done for the benefit of the new baby.
When I was leaving the hospital with no. 3, a nurse gave me an interesting piece of advice (she claims it works for her six! kids). She suggested that I hand the newborn over to hubby and walk into the house sans the baby, so that the older kids will see that the Mummy who went to the hospital is still the same Mummy who came back. I did that, and I also tried to spend more time with them and not tend to the baby immediately/too much – a bit tough though cos my hormones told me to glue myself to the new baby.
It didn’t stop ds1 from asking when we will return the baby to the hospital, and it didn’t stop dd2 from asking if ds2 will be here to stay ‘forever and ever and ever??!!", but I think it helps to set the stage a little. To date my three kids get along pretty well and I haven’t (touch wood!) had any tantrums from them due to unfriendly feelings. In fact, I haven’t had to deal with tantrums at all with the older two, so of course the joke now is on me with number 3… payback time for secretly congratulating myself that ds1 and dd2 never threw tantrums… Many thanks to the great dads and mums here, I’ve a learned a lot about dealing with tantrums!