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Do your kids share a bedroom? Child Sleep Expert Rebecca Michi answers the question “Should siblings share a bedroom?”

Does your child fight with playmates? Does your child have trouble sharing? Katie Malinski, LCSW, coaches a family with an 8-year old son on how to overcome trouble with playmates.

Do your kids argue All The Time?  Do you feel like you are a referee?  While sibling squabbles can be normal, there are definitely things that parents can do to make them happen less frequently, empower the kids to resolve them, and help siblings grow into having great relationships with each other.

  1. Teach your kids how to play together.  Your older child especially will benefit from your instruction on how to play with the younger.  For example, “Hold this blanket over your face and then drop it down quickly and say Peekaboo and smile.”The baby will love that and will giggle!”  When you find yourself repeating a list of “Don’t,” try to switch over to a happy encouragement of “Do.”  In addition to being more effective, it’s being more enjoyable for everybody, too.
  2. Teach both kids to notice, understand, and respect other’s non-verbal signals.  A simple one is to watch the other person’s smile—big smile: things are probably going well.  No smile?  Maybe take a break.  Another example: a 1 year old, who when she gets too worked up, will grab her sister’s hair—ouch!  Teach the big sister to recognize the signs of an over-stimulated baby so she can take a break and save her hair.
  3. Pay attention to the messages that your children are getting from TV, books, and friends.  The bulk of kids’ media portray siblings as annoying, or bothersome, or mean, or worse.  It is rare to see loving sibling relationships—but kids need to see this way of relating to their sibling if they are going to actually do it, and they need your help identifying and rejecting the negative images of sibling relationships.

So point out crummy behavior when you see it on TV or in books… talk about your family values on how brothers and sisters treat each other… show your kids how to play with each other well and how to understand other’s signals, and most importantly: give your kids some extra love and support when they are loving to each other.  These things will really help!

It’s a common experience. A child is a baby until the next child comes along, when the older child suddenly seems more capable and even bigger than she did just a few days before. Now, research confirms that parents actually change their perception of how large a child is once a new baby comes along.

Scientists in Australia asked 750 mothers of at least two children, aged two to six, if they remembered a change in size of their older child once a second child was born. Seventy percent of the mothers said they did. So researchers then asked mothers to estimate the height of their children and then compared these estimates to the children’s actual heights. What they found is surprising: estimates of the height of mothers’ oldest children were quite accurate but estimates of the height of their youngest children were too short by nearly three inches!

This finding might be merely amusing but it has important implications for parents. As lead researcher, Jordy Kaufman, points out, “we may treat our youngest children as if they are actually younger than they really are….Our research potentially explains why the ‘baby of the family’ never outgrows that label. To the parents, the baby of the family may always be ‘the baby.'”

This means that youngest children may be over-protected against ordinary life events. They may be indulged more than older children are.  They may be kept childish longer, even into adolescence and beyond. It’s commonplace for parents to say they “learned how to parent” on their older children and were looser and less picky with their younger ones. But it might not be that parents just grow more mellow. They may actually see their younger children differently.

Is this a problem? Maybe. Here are some tips.

  1. Let your “baby” try hard things. Don’t always be on hand to smooth the way or to let him skip over developmental tasks. Don’t let your older children be so helpful the younger child’s abilities are stunted.
  2. Get your “baby” out into the wide world. Yes, she’s your youngest and every milestone she reaches signals your own last time to fulfill roles you’ve enjoyed with each of your kids. But being with her peers will help her grow up and will help you recognize her developing powers.
  3. Be supportive of your older children. The flip side of treating the youngest child as a baby is that older children may be treated as adults. This isn’t fair and it isn’t helpful. Be careful to provide to each of your children what he or she needs at points along the way, both opportunities to grow and opportunities to retreat for a while.

Each place in the family has its positive and negatives. Understanding how our own perceptions might add to each child’s experience helps us be more aware.

Love your babies, each and every one of them.



© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Ask for Dr. Anderson’s new book, Parenting: A Field Guide, at your favorite bookstore.

One night about 6 months after my second daughter was born, we were all sitting at the dinner table and the baby started tilting her head to the side and smiling.  It was so cute, and the grownups were all just smitten.  We cooed and fawned over her for several minutes, and then I looked at my 5 year old.  She tilted her head to the side, made the exact same smile, and it just about broke my heart.  My big girl needed some of that love and attention, too.  The thing is, it’s really hard to compete with a baby.  They are so darn cute, it’s just not a fair fight.

So what can parents do to help our older kids feel just as loved and not so jealous of the new baby?  Counter-intuitively, the first thing we need to do is to give them permission to feel upset or jealous.  Those feelings are normal and completely understandable.  We also need to acknowledge the truth about how many negative side effects a baby creates for an older sibling.  Yes, both things are true: babies=positive and negative changes!  We need to say things like:

The other thing we need to do is to create experiences that balance out the negatives.  You can:

Validate and empathize with those upset feelings, and try to create plenty of good feelings—with and without the new baby—it will help!