The first day I brought Harlow home from the hospital, I laid her down on a blanket and Mazzy ran over excited to interact with her little sister. However, it didn't take her long to realize, short of staring into one another's eyes, there was not much for them to do.
For some reason, in that moment, I made a very stupid move. In the interest of entertaining Mazzy, I took my finger, lightly touched the tip of Harlow's nose and said "BOOP".
From that point forward, whenever Mazzy sees Harlow, she takes her finger, sticks it in Harlow's direction and pokes her baby sister on the cheek, up her nose, in her ear, etc. while saying "BOOP BOOP BOOP BOOP BOOP!"
I'm left to play THE HYPOCRITE by telling her, "No, no, Mazzy. We NEVER poke the baby."
A classic "do as I say, not as I do" lesson in parenting.
But at least, I can take solace that Mazzy has never intentionally tried to hurt Harlow. Although it's only been three months and I'm not about to take anything for granted.
One mother, named Cindy, has not been so lucky and she emailed Dr. B to ask for advice.
As most of you know, Dr. B is a school psychologist, as well as my sister— which is why I get her advice for free. She hasn't made an appearance on the blog in quite some time, but she did take a moment to reply to Cindy. I found her answer helpful, so I thought I'd share their exchange today.
Dear Dr. B,
My three year-old is displaying some attention seeking behaviour in relation to her 5 month-old sister. Some days she is loving and gentle but other days (more often than not) she is poking, pinching, hitting or biting the baby and doesn't listen or stop no matter what I say. This behavior is accelerated when her little sister gets attention and will probably continue as she grows and needs more attention.
I've tried time outs, warnings and giving praise for the gentle behaviour. I tell her she is loved often and that her little sister loves her too. But it just doesn't seem like she's listening and the behaviour hasn't stopped.
Any advice on how to get your toddler to stop harassing the baby?
It sounds like you are using many effective strategies already and it will take time and persistence before your daughter begins to understand how to play nicely with her sister.
If you feel strongly that she is seeking attention, the most effective strategy is giving her positive attention and praise when she is interacting nicely with the baby and being less reactive but redirecting her to other activities when she is not listening and bothering the baby.
If she is looking for attention when she bothers the baby, giving her too much attention, even if it's addressing her negatively, may actually reward the behavior unintentionally because she is getting the attention she is seeking.
The only other thing I'd consider is teaching your daughter some additional positive ways to interact with the baby. She is probably genuinely interested in playing with her baby sister but doesn't know how. Unfortunately, infants can be a little boring from a toddlers perspective because there is not much they can do yet.
For example, you may want to teach her to play peek-a-boo with the baby, sing her favorite song to her, read or show her a book, tickle her toes (instead of biting them), etc.
Also, giving her plenty of opportunities to help you with the baby will give her positive ways to get attention too (such as helping you get a bottle, blanket, burp cloth or pacifier; teaching her to swaddle, etc.).
You could also get her a baby doll so that she can imitate you playing/feeding/diapering/bathing the baby and it becomes something that you can do together.
Toddlers love to help so if you make helping fun and give her EXCESSIVE positive attention for helpful and appropriate big sister behavior, she will be less likely to seek attention in a negative way while interacting with the baby.
I hope that helps!
What was your first child's most memorable incident of new baby hazing?