Dear Dr. Bill,
I have a 20-month-old boy and a 2-month-old daughter. I’m at my wit’s end with my son because one moment he acts incredibly loving towards his sister, and then “BLAMO!” he hits her in the head with his hand or a toy! I know he’s frustrated by how his world has changed, and he’s even started throwing tantrums while I’m nursing the baby. What should I do?
It’s fairly common for a toddler to express anger toward a baby sibling. After all, your son has been the center of attention in your home since he was born, and now all of a sudden this strange little crying creature is demanding a huge amount of your time and attention.
Right now, your husband needs to take a more active role with both your son and the baby. When you’re tending to your daughter, he should engage your son in fun one-on-one activities. He also needs to actively participate in caring for the baby. That will allow you to have some special time with your son each day.
Make sure you deal decisively with his aggressive behavior. When your son hits his sister, calmly and firmly tell him “no!” and remove him from the situation. You might use a portable Pak N’ Play playpen as a time-out location.
Every time your son gets aggressive with the baby, place him in the Pak N’ Play for about two minutes. Don't lecture him or scold him, just ignore him and make him stay in the playpen until he's "served his sentence."
If you're consistent with your follow-through, you should find that his hitting decreases fairly rapidly.
Thanks for writing Becca . If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.