1. Parenting

Child Behavior and Discipline - Calming Sibling Anxiety

Being Pregnant, Bringing Home a New Baby Can Cause Insecurity for Older Child


Toddler kissing newborn baby
Robin Reeder / Reeder Studios, Llc/Photolibrary/Getty Images
While you and your partner may be excited about adding to your family, a child may not share the same enthusiasm. As a result, some positive child discipline may be in order. It is quite common for a sibling who is used to having parents all to himself to begin to exhibit some ugly, and sometimes downright frightening, behavior that is most likely due to severe anxiety about the new baby. Sometimes, the acting out is targeted to the pregnant mom. Oftentimes, a child may become overly-attached and attentive to parents before a new baby's arrival, only to act out in unexpected and inappropriate ways after the baby is born.

It is understandable that a child may exhibit concerns and fears about a new arrival, especially if changes are made in his own life to accommodate the pending birth. Changing beds or rooms may be stressful and unsettling for a young child. Parents should talk to their child regularly about what a new baby will mean in terms of their family lifestyle, render loving child discipline tactics, and provide extra reassurance that they will always be loved and cared for. At the same time, aggression, tantrums and other bad behaviors must be stopped at once.

Acting out in such a way of hitting or kicking, screaming, defiance, or running away from instructions requires immediate child discipline intervention. A child cannot be allowed to continue these inappropriate behaviors, which could put a pregnant mom or newborn, at risk for safety. Consistent and firm child discipline is a must coupled with reassurance of love. But discipline calls for more than a stern talking to or a time out. Rather, a child should be removed from the situation and persons immediately. If at home, the child should be sent to her room (or designated area). If in public, you must be willing to leave at once in order to go home and to be sent to the room. There should be no exceptions, no second chances, no softening when a child wants to kiss and make up. The "go to your room" length of time should depend on a child's age, but the key is to separate him from the situation and from the person he is potentially endangering. This form of child discipline becomes even more critical when baby arrives.

Parents too often let older kids get away with inappropriate and even threatening actions because they are concerned with a child's emotions. Rather, by rendering consistent and firm discipline, a child learns that you mean business and will not ever tolerate such behaviors targeted to you or the new baby. Ever. After a child has spent sufficient time in the room alone, you should then reintroduce a child to his typical environment after you have had a loving and reassuring talk that also includes what behavior is expected. Always offer a loving hug, so that your child knows that your love is not tied to his behavior, but that he will certainly be disciplined consistently for acting out.

While an incoming birth or new baby certainly does bring change, kids will typically warm up to the idea and even become more accepting as long as they feel secure with their standing in the family.

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