What to do when your toddler isn’t playing happy families.

You loved being a parent the first time, and you decided the timing was right for number two. But five weeks after the baby is born, what was busy but going well takes a turn for the worse. It’s often around this time your first child starts to realise the new baby is here to stay. And where there once was lots of cuddles and kisses, you notice a few pinches or rough handling. It can even become a discreetly placed kick as your toddler walks past the baby.

The problem is your toddler is starting to feel second best as most of mum’s time is taken up with ‘the baby’.  Before the baby, you paid all your attention to No 1! Don’t worry, with a few well-guided strategies, you can turn things around. Begin by involving your toddler wherever you can, even if you have to create little jobs. Have them pass the nappy or wipes when you’re changing bub. At bath time, use a second washer and let your toddler bathe the baby as well. It may take longer, but involving your toddler in these daily routines will make them feel valued.

Another opportunity is feeding time. You spend about six hours a day feeding the baby, for about 40 minutes a session, so use this time wisely when your toddler is around. Get them to sit beside you and read them a book, or place their blocks on the floor nearby and praise them when they’re playing quietly. However, if your toddler decides to use this time to empty the kitchen bin, control your desire to call out and correct them. Instead, ignore this type of behaviour and deal with fixing the trouble spots later when they’re not there. Your aim is to make your toddler feel they have a positive role to play. The best way to achieve this is by only paying attention to good behaviour. For example, show them how to stroke the baby gently, and praise soft stroking or kisses, rather than rousing on them for being too rough. Oh, and if there’s a kick or two, take the baby into a different room. No glares and no correction – social isolation from the family is the most powerful form of discipline.

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