Ever since we had our second baby six months ago, our three-year-old has gone through long stretches of the day acting like a baby. She says things like gogo and gaga and has even started to wet herself (she has been potty trained for a year). At times she refuses to speak and just points and starts crying if we don't get what she wants. What should we do? We feel helpless. Parents of two, Qld
It certainly is a shock when your toddler starts acting like a baby, this is called ‘regression’. Regression is a reaction to a change or a stressful situation in your toddlers life, and the arrival of a new sibling is definitely one of these times. Your toddler can be fine one day and the next she demands to be carried, asks for a bottle, talks like a baby and yes, toilet training can go backwards.
Be assured you won’t have a big baby on your hands forever this is just your toddlers way of saying she needs some extra attention and emotional reassurance from you. What to do about it? There are a number of strategies that help make your toddler feel emotionally secure, think about it from their point of view – the baby behaves like this – helpless, demanding, whiny and gets lots of attention so they think that’s what they need to do too.
Make sure your older child gets lots of positive attention for being helpful and competent. Don’t fight the baby acting, let your older child act like they want to, using baby talk, try to not let it bother, frustrate, or annoy you. Every now and then you may want to mention “its fun play acting like a baby”. At the same time don’t pay too much attention to it. Set aside 30 mins a day just for your toddler, when your baby is organized and sleeping, make ‘playtime’ which is special time where you play with your toddler uninterrupted and it is directed by them whatever they want to play.
Make sure you are aware of your toddlers feelings and talk about them. So if she says or acts in a way that is resentful of the baby, rather than say “oh you don’t really mean that” try “sometimes you just wish the baby would go away and you would have mummy all to yourself”. As much as a shock as it might be to actually say these words, rather than add to the jealousy you will actually make your toddler feel understood and she will go ‘oh mummy understands’. Have a cuddle and the jealousy will dissolve. Its ok to be angry or sad. The more you can express her emotions and feelings for her the quicker this will resolves. Also be sure to praise her for using a spoon, doing a puzzle, using the potty, speaking properly.