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Child Is Showing Resentment for Baby’s Imminent Arrival

Question:

My granddaughter is 4 ½ years ​old and the third child in the family. Mommy is expecting her fourth baby in two weeks, and the 4 ½-year-old is becoming territorial. For example, she recently took a magic marker and scribbled on one of the baby’s bibs. She is usually very easygoing. How can we help her?

Answer:

It sounds as if your granddaughter is going through a fairly normal and healthy stage, but we understand that it can be frustrating for parents and other adults who may worry that this might develop into something more.

First, it’s important to understand that while this new addition to the family may be causing your granddaughter to regress in her behaviors, it doesn’t mean she will stay in this phase. It also a good idea to remember that every behavior has a function, so we need to establish the reasons behind it.

Some children have figured out they get a lot more attention for engaging in bad behaviors than good ones. This could be the issue. Or perhaps she is aware of upcoming changes in the household that she may view as a threat to her, and she doesn’t know how to express this verbally.

It should be noted that just because these negative behaviors have logical (to her) reasons behind them, it doesn’t mean they should be tolerated. Rather, they should be dealt with immediately and in a calm-but-firm manner.

You should make sure your granddaughter understands the rules and the reasons behind them. This is also a good time to teach appropriate responses to her anxieties by being clear and letting her know exactly what is expected of her. Practicing this with a child when he or she is calm is also an effective way of helping him or her learn to make better choices.

Remember, each negative behavior needs to be addressed with an appropriate consequence. Make it meaningful for the child and the age. You can also allow her a chance to make better choices or earn back privileges. Ultimately, the goal is to encourage more positive behavior and to “catch” her doing something good and praise her for this choice.

Over time, as she learns the appropriate responses to her apprehensions regarding her new sibling, her behaviors will likely change for the better.

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