Bad Behavior After Having a New Baby

by Holly

"Mom, I'm not happy about having a younger brother"

Hello Natural Parenting Advice,

Don't really have a story; I am just looking for some advice about how to deal with bad behavior after having a new baby. I have 2 sons; a 3 1/2 year old and a 7 month old, who I am still breastfeeding. I breastfed my older son until he was 15 months old.

Lately my older son has been acting out with a lot of the "typical" behavior: saying no to everything, not doing as he's told, tantrums, etc. I know that it's partly because of his new baby brother. He's never aggressive or mean to the baby; he's actually very helpful. I'm needing advice on how to correctly discipline him and maybe getting him to have a different attitude towards us.

Here's just some insight into how we live: My husband and I both work full time jobs, my mother watches the boys. We co-sleep with our children, only allow 2 hours of TV per day, eat all meals together when possible (but always dinner), have 2 dogs, grow most of our food and try to live healthy and teach our children the same. We love camping, hiking, hunting, fishing and just being outdoors. We're just at our wits' end with our son's behavior, and not sure how to constructively discipline him when he misbehaves. Any help would be greatly appreciated. BTW: Love the site!


Hi Holly,

Temper tantrums and bad behavior are so difficult! No one likes dealing with bad behavior after having a new baby because on some level we feel guilty that we can’t give our older kid all the love and attention we did before the new baby. There simply are times when you can’t handle two children at once and one has to put his needs on the back burner.

While most temper tantrums take place between 1-3 years old, all kids may experience a regressive stage when they see a newborn sibling being treated as a baby. It makes them think that they will get more attention if they revert to baby behavior like thumb sucking, baby talk or crying! It sounds like what your older son really would like is some more attention.

Here are a few things you could do that are proactive:

Set aside time to spend one-on-one with your older son. Perhaps you could spend some time in the garden together, just the two of you. Remind your older son about all the fun things that he can do like enjoying certain foods or fun activities he can do that his brother can’t. It sounds like you are already involving your older son in baby care activities like diapering and helping out in other ways. This will reinforce his self-confidence and make him feel good about being capable in ways his younger brother isn’t. Having a younger sibling often means that the older siblings have to change gears abruptly due to the needs of the baby.

For example, you may need to leave a park early because the baby is hungry or needs a nap. Older siblings can have a hard time with these abrupt transitions, so as much a possible try to give your older son some warning so that he has the chance to change gears. Finally, don’t give your son the opportunity to say “no”. Instead, present him with limited choices.

For example:

Instead of saying: “Do you want to go to the park?”

Say: “Would you like to go to Cuesta Park or Shoup Park?”

Here are a few things you could do from the reactive perspective (discipline):

Pay as little attention as possible to your son’s bad behavior. You want to reward him with attention for good behavior, not bad behavior.

Create a spot in your home where he can have some quiet time on his own. I suggest that this spot be in a different room from where you all usually hang out.

Having a time out spot is essential to being able to:

Give your son time to calm down and think

Reinforce that GOOD behavior NOT BAD behavior earns attention.

Then it is a simple matter of using the time out spot to reinforce what you are trying to teach him. For example, if he doesn’t do what he is told, tell him that he has until the count of three to do so or else he will have a time out. If he has a temper tantrum, place him in his time out spot and let him know he can come out when he calms down and feels better.

He doesn’t always need to be completely alone in his time out spot, but it is best that if you do spend time with him while he is having a temper tantrum, that you keep your interaction with him to an absolute minimum. You can let him know he is not alone while also letting him know that you aren’t going to be rewarding bad behavior with lavish attention. Instead, you could sit next to him, but read a book.

That really is the challenge, finding a way to starve bad behavior by not rewarding your child with attention when he is behaving badly while at the same time helping your child learn to self-sooth and prevent him from feeling abandoned.

I would love to hear other reader’s opinions and tips for dealing with bad behavior after having a new baby. Please click on the comments box below to add your own thoughts to this discussion!


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