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August 27, 2020

When the Baby wants Everything their Big Sibling Has

Any parent with multiple children has probably been there. You're older child is happily engaged in something, anything, and here comes your baby or younger toddler. And, all your younger child wants is whatever your older child is doing. Your baby doesn't care if the work is too small, or dangerous, or not appropriate all they want is that thing. What do you do? 

This exact scenario has been playing out more and more in my home as Teddy gets older and more mobile - especially between Gus and Teddy. Gus still mostly works in the same shared playroom space as Theodore. He is at a table that Teddy can reach. And, he's at an age that Teddy just wants all the super engaging, tiny work that Gus loves. Gus's first inclination is to shove Teddy away from his work. Gus does it mostly out of concern, he knows that Teddy shouldn't usually have what he is working on. But, he also does it out of annoyance, he doesn't want Teddy to disrupt what he is doing. So, how do I respond? 

Montessori parenting tips for helping babies and toddlers share their toys. 3 tips for keeping babies from playing with big sibling toys.

Redirect, Where Possible

It's always my goal as a Montessori parent to protect the child that is concentrating. So, where possible, it's my job to redirect the baby away from the bigger sibling's work. That might mean, physically moving Teddy away from Gus. It might mean engaging him in a toy or material that is more age appropriate. This step requires me to be fairly close and to be observing both Gus' concentration and Teddy's interest in what Gus is doing. And, I'm not going to lie, there are just plenty of times that I'm not able to pay that close of attention or I can see it coming but I'm not physically close enough to intervene before Gus will. So, then what?

Teach Your Child This Phrase

"I need your help mom." This simple phrase has been a lifesaver. It seems so obvious to us as adults, but in the moment, it can be really hard for toddlers and even preschoolers to access appropriate tools in the heat of the moment. If they get flustered, their first reaction is going to be to physically lash out. And, in those moments, your baby can get hurt. This is where a simple grace and courtesy lesson can come in handy. 

A grace and courtesy lesson happens at a neutral time when your older child is focused and calm. And you can role play how to respond in certain situations. So, for Gus, we role-played what to do and say if Teddy gets too close to him while he is working. "I need your help mom." It's learning in those neutral moments, and lots of real life practice, that help to give him the tools he needs for a real life situation. Then, in the moments when I do redirect Teddy, I make sure to reinforce that language by saying it aloud. 

Now, it's not always perfect. Nora (at 6-years-old) is far better at remembering to ask for help if she needs it. But, Gus is getting there. His first inclination is often now to ask for help, giving the situation a couple extra seconds for me to get there and redirect Teddy. 

Keep Your Expectations in Check

Eventually, Teddy will understand that he also has some responsibility in respecting the work of others in our home. And, eventually, Gus will have the control not to shove Teddy to the floor when Ted gets too close to his work. But, that comes with TIME. I need to make sure I am practicing with both my children, but I have to know that it's normal, it happens, and it eventually stops. 

I can have the expectation in my mind of what will eventually happen, but I have to match that expectation to the very real children in front of me. So, don't feel discouraged when your baby interrupts, don't feel discouraged if your toddler/preschooler (or even elementary aged child) gets angry and lashes out. It happens, but it will get there! 

Montessori parenting tips for helping babies and toddlers share their toys. 3 tips for keeping babies from playing with big sibling toys.

Is your baby interested in everything your older kids are doing? How do you respond? 

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Mallory said…
I love this post. Thank you!!!!
Elahe said…
well said and practical! thanks!
Thoughtful Thinker
My life every day right now! Thank you.