Your toddler loves his sister, but that doesn't mean he's always nice to her.

Stopping a Toddler From Being a Bully to His Little Sister

by Eliza Martinez

Bringing home a new baby is exciting for parents and siblings. It can also be a time of stress, transition and adjustment. Your toddler now has to compete for your attention and share his life with a little girl who doesn't even do much yet. If your son starts bullying the new baby, it's important to step in because he could hurt his sister.

1. Bullying Behaviors

Toddlers aren't always the most gentle creatures, and your son might hurt his baby sister by mistake on occasion. Bullying, on the other hand, is a conscious and deliberate act against a weaker target, according to licensed mental health counselor Erika Krull on the Psych Central website. Your toddler might call his baby sister names or hit, punch, bite or kick her. He might also pull her hair or squeeze her fingers and toes until she cries.

2. Reasons for Bullying

Chances are your toddler bullies his little sister because he's jealous of the attention she gets from you and he feels slighted by having to share his mom and dad with another child. Your toddler might bully his baby sister if she cries and you stop reading with him to tend to her or if he's sad and lonely because you're nursing the baby. A toddler might also bully a sibling if she grabs his favorite toy or tries to get his favorite book. Toddlers don't have a full grasp on the differing needs of kids at different ages, according to Kids Health. This makes it hard to help him understand that a baby sister needs more attention and care than he does. All he sees is that the baby takes the attention he wants, which is upsetting and can cause jealousy.

3. Discipline

Immediate and consistent consequences for bullying his sister helps your toddler learn acceptable behaviors and stop unacceptable ones. Having your toddler take a break from the situation can help him calm down while keeping his little sister safe, according to North Carolina State University. Set clear guidelines about what your toddler isn't allowed to do. Remind him of those rules each time he breaks them. Say "no hitting," for example, each and every time he hits his little sister. Make a big deal out of good behavior. When you see your toddler treating his sister kindly, praise him and offer a small reward, such as a sticker or special snack. The good feelings this evokes motivates your toddler to do the same the next time around.

4. Prevention

Sometimes, prevention is your best bet for keeping your toddler from bullying the baby. Keep a small basket of special toys that your toddler only gets to play with when his sister is eating or otherwise monopolizing your attention. Create a small space where the baby isn't allowed. This gives your toddler a place to play with his favorite toys without having to share them. Go on toddler-only outings where you can focus your full attention on him, which can go a long way toward helping him understand that you still love him just as much as before.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

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