Bean has definitely embraced being a big brother. He loves his “Gaycee.” He brings her toys and shares his food with her (according to Bean, she should be eating more popcorn and cheese). He helps me with every diaper change and he gives her lots and lots of kisses. I’m so thankful for this. I was afraid he would take out any frustration or anxiety about having a baby in the house on the baby, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Instead, we are seeing Bean’s response to being a big brother in his behavior towards me and Chris. This week we’ve seen all kinds of new behavior in him. He has become very demanding and bossy (…can’t imagine where he gets those traits from…). He’ll stand in one room and yell out, “MOM! COME HERE NOW!” Or, if we’re doing something and Chris or I have to walk away for whatever reason, he’ll yell out, “COME BACK HERE!” He’s like a tiny titan. We aren’t really sure how to correct this because I don’t know that he’s able yet to understand tone in his speech, so we’ve been asking him to say please. So, now he sounds like a very polite tiny titan.
“MOM! COME HERE NOW, PLEASE!”
If I had to get inside Bean’s complex little psyche, I’d guess that this is his way of asking (or, rather, demanding) attention. He orders us around all day long and it’s only about keeping our attention on him. He especially gets bossy when we are doing something with Gracie. He gets really mad if we stop what we are doing with him to go do something with Gracie. The yelling becomes even louder and his demands are said even more when that happens.
He’s also become very impatient. He wants what he wants when he wants it. And this week he has let us know. His favorite word at the moment? NOW. “NOW, PLEASE!” “NOW, MOM!” “NOW, DAD!” “NOW FOR BEANIE!” Now, now, now. And if we happen to be doing something that means we can’t get to him at that exact moment, the chanting for NOW becomes even louder. For this, we think this is something we actually CAN teach him. Patience is hard to understand and even harder to teach, but we are starting by teaching him to wait. If we are talking and he starts yelling for something, we tell him nicely, “You have to wait, Bean,” and we hold one finger up in the air, hoping that some kind of sign language will help him understand faster.
A friend of mine gave me great advice one time. She said that if you ask the baby sometimes to wait when she is crying, it shows Bean that everyone has to wait, not just him. So, sometimes when Gracie is crying and we are doing something with Bean, we say loudly, “You have to wait, Gracie,” and we quickly finish what we are doing before going over to Gracie. This shows Bean that Gracie is no different or more important than him. Isn’t that great, practical advice? My friend is going to make a great mom one day…
Both of these new changes in Bean might be related to Gracie, but being demanding and impatient are sort of trademarks of toddlers everywhere. Whether they have new sisters or not. The last change we’ve seen in Bean though is directly related to Gracie. If Bean sees us doing something with Gracie that takes up our attention, he instantly comes over and says, “Michael’s turn?” This is big at diaper changes. While I’m changing Gracie, Bean always asks, “Michael’s diaper change? Michael’s turn?” Along the same lines, he has started wanting to use all of her baby things. He sits in her bouncer seat, he lays in her Boppy pillow, he cuddles with her blankets. If it’s something that he can actually do – like get a diaper change – we go ahead and do it and say that, yes, it is Michael’s turn. But when he’s trying to use the baby things, we tell him that those are for babies and that Beanie is a big boy and then we go find big boy things to use – like a chair or his own pillow. We don’t ever tell him he can’t use Gracie’s things, but we try to redirect and discourage, making sure he knows the difference between being a baby and a big boy.
Overall, I think Bean’s reacting pretty normally and he isn’t showing any signs that send off red flags to me. What his reactions are doing though are making Chris and I scratch our heads about how to deal with them. For the first two issues – yelling and being demanding and the impatience – we aren’t sure if we should use normal discipline like we usually would or if we should let some of the things go because he’s adjusting to Gracie. For example, when he doesn’t get a response from us right away, Bean will sometimes throw a toy or swat at us. We sternly tell him no and explain in one sentence or two that we don’t behave that way, but we haven’t used time out or even been too consistent with that correction. Honestly, I think it’s because we both feel guilty. We feel bad that Bean’s going through this adjustment period and so we’re letting some things slide. But deep down, I think both Chris and I know that we shouldn’t let things slide right now because they are only going to get worse.
So, I’m asking you, dear imaginary friends. When your child was going through an adjustment (specifically to a new sibling), were you are strict on behavior as you normally were or did you let some things slide because you knew there was a reason for the behavior? Do we stick to our normal discipline routine or do we cut him some slack for a while? What say you, dear imaginary friends?