Discipline and the Big Brother

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.


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?

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44 Thoughts to “Discipline and the Big Brother”

  1. I’m not a parent, so no advice to add. Patience is hard to understand and hard to teach, and patience is hard to learn too! I’m 24 and still learning. And it sucks!

  2. Unfortunately I can’t help because I am the youngest of two and only have one baby. So I just wanted to say the photo of Bean on the stool at Gracie’s crib is super adorable and the idea of him calling himself “Beanie” is equally wonderful. I hope the good bits stay good and the bad bits fade away. Looking forward to other readers’ advice!

  3. Wow! Not sure exactly what the answer is . . . I would say that if he’s being defiant then obviously discipline, but if he’s yelling and being demanding then try to talk to him about waiting and maybe show him the difference between yelling and asking nicely. It’s really hard with a kid his age because they really don’t understand. My three year old is just now understanding that you have to wait and watch your tone, but it doesn’t mean he does it. I’m sure some more experienced parents will have better advice.

  4. This is when I am grateful to have a team of six therapists helping me raise my 22-month-old boy!!! Here’s what we’ve been told: Highly praise the good behavior; ignore the behaviors that you don’t want perpetuated. So if Bean’s hollering out in a loud, demanding tone – don’t give him what he wants. When he comes to you and asks for something in a polite, appropriate tone, throw him a parade — literally. Cheer, toss him in the air, tell him how lovely it was that he asked you to come over to him in a polite, appropriate tone. For Bean, it will start coming into focus really fast what works and doesn’t work. Even responding with “Wait” or “Shhh!” is getting a response. Ignoring what you don’t want is the key. And yes — Bean’s going through a period of immense change. But change is the only constant when parenting, and the change will never end. Soon Gracie will be up and about and Bean will have to adjust to that. You can’t use change as an excuse to hold Bean’s demeanor to a different standard. It sounds like he’s knocking it out of the park as a big brother; now he just needs some tutoring on the behavior you feel is appropriate for your beautiful 22-month old son! PS – You gotta change this title. The Growing Bean? Gracie wants some headline too…. 😉

  5. Katie I think you are doing just fine!! I have 3 girls and I went through the same thing with each of them as they became sisters. Just keep letting Bean know you love him and maybe do special “big boy” things with just him.

  6. Amy

    My daughter was 2-1/2 when my son was born, and I’ve already forgotten what we did with her, discipline-wise! So I’m no help at all. But I did want to say that you guys are dynamite at parenting, and the fact that you are concerned about any of these behaviors puts you way ahead of a ginormous portion of parents out there (which is a rather sad fact). Bean Man is going to come out the other side of this period of adjustment a stellar big brother, and I think you’re handling it beautifully. Cheers!

  7. whit

    Be consistent with the discipline, but understand where he’s coming from. Second what Nate’s mom says – if you provide a reaction (negative or positive), it’s giving him what he wants, and he’ll do it again to elicit a response. Once the behavior has stopped, talk to him about it and listen to what he has to say.

    (And speaking as someone who’s older brother is in his late 20’s and still a butthead – it ain’t gonna get any better :P)

  8. Nova Kristin

    Yes yes yes be consistent. Changing your response to that type of behavior because of all the change he is experiencing will set a precedent for him as you go forward. I think you are doing great!

  9. It’s great that you have sympathy for why he’s “acting out”, but yes – you have to discipline or it will become worse. To balance it, make sure you point out all of his big boy “privileges”. Things like he gets to eat cookies but babies don’t. He gets to play while baby naps. He gets sleep in a car bed, but poor baby just has a crib.
    You get the idea. 🙂

  10. Julie


    Language that works really well with our behavior kids at school are, When…then. For example, you can use it when Micheal is asking if it is his turn. When I am done changing Gracie, then it will be Micheal’s turn. Now try it for when he wants something and is yelling. When Micheal asks nicely and in a quiet voice, then he can go outside and play with his golf clubs. You have to stick to it for him to understand what is happening but it works really well because he will start to understand that you will give him attention and you can build his skills of waiting his turn. He know when you use When, then something good will happen next! Good luck!

  11. Jen

    Love Julie’s response to use When…then. I have an almost 3 year old and this works like a charm!

  12. Ashley

    It might be appropriate to explain to him that when he wants something from either one of you, he shouldn’t be yelling. He needs to ask nicely and in his “indoor voice”. This way he understands that you are not always able to come running when he needs attention, and that he needs to ask nicely rather than yell nicely. 😉 Since the yelling and the “now” is working for him at the moment, it’s not going to change until you ask him to do something different.

  13. Gale

    Two things that worked for me (my first two kids are exactly 24 months apart, and then #3 was 23 months after the second) was to say “I can’t hear you when you whine, yell, or whatever.” They quickly learned to phrase their requests in a different tone. The second, and probably more important thing, was to be intentional about doing things with the older kiddos before they started asking for attention. When Gracie goes to sleep, invite Bean to grab a book and cuddle on the couch with you while you read. Since I nursed my babies, I often had one little girl perched on each broad arm of my rocking recliner, snuggled up against me so we could read while the babe ate. But don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s still early yet, and you will find your new normal soon.

  14. Honestly? When our new baby was born our toddler was only 21-months-old. We had barely even begun to discipline him. He wasn’t really that bad of a kid before the baby came. The one discipline priority that we did set was to make sure that if Landon ever purposefully hit or tried to hurt the baby he was put in time-out. Also, if he purposefully does anything bad to his little brother out of frustration we have taught him how to hug and say sorry to his baby brother. It works well for us. And when Brigham is old enough the same will be expected of him!

    But yes, we cut him some slack. Not to scare you but when we first brought the baby home there was definitely a “honeymoon” phase where everything was just perfect. Landon was kissing his brother and although a little rambunctious at times, I was thinking to myself, wow, this is easier than I thought.

    Now, with an almost 3-year-old and an almost 1-year-old, it’s a little bit different. Landon has definitely been acting out more as his little brother tries to interact with him. I can’t tell you how many times a day I hear “Mom, Briggy took xyz from me!” I always tell everyone – it doesn’t get easier it just gets different. I hope that makes sense. Most of the time they get along but not always. It’s give and take. And you get better at managing two kiddos with two different personalities at two different stages in their lives.

  15. Liz M.

    I’m with molly. My oldest was only 19 months when my second was born so we didn’t really hit a lot of the disciplinary issues that you are facing. But we get some of it today because Carrie is 3 1/2 and Molly is only 2 and a tiny 2. So we usually sit with Carrie when she gets demanding and tell her that her sister is little and can’t do some of the things that she can so we have to do them for her. We always emphasize her “big girl” accomplishments. I would also agree with carving out some one on one Bean time that you don’t allow to be interrupted (be it that you each have one child or Gracie is asleep). My girls have slightly different sleep schedules so I get morning time with one and afternoon/evening time with another and I feel that one to one experience makes them feel special.

  16. Amanda

    I agree with Nova Kristin! I would say try to be as consistent as possible. I’m sure it will be difficult but Beanie will benefit from it in the long term. I know he is just a little guy, but regardless of a new sibling, he needs to know some behavior isn’t okay. If it’s “let go” now, he might expect it to be later on! But, no one knows Bean better than you, do going with your gut instinct might be the best way!

  17. Having 3 kids, we’ve gone through it twice. What we do is undersand where it may be coming from, but discipline like normal. We didn’t want them getting bad habits that would be harder for them to correct later on. We also were sure to tell them how much their baby sister/brother loves them and how much we love them all the time. We gave more praise than usual for the good things they did. We tried our best to never phrase things in a way that told them they couldn’t do something right now because I’m feeding the baby, or because I’m rocking the baby, etc. We’d phrase it like, “Mommy’s busy right now but we can play that game in a little bit. Can you bring a book over here for us to look at?” and they can hold the book and “read” it with you. That kind of stuff. And when my toddlers (and preschoolers for that matter) get demanding I just do a ” ask nicely -say ‘can I have some milk please?’ ” in the polite tone I want them to use.

    That’s what we do:o)

  18. No sibs yet here, BUT with a toddler Beanie’s age I would say that you have to take a two-pronged approach here. First, give him attention. Which I think you guys are doing well! Second, you can’t let him be a tyrant because you feel guilty. The guilt is totally normal, but Gracie’s not going away. All Beanie learns by you not correcting him is that he can keep being demanding and that’ll just drag this process on much, much longer. Kids are resilient, and he won’t stay in this stage for long *unless you let him*. You’re at a tricky developmental stage where the new sibling is compounded on top of the independence and strong will Bean’s learning he has. If he’s doing something that you otherwise wouldn’t allow, you’ve got to keep correcting him. That isn’t meant to mean that you’ve got to get after him for every little thing, but he knows exactly what works and what doesn’t, and its up to you to teach him that his tone is unacceptable. And to kiss him and hug him before and after he freaks out. 😉

    I will say, though, you guys are being total rock stars with this! It’s hard to know if you’re doing the right thing, but just the fact that you’re asking means you’re great parents!

  19. Sounds like you’re doing a great job reading Bean’s feelings and responding appropriately. When I would act out my parented used to ask, “Do you need attention?” It was surprisingly easy for me to put two and two together and figure out what I was feeling. Eventually, instead of whining or misbehaving or yelling, I would come up to my mom and say, “Mommy, I neen natension.” And she would thank me for letting her know and stop what she was doing to give me a few minutes of her time. I’m hoping this same tact will work with my kids too.

  20. Mine are less than 2 years apart and we did let some stuff slide during the first few months. Your friend gave you great advice though, we tried to err on the side of my oldest – meaning if they both needed something at the same time, we usually picked my oldest (then 1) to go first, and my son had to wait a bit. No long, but just so my oldest KNEW that she was just as important as the baby. This actually turned him into a great sleeper, since when they both went down for nap, sometimes he would have to fuss in his crib for a few minutes while I finished reading her a book or something. He learned to self sooth MUCH earlier than she did. Now, at 4 and 6, they are great friends 85% of the time. Also, I would recomend special mommy and Bean time or Chris and Bean time. Take him out of the house, do something with just him. That helped us a lot too. Good luck! It seems like you are both doing a great job.

  21. Deidre S.

    I am getting out of the phase you are going into. My monkey had a hard time when his baby brother arrived. He became more demanding, impatient, and had a strong attachment to the boppy. Our discipline methods how ever did not faulter. He is now able to understand that if I am feeding little Elephant and he wants attention that he is more than welcome to join us, but that I cannot stop what I am doing immediately. I would say that it took a few months for things to even out, but now Monkey acts as if Elephant has been here all along.

  22. I stuck pretty much to the same discipline, but we made a really big deal out of the older brother being a big boy by getting to go places with his grandparents, or if one of us left the house he got to go “because he was big”. He got excited even to go to the store and he got lots of “treats” when he went. He pretty much viewed his baby sister as a magnet to draw in more people with treats and offers to go places. 😉
    Has it hit you how much bigger Bean seems now? He is looking like a very handsome little gentleman.

  23. It has amazed me the huge amounts of creativity it takes to be a parent. To study each child and try to figure out how each works and guide them along those lines. I think it is adorable that he quickly added please to his loud demands. Trial and error and remember to relax. Children are highly mold-able and if what I am doing isn’t working I just try something else.

  24. Melissa W.

    My son was 20 mos. old when his little brother was born and we had a “honeymoon” period too, where all was good, but we eventually started seeing him act out towards us and his new brother- all coming down to him just wanting the same amount of attention his brother was getting. We gave him some slack, but we also stuck to our guns on most things discipline wise… if he wasn’t acting nice or doing something he wasn’t supposed to, we took care of it- whether that was time out or whatever discipline method we saw worked at the time- that has also changed… the older he has gotten, we have had to revisit our discipline methods and adjust them accordingly- whatever his “currency” is at the time. We did make sure and do certain things with just the older one- big boy things- like I always take him to the grocery store with me so he can get a cookie and I have that one-on-one time with him. It takes time, you will figure it out- trial and error is sooo true!

  25. A.

    I guess you mean a tyran or tyrant? Titans are players in greek mythology.

  26. I definitely agree with everyone that is saying to be consistent. You are doing the right thing by trying to understand why Bean is acting the way he is, but you don’t want to cut him too much slack, or he will soon learn that some of that behavior is ok. Then he’ll have to unlearn it, which is much harder. He may not understand tone at his age, but he does understand volume. Simply, tell him, “WHEN he asks for something quietly, THEN you will get it for him.” Having two children is a huge adjustment, but as you already know is worth the effort.

  27. Jenny

    Really, anonymous, that’s all you have to comment? Titans are also a “race of powerful deities” in Greek mythology – perhaps that’s what she meant. It’s also one of Saturn’s moons, but I don’t think any of us got confused. =)
    Great post – I also agree about the consistency. Just because you are sympathetic with where the behavior is coming from, doesn’t mean that it’s okay.

  28. Tressa

    I think it’s great that you and Chris realize Beanie is adjusting too. But my honest opinion (and always will be) that kids need to know the line that shouldn’t be crossed, and if it does get crossed stick to what you said the discipline will be. At any age, kids will push the line. But stick to your guns. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Just like another person said, Beanie doesn’t know “tone” yet, but he does know “volume”. BUT the kids (at any age) have to know what the LINE is first. I know parents that tell their kid they can’t have that cookie before supper. The kid crys, throws a temper so the parent lets her/him have the cookie. The kid knew the line, crossed it, got what she/he wanted. Didn’t teach him/her anything! Thats my motto “Say what you mean, mean what you say”. That’s how I raised my two kids. Good Luck! Bean Man is growing up and looking so much like a little boy!

  29. Amy

    Good question. When you know, let me in on the secret- my little man is getting a new sibling in three months so I’m using you for good ideas!

  30. I am laughing so hard. Actually I read the whole “tiny titan” thing to my husband. I find it hilarious. I’m going to tell you a funny story – hope you enjoy funny stories in your comments. Many moons ago…I’m just kidding. But when I moved here from Russia at the ripe age of 12, I had to go to ESL (English as a second language) classes during school. These classes included a whole bunch of kids (about 10) from all over the world that did not speak English. But we did all have the bonding experience over not being able to speak English. Anyways, long story short. We were learning something or another and this kid in our class turns around and says to another student, “Shut up!” (imagine a crazy strong accent). The teacher overhears this and says, “That is not the proper way to speak to another person. You need to be more polite.” So the kid goes, totally seriously, “Shut up, please?”

  31. Angel

    I think this is normal with all firstborns and subsequent children. For the most part, they can be good at helping and being part of things, but there will be times they act out because they feel that they are losing their parents attention because of the new baby.

  32. I don’t have any advice in relation to adjusting to a new sibling, but I just wanted to say that when we’re dealing with impatient screeching, we tell our son that “FIRST we have to do this, THEN we can do that”, with emphasis. So he doesn’t have a younger sibling to contend with, but something like “first we change your nappy, then we play with the trains” or “I have to finish this first, then I can come and help you.” It seems to work almost every time – he stops fussing and waits. He won’t wait too long, though, because he is still a toddler after all 😛 But telling him the order of how things will go and always sticking to it has been helpful in teaching him a bit of patience.

  33. We definitely kept disciplining when AJ became a big brother and he was doing a lot of the same things, especially the demanding and yelling. We made sure he understood that sometimes we needed to respond to Ryan right away and he quickly caught on so that when she was crying he would run to her shouting “mommy Ryan is crying, get her!”. We also made sure to resond to good behavior quickly, along with anytime he was hurt. We included him as much as possible and made sure to show him extra attention especially when she was still next to us so he didnt think he only got attention when she was sleeping. He had to use polite tones and polite words or I wouldn’t respond to him except to say something like “is that how you talk to mommy and ask nicely? Please don’t ignore when he yells at you and definitely don’t ignore anytime he swats at you. I went through a very stressful period, approximately 6 months, that AJ would throw major tantrums and hit me, he was adjusting to a new sister and a very stressful move and taking it out on me. I never let him get away with it and once he calmed down he would always have to apologize. It brought me to tears a couple times and I certainly wasn’t going to let him think it was ok to treat mommy or anyone else that way. I’m glad to say he has stopped and is a very polite little man to adults and other kids. He has some trouble makers at school and the teachers tell he stays very calm and tries to work it out with the kids, so cute for a boy who isn’t even 4 yet. Keep up the good work, it’s trying but even more rewarding. Congrats again!

  34. I think you have to pick and choose your battles. I think its good to stick to usual expectations but also ok to let things slide once in a while. Great idea about teaching him everyone has to wait once in a while.

    April is Autism Awareness Month. I’m blogging all month long about Autism.

  35. beaver

    ok. so imagine your husband brings a new wife home one day and says, “don’t worry, i still love you so much. i just love her too. oh yeah….she is going to demand alot of my time and attention for awhile but please understand…i still love you. i still want to spend time with you. i just can’t spend quite as much right now.” how would you react? give your little man some time and lots of understanding…it will get better. i promise. we have been there done that:)

  36. We haven’t add a sibling for my 26m old, but we are seeing the same behaviors in him. He is more demanding and less patient in his ‘old age’. Just wanted to share that. I’m sure part of it is just Bean’s age.

  37. Lori

    Been through this. Must maintain consistency. Also, Bean needs some 1:1 time with Mommy and Daddy. without Gracie. So he knows he’s still valued on his own. Make a big deal out of it: Mommy and Bean date. Daddy and Bean date. or best of all: Mommy, Daddy and Bean date.

  38. Christy

    We are going through this right now with an almost 3 year old and a 4 month old! Our oldest has definitely discovered the word “now” too! We did try to be understanding at first and the bad behavior just seemed to get worse. But we tried what Julie suggested with the “when…then” statements (suggested by my mom) and it is working wonders! We have to tell our oldest daughter that when she calms down and can ask nicely, then Mommy or Daddy will consider what she wants. She still doesn’t get EVERYTHING she wants, but that’s just another lesson to learn, right? The fits and the yelling are subsiding though and she has learned that she gets a lot more attention when she asks nicely and does good things. I think all moms go through this with the second one. It may be hard for them to be so close in age now, but it will be so much fun later! At least, that’s what I’m praying for!

  39. Jennifer

    So far we only have 1 child, but I do like the advice of telling Gracie to wait also that way Bean knows she has to wait also.
    I just LOVE the first pic of Bean and Buzz and Woody! TOO CUTE!

  40. Jennifer

    Oh and Mr. Bear…how could I forget!

  41. Sarah

    So my daughter was 22 months when our son was born and it was very frustrating as well. We do have different discipline methods then you, but the main thing that we tried to do was remain consistent. We also talked with her about how we figured she might be feeling when she was acting out and tried to suggest other ways for her to get out her frustrations. Its a hard adjustment for them to go from all the attention to a lot less of it. I think it helps them to know we care that they are having a hard time with it and that we understand. Also he’s probably not sleeping as well or as much if your room is near his so keep that in mind as well. Good luck, its super hard for everyone. My son is now 10 months old and the two of them tore up the house today (rainy day, threw toys all over, who am I to intervene in energy outlets on a rainy day?) in a fit of gleeful screaming and laughing. Watching it was so worth the clean-up (that level of mess requires help from mom!)

  42. Jeska

    I don’t think you should cut him any slack simply because you’re sending mixed signals. He won’t know what is acceptable and what’s not if you’re only correcting him half the time.

  43. […] thank you all for the suggestions on how to deal with Bean during this transition period. We had an appointment with our pediatrician on Friday for Gracie and while we were there, he […]

  44. […] week I shared about the behavior changes we were seeing in Bean since Gracie’s arrival. You all gave great suggestions and ideas for how to deal with it and […]

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