If you find yourself in a position where your older child(ren) is not adjusting to the arrival of twin or triplet siblings, here are some suggestions to try:
~if s/he is cheeky to you, I would say once and only once: “That was very cheeky and disrespectful and you hurt my feelings (or you were rude). I will not speak with you until you apologize for being so cheeky.” Of course you continue to attend to his needs, but no discussion until an apology is forthcoming plus and acknowledgement of his behaviour so that he has no doubt about why the apology needs to happen. Just an “I’m sorry,” while on the surface good, doesn’t acknowledge the behaviour.
~if any of the naughty behaviour is mild, ignore it but if something right or positive happens, be quite liberal with the praise. Not overboard, but lots of positivity for a helping hand or considerate behaviour.
~a grandmother once told me that when her second grandson arrived at age 3 for the elder, she never went near or acknowledged the baby in front of No. 1 grandson. She figured he needed the adjustment period and for the first few weeks, it would make no difference to the newborn. I filed away that suggestion for use in the future. If it is possible, avoid making a fuss over one or more of the babies (verbal, running to their crying for a bit, cooing and fussing) when he is in the room, at least as much as you can.
~avoid calling them ‘the twins’ or ‘the triplets.’ This makes them a unit of which he is not a part. Call them by name or ‘your brother(s) and sister(s).’
~some parents have a lot of luck with a chart. Across the top is the desired behaviour, which might include, got dressed, didn’t push anyone today, brushed teeth, gave Mom/Dad/one or both siblings a hug and anything else that you think might work. Letting him put the stars on for job completion allows him to judge his own progress. You might discuss anything that didn’t work that day and he might just explain some of his feelings (I hate that shirt and don’t want to wear it!). You can also involve him in the creation of the chart explaining how it works as it is created and letting him choose the type of stickers he would like to use. It gives him some ownership of the chart.
~insist that he use his words rather than any unacceptable behaviour which would result in a consequence, e.g. time out on bottom stair or in the time out chair, take away favourite toy or TV show. Sometimes when my girls were really angry, I forfeited language for not hitting each other. No hitting was a No Tolerance issue. I hated the language but it was the lesser of two evils. I can remember stepping between two who were about to come to blows. I picked up a magazine, quickly stepped between them and flipped through the pages as they screamed at each other over me (needless to say I wasn’t reading – just trying to appear calm). No one touched anyone, thankfully, but it was all I could think of on the spur of the moment. I, myself, didn’t say one word until things calmed down.
~It is OK to say, “I am really unhappy and disappointed with your behaviour at the moment and I can’t think about it now. Go to your room (or time out chair) but please be prepared to talk about it later when I have calmed down.” You don’t have to come up with an answer on the spot and it is fair to say, we will deal with this later, especially if you are feeling angry yourself.
~if your child is acting up at school, consider letting the school handle the behaviour there (after all you are not present for any of it) and you handle things when you are with him. He may have difficulty remembering exactly what occurred at school and dealing with it some hours later at home with a consequence just too long from the event. It is a good idea though, to let him know you are aware that he is misbehaving at school and you are very sorry to hear that is so. “If there is something you wish to talk about that is happening I am here to listen and help work things out. You can always come to me and we can talk about things.” Let school issues be at school, with the teacher’s knowledge, and home be home, but have the teacher let you know if things escalate.
~it can work to ask a child to help us with our own situations. It helps them feel empowered and heard: ‘I really like both of these tops and can’t decide which to wear. Can you help me decide?’ and then let his Dad know, within his earshot, that he helped you with your decision (or what to have for supper).
~I believe in as often as possible in making children a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Letting them into your world a little bit can be so helpful.
~Consistency is also important. Your child must realize that every time s/he bites or hits, there is a consequence and explanation of why the consequence. An apology for the behaviour at the end of the time out helps the child recognize why the consequence is important. It can be very difficult when you are called to other tasks and chores at the same time but if you can be consistent, you should soon note improvement.
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