We have a 2 year old and a 6 month old. We like to give the younger sister time on her tummy to learn how to crawl, but often while she is on the floor her older sister will come harass her. The most common thing the older one does that we don't like is she will squish her sister by lying on her. Sometimes the younger sister seems okay with it at first, but then her face will get smashed or something like that and she will cry. So far we have been putting our older daughter in time out when it happens, but so far her behavior hasn't changed.

I see a couple possibilities. 1) Older daughter is looking for attention and gets it when we rush in to stop her. 2) Older daughter wants to play with her sister and doesn't know how to do so in a safe manner. 3) Older sister is jealous of the attention younger sister gets and is trying to establish dominance over her.

What do you think is going on and what do you recommend we do about it?


  • 1
    Similar I suppose to parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/194/…, but I think the ages are different enough (4 vs 2) that the response may need to be different
    – Robert
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 23:32
  • 1
    Hi Robert, and welcome to the site. This is a great question, and I agree that it is definitely different from the other question, given the age difference. I look forward to see what the community says!
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 21:22

2 Answers 2


I come from a fairly large family and each (formerly) youngest child had to go through a period of adjustment when the arrival of a new baby meant that they were no longer "the baby".

From the ages of the children I'm guessing reasons 1 and 3 are more likely. Unless the older sister routinely plays "too rough" with everything. One thing that my mom did that seemed to help is when she would try to engage the help of the second youngest when she was caring for the baby. Since the baby (necessarily) got the most attention, allowing the youngest to share in this precious commodity (Mom's attention) makes the older sibling see the younger as the source of something positive.

Even if your two year old can't actually be useful, giving her the impression that she is will help her to feel your approval. Let her rub soap on the baby during a bath. Instruct her on how to shake powder onto the baby's bottom and explaining how it helps. Let her carry the wet diaper to the diaper pail. She can help select what baby food to feed at mealtimes, and let her be the one to take baby items off the shelf and put them in the cart when shopping.

This also gives the older child a sense of ownership, and therefore, responsibility. Mom would refer to the baby as "your baby" and in public "our baby", which made the older sibling feel proud and grown-up. Often, an older child sees the benefits in being the baby but none yet in being the Big Sis. If you can show her what those benefits are, she will develop protective instincts for her wee sister.

  • This is pretty much the best approach. Combine with hyperbole on how fragile babies are (not much needed though), and it'll generally work.
    – user2754
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 0:35

A couple of things you can do:

Older kid wants attention / Jealousy

  • This first thing worked pretty well for us with a 2.5 year old big brother. Whenever he did something to the baby that was too rough, we showered attention on the baby, and ignored him. Then we sometimes gave him a timeout. But the key was that he did not get immediate attention from being rough with the baby.
  • Make sure to take some time to do things one-on-one with the older sibling. when the baby sleeps, or even just mom or dad going with each separate kid.

  • Make her take 'ownership' of the baby. Our oldest was reinforced in the thinking that the baby was 'his baby'. When he was a little older, we went to 'your little brother', but in the beginning it was helpful that he felt the baby was his, and something he could show off and talk about in pre-school.

  • I don't know if you older kid is in daycare/preschool, and it might not be something you can change, but for completeness sake: It was very helpful that our older one already was in a program, and kept going there. It was something that didn't change, when everything else changed, and somewhere where he got the exact same amount of attention as he did before his brother was born.

Older kid doesn't know how to play

  • Show her safe things she can do. Help her play with he sister, give her (soft) rattles to show her. Agree with the recommendation of helping clothe and bathe her, though 2 might be a little young.

  • Keep telling what you can and cannot do. Our rule that eventually made sense was that 'biggest on bottom'. Meaning the kids can sit on dad, but dad cannot sit on them. Big brother cannot sit on little brother, but little brother can sit on big brother. 'If you want to wrestle, remember little brother goes on top'. ('wrestling' as such might be more relevant in 6 months or so).

  • Separate them when the oldest does not understand how she can play, or is too rough. We used a movable baby gate and split up the house in two.

  • talk to her about how good she is at using her words, and make her realize the baby doesn't have words to say 'no'. Some leading questions to make her stop and think might help, it helped us (and still does at 4 & 2!)

Other ideas

  • Let her pick out new toys for the baby and her self.
  • Make sure she has some say in what happens to her (like choice of cereal) and emphasize it is because she is a 'big girl'
  • There were some great suggestions here. Thank you!
    – Robert
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 15:17

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