Minimizing sibling rivalry

Older children, particularly toddlers, can be very overwhelmed by their younger siblings. This can cause them to “act out” in various attention-seeking ways. Help them to overcome their anxieties by including them in your every day interactions.

Tactile children will love to help, and having the ability to understand what their little sibling is asking for will help them get to work with being useful, a tactile child’s idea of fun. Give them distinct jobs to do. Tell them: when you hear the burping cry, go fetch the burping cloth for Mommy; when you hear the hunger cry, get Mommy the nursing pillow.

Taste and smell children are natural caregivers, but can tend to be overly empathetic with their new sibling. It isn’t unusual for them to start to cry right alongside their sibling. Explain that crying is just a form of communication – actually a secret baby language – and that even they used to speak it! This perspective will make the crying seem more exciting than upsetting.

Auditory children will instantly take to translating their siblings “baby language” and will quickly be able to tell the difference between the different cries of their sibling. Knowing what their sibling wants will help to empower your auditory child in two ways: first, because the auditory child can solve a family problem purely through listening, which they like to do; second, it allows the auditory child some control over their sound environment – namely, to be able to stop the crying.

Visual children often feel overwhelmed with the visual chaos that comes with the bringing a new sibling: stacks of diapers, extra washing, bottles, etc. Distract their discomfort by asking them to focus on details, namely the cause of the mess – the baby. Put their acute observational skills to use by asking them to watch and listen to their sibling.

Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioral researcher and creator of the Dunstan Baby Language and author of “Child Sense” and “Calm the Crying.” She currently works in New York as a behavioral consultant. Learn more about Dunstan at