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New Baby, New Problems

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: We just had our second child five weeks ago and ever since we brought him home our first son, who just turned four, has started to yell at us, hit, bite, act like he is going to poke our eyes. He doesn't listen to us. Time-outs and spanking don't work. What can we do?

A: Just as you and your husband are having to adjust to a new baby in the house, so is your four-year-old. He was used to having you and his dad all to himself, and now he has to share you both with a person who is more demanding, has more urgent needs, and is getting all of the attention. The behaviors you are seeing are quite common in young children when a new sibling joins the family.

Try setting aside some time each day for your son to get your undivided attention, and some time for him to get attention from his dad as well. If you can pinpoint the time of day when he has been having problems, spend some time with him just before that. Is it late afternoon when everyone is tired? If so, go for a walk or play a game with your son before that time and then make sure he gets some time to rest.

Check with your public library or a local bookstore for the many books you can share with your son on having a new baby in the family -- Peter's Chair is a classic. Pick a time when your son is calm and read them with him. You may want to continue to do this several times a week for the next few months.

If the problems continue, talk with your pediatrician about a therapist in your community who can help your son.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


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