• Mon, Mar 10 - 6:00 pm ET

Don’t Waste Time Breaking Up Fights Between Your Toddler And Your Baby

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There are some parts of parenting that make me toss and turn all night—SIDS, choking, freak accidents, peer pressure, just to name a few. There are other parenting issues that arise that just make me say, meh, as I check the latest Facebook status updates on my iPhone.

I thought that we dodged a major parenting bullet by having our kids close together. There are myriad articles online about how to help a toddler adjust to a new baby that you bring home. But since my kids were only 16 months apart, and since we also had my second son at home so we technically never brought him “home,” I thought we were ahead of the game.

NOPE. It just took a little bit of time for my two-year-old to figure out that he had a little brother and to decide that he hated him. Now, my younger son is nine months old and has started crawling and pulling up on everything.

To paint a picture for you, he might crawl over to one of my older son’s toy trucks, pull up on it, and use it for balance. My older son will spot his younger brother playing with one of his LEAST FAVORITE toys across the room and make a beeline for him. My older son may spend the next 10 minutes draping his body over the toy in different formations, crying crocodile tears, and then drinking his own tears to truly relish in the injustice of it all. (This really happened.)

With most parenting challenges that I face, I usually turn to all the other clueless parents on the Internet for advice. But with this particular situation, I couldn’t care less. These kids are going to spend the next 18 years of their lives together. They’ll probably have physical fights if they’re anything like my husband and his two brothers. We’ll probably make several trips to the emergency room because son #1 tripped son #2 and split his head open, or vice versa.

I’m not in the mood to try to make peace between a baby and a toddler because it makes no sense. I’m sure my toddler will adjust to the new baby in a few months and may even warm up to the idea of taking a bath with him without trying to drown him or scald him in hot water. Until then, I’ll be on my iPhone.

(Image: Andrew Lam/Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Bethany Ramos, on twitter.
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  • Crusty (I HATE TAXES) Socks

    This is awesome Beth.

    #1 is becoming a greedy Yale-Wallstreet Shark

    #2 will learn balance and body motion necessary for CnD

    (Mr. Burns): *Excellent

    • Bethany Ramos

      My life is going according to plan!!

  • Alicia Kiner

    My two kids are also 16 months apart and are 8 and 9 years old. At any given moment they are the best of friends or worst enemies. So basically, they’re siblings. When my daughter (she’s the younger) was the one just learning to walk, I would pay close attention, just because my son was really big for his age then and was ROUGH. He would try to play with her like he played with daddy, and well, that didn’t go well. Once she got bigger and started dishing it back, I stepped back and let them handle it. If there’s no blood or crying of pain, not frustration, I don’t need to know. There are days when I make them stay in their own rooms though because they just don’t stop picking at each other no matter how many times I try to redirect them and the noise-cancelling headphones just don’t cut it. :)

    • Crusty (I HATE TAXES) Socks

      You (and all others) should totally do sibling death match

      PPV!

      $$$

    • bl

      My sister and I are 15 months apart and my mom seemed to go the total opposite from the “let them fight” philosophy. We weren’t allowed to fight beyond a reasonably respectful argument and certainly no hitting. “You’re a team and you love each other. You protect your sister; you don’t attack her.” was her constant refrain. I’m not sure I’ll go this militant with my future kids, but it seems to have worked OK. We’re pretty close, not shy about arguing, but always quick to make up. Your way seems to be working, too though. I imagine as long as everyone feels safe and not bullied, things will turn out fine in the end.

    • Lee

      This is basically what I do with my twin boys. I can’t stop them from fighting at times, but I don’t let them go at it full bore. I am always telling them that they are brothers and that your brother is your best friend. Their dad even makes them sing “I love my brother and my brother loves me” if they get too out of hand. I think it is important to reinforce how important the sibling relationship is because I want them to be really there for each other.

    • bl

      I think that’s great and love that your husband’s on board and making up sweet songs.

      Of course people grow up without siblings or with siblings they dislike or aren’t close to, and they turn out fine. But there can also be something really special about the sibling relationship. I really feel like my sister, brother, and I are part of a team that no one else can quite understand. My siblings have never been who I consider my “best friend,” though they are a different kind of best friend. They don’t know my every secret; I don’t always invite them to hang out with my friends, but I’m passionately proud, protective, and supportive of them in a way that is just…family.

    • Alicia Kiner

      Most days, they really are very close. They play together a lot, combining their separate interests into some really amazing stuff. It’s interesting to see what they come up with. But some days, letting them zone out in front of the tv isn’t even an option because they just can’t get along. This usually happens towards the end of winter break and about a week into summer vacation… just in time to drive me bonkers ;)

  • ff

    Gross tmi: Today my 2 year old fed her 6 month old brother poo out of a spoon. I’m not sure whether to laugh because it’s over or go get a hysterectomy.

    • Bethany Ramos

      LOL!! I am feeling pretty great right now.

    • Crusty (I HATE TAXES) Socks

      >:(

      #bethhateschildren

    • Crusty (I HATE TAXES) Socks

      #skattyish

    • EX

      Holy shit. I really need to bow out of these “my toddler did [insert heinous crime] to my baby” conversations or I might seriously consider just returning my 4 week old. They’ll take her back, right?

    • darras

      Given the stony-faced reaction my midwife gave me when I arrived at the hospital in labour and said “Is it too late to change my mind?” I suspect that they do not.. ;)

    • sunny12

      i am happy to say my twins are three years old now and i have yet to have any good (or bad) poop stories. of course i probably just jinxed it.

    • bl

      My concerns and thoughts were all kinds of irrelevant:
      1. Whose poop was it? “I don’t always eat poop, but when I do, it better be my own.”
      2. Respect for her age appropriate development of etiquette and utensil use and care giving skills (minus that “goes without saying, but never serve poop” rule).
      3. If you do get the hysterectomy, politely decline your daughter’s offer to serve you breakfast in bed while you recover.

  • Rachel Sea

    My sister is two weeks older (she’s really my cousin, but we were raised as siblings), and we fought viciously when we weren’t best friends. It’s amazing neither of us is sporting permanent bite or fingernail marks. At the end of a fight we’d retreat to our corners and scowl until one of us started laughing. We aren’t super close now, but we always have each other’s backs.

  • Kay_Sue

    My younger sisters are just over two years apart, and they fought like cats and dogs when they weren’t besties growing up.

    When the youngest was six weeks old, Mom had her sitting in the carrier, napping, and the older (middle) came up and PUNCHED the infant. I have never seen Mom move so fast…and it went on like that for years, back and forth. When the younger one got bigger she gave as good as she got.

    They still fight like cats and dogs but they are also very close. So I guess whatever my folks did (mostly not interfere unless it seemed like someone was going to get seriously injured) worked out.

  • Jell

    My brother’s initial walking was spent following me everywhere and because we were so close together in age this drove me up a wall.

    My fourth year was largely spent flailing away at a babbling toddler while screaming, “you poo-head! You poo-head!”

    How my parents kept a straight face God only knows.

  • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

    Harmony between siblings = chance/luck.

  • Liz

    This reminds me of when I was babysitting. He was close to three maybe and she was about nine or ten months. He was a big mixture of “I love her to pieces and will take care of her” and “I will destroy the usurper.” I think the worst was when she was just sitting there, playing with her own toys quietly. He walks over, sits down, smiles sweetly at her, and that looks up at me with a demonic conspiratorial grin, and sinks his nails into her face. She just starts screaming and all I could think was “what the actual fuck, kid.” “Fortunately” when she cries, he feels bad and tries to calm her down. This usually would involve patting her soothingly (not really soothingly, it was rather violent and made things worse every time) or shoving a bottle into her mouth and holding it there as she screamed around it.

    These are the things I think of when I consider having children in the near future.

  • Katherine Handcock

    My kids are 22 months apart, and by some miracle, there really wasn’t much conflict during the infant/toddler stage. The only big one I remember was when we brought the high chair back out, and my son declared it was HIS chair, not hers. So I let him sit in it for meals. That lasted about a day, before he realized that it kind of sucks to be strapped into a high chair when you’re used to being a big boy in a booster seat that you can get on and off yourself.

    My main intervention now that they’re older (5 and 3) is to enforce a rule that’s universal in our house: if you’re playing, and someone says, “no” or “stop”, the game stops. Immediately. Do not pass go. It’s so important to me that both of them understand that it is not okay to ignore someone who is saying they don’t want to keep playing. It’s not a miracle solution, but we’re getting there!

  • Alex Lee

    I *REALLY* have to remember to make them hug-it-out during their next fight. It would drive them both out of their minds. Deliciously.

    That and making them draw poster-sized pictures of their feelings toward one another.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Feelings posters FTW!

  • chill

    I know there are plenty who subscribe to the “let them work it out” policy, and it is totally fine for them. However, my parents did that, and my sister and I didn’t get along until 5 months ago when our mom had a stroke (we are in our 40s). Before that, my older sister (we’re 2 years apart in age, but were only 1 grade apart when we were in school) would be so mean to me. As a child, I endured it until I couldn’t anymore and would eventually fight back. That’s when I’d get in trouble because that’s when it got noisy. Then when I was 13, I decided to stop trying to be friends with her because it was not worth the crap. Naturally, we drifted apart, but she was so mean at heart that she continued to be mean to everyone in our family, even when my father got cancer and died when I was 20. Fortunately we both moved away from home, so I had excuses not to see her, but she would make my life hard even long-distance. Even now that we have to work together to take care of our mom, I still don’t trust her.

    I now have 2 girls (2 years apart, but also 2 grades apart), and I see my older one unnecessarily be mean to the younger one. I will step in and tell the older one that if she wouldn’t treat her friends that way, then she shouldn’t treat her sister that way. I tell them that friends will come and go, but they will always be sisters and so they should be kind to each other. I also tell them that it’s okay to disagree as long as they are respectful to each other. I realize that my experiences are with girls who use hurtful words more than boys, so maybe boys are fine with duking it out but I think girls need to be monitored.

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