March 27, 2011

It's Hard to be the Middle Child

I need some help with my three year old daughter. Her older sister just turned five and her little brother just turned one. I think she might be struggling with being the middle child and trying to find her place in the family. She often says, "I want to be a baby.”

She has no interest in potty training. She will not sit on the potty and was more interested before her brother was born. I know not to push and I try very hard but I am ready for her to use the potty! I have tried all the things that worked with my oldest and nothing works. She will be going to preschool in the fall and I want her to be potty trained. Our pediatrician says in her mind she is not a big girl and until she sees herself as such, she won't be ready. I know he’s right, but is there anything I can do to help her see herself as a big girl?

She bites her toenails sometimes, picks her nose and hits her sister. I think she does these things partly because she knows I don't like it. I have tried to ignore the behaviors and when I have she has done them less. Could she be doing these things to get my attention or a reaction from me? I pay special attention to her when I can. I hate that she wants even negative attention. She is also extremely clingy sometimes and wants to be carried around. Sometimes I give in and other times I insist she is a "big" girl and not a baby.

Do you have any suggestions?

I think your observations are accurate. It's hard to be the middle child and your daughter is still trying to fit into that special place in your family. Here are some suggestions:

*Validate her need to be a baby. Tell her you know it's hard to not be the baby anymore. She needs to be heard and understood. Perhaps you could have a one-on-one time with her where she is allowed to be a baby for a few minutes.

*Regarding potty training I suggest you tell her that you're not going to remind her anymore to go to the potty. Tell her that she is in charge of putting her poop and pee in the potty. Give her the responsibility and she may just take it instead of making it a power struggle with you.

*Give her little tasks that she can easily accomplish so she feels successful. Then slowly build on those successes. That will help her feel like a big girl more than telling her.

*Continue ignoring inappropriate behaviors and "catch" her being good. Comment when you see her doing something appropriate. Kids will take any attention they can get and they learn that they get more attention with negative behaviors. When you draw attention to good behaviors she will do more of them because she knows it will get your attention.

*Don’t overlook the positive qualities in your daughter. Quite often we spend so much time focused on the negative behaviors that we lose sight of the child. Validate her needs and try to be understanding and patient.

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