Don’t make a noise

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Even in the best run, most loving of families there’ll always be occasions when the new arrival means that the older child will feel left out, writes Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
Last week, while looking for something else, I stumbled across some sheet music dated 1877. It was a waltz entitled Hush, don’t make a noise, or else you’ll wake the baby, by B. Silent, and published by W. H. Ewald & Bro.

Unfortunately, there didn’t appear to be any lyrics for it but it did get me thinking about the issues for older siblings when a new-born baby arrives and “disrupts” family life. Particularly the issues being faced when there’s only one older child who has become used to undivided attention and now feels they’re being shushed and pushed aside all the time.

"Be quiet or you’ll wake baby’, "I can’t read to you now, baby needs changing" or "No, we can’t go to the park, it’s baby’s feeding time".

Even in the best run, most loving of families there’ll always be occasions when the new arrival means that the older child will feel left out, perhaps a bit jealous, a bit lonely and maybe a bit less loved. They still get cuddles and attention but it seems to be less because someone else is getting what, until then, had been theirs entirely.

Suddenly, we might see a return of attention-seeking behaviours such as tantrums, and see hitting and snatching from baby.

This is the time to help your youngster find some new and positive "big boy" or "big girl" ways by which they can relate to you and you to them. Take some time to let them show off the new skills they’re developing - riding a bike, jumping, throwing a ball, tying laces or being able to reach something. This allows you to show a bit of pride, give them some praise and to subtlety change the relationship. They’re no longer the baby in the family but someone more capable and grown-up.

Getting their help with baby gives them a sense of importance, but it needs to involve your company. Helping in other ways also works and, again, make it with you. Don’t have them setting the table in another room, have them working beside you in the kitchen.

And, apparently, they can learn to be quiet, too. Research has shown that toddlers as young as 2 understand that the sounds they make can affect those around them. Rebecca Williamson, of Georgia State University, found that it’s developmentally appropriate to ask 2 year olds to be quiet. It’s not out of their grasp to understand this as, by then, they’ve already learned from their own experiences about sound.

"Maybe they’ve been woken up by someone else’s noise, and they use this self-experience to make inferences about how their own behaviour will influence others."

Though whether a toddler actually chooses to be quiet could be different matter!


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