Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/2 year old boy adjusting to new sibling


Hello, my husband and I are parents to a smart, sweet, and energetic boy, 28 months old, who has been acting out since we brought home a new baby a few weeks ago. I understand that we put him through a lot these past few weeks--I was in the hospital for a few days while he stayed with grandma, then we all stayed at grandma's house for 2 weeks then we came back home, now we will be going back to grandma's for 4 weeks because we have sold our old home and moving into another. Phew. My son and I have been very close. I do work normally while he stays with grandma to whom he is also attached. My son and I are normally very loving and he has slept with us (not necessarily choice but it used to work).

Once we came home from the hospital his behavior has dramatically changed. He is much more defiant and pushes boundaries. He tries to resist bed and nap time. He is having frequent and intense temper tantrums. He is unpredictable as to what will make him upset. Everything seems to be a battle-sleep, car seat / traveling to grandmas and going home, diapers, etc. He has me so stressed out and anxious. I'm considering antidepressants for myself. I feel resentful and somewhat mournful for the relationship we used to have. Now he pushes my buttons and tests my patience. We still have many sweet loving playful moments but he's so demanding that he's taking me away from the baby. I have no idea if today I'll just need to cajole him into the car seat or if he will kick and scream.

I'm following the typical advice about schedule, consequences, consistency, etc but it hasn't helped much. I think he's going through an adjustment disorder. Anything else we can do? Will it get better? I go back to work in six weeks and doubt grandma can handle both with him like this. Thank you

Hello Laura,

Some parents go through what you are describing without the added of a new baby in the family.
And, of course, what your son is displaying is well within the range of normal, typical toddler behavior. Although, I recognize that saying that doesn't make it easier for you.

I think you are right that bringing home a baby has triggered his reactions. Having a new sibling is a stressful event for everyone -- let alone a two-year-old toddler. He has no previous experience to know how this was going to change his life. And, at two, he is learning how to control his emotions and this stress has set him back in this process. That is typically how children react to stressors -- they regress. So, he is acting much like a somewhat younger toddler as he struggles to cope with the changes.

Obviously, in order to get through this difficult period of adjustment, he needs his parents to be calm and patient. I think it will help for you if you view his behavior as his way of reacting to, and coping with, a big change in his life and in his world. Just as it takes time for adults to cope with major changes, so it takes kids a while to.

These are tricky situations for parents. Dealing with one child with adjustment problems is difficult enough, but dealing with a new baby and an active, oppositional toddler increases the level of difficulty by just more than a factor of two. You and your husband need to spend one-on-one time with your son so he doesn't always feel left out or abandoned.

It will get better, but not necessarily in six weeks. I would like to think that if you are calm and patient with reasonable expectations things will be better. But remember, your going back to work, then, may also add to his stress, perhaps as he's starting to adjust better.  

Let me know if you have further questions.


James Windell


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James Windell


I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.


I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

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