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Seriously need help dealing with 4 year old who is being aggressive with 14 month old

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I am sooo frustrated with this situation!! Here are some behavior examples (DS1 is almost 4, DS2 is 14 months):


If DS2 is being cute and drawing attention, DS1 will go over to him and squeeze him tightly, roll over onto him, get in his face, and other such behaviors. If DS1 is playing with a toy and DS2 starts to reach for it, DS1 will push him down, push his hand away, etc. If DS2 is playing with a toy, DS1 will usually snatch it away and suddenly become interested. I walked out of the bathroom for 5 secs and DS1 threw water on DS2's face. It is getting to be constant and getting worse, like a vicious cycle.


Okay, so these are all typical behaviors. I hate the snatching. I try to have a rule of no snatching, but then I have to be a referee all the time. How do I teach him to respect his brother and not snatch things?? As for the aggressive pushing, and sometimes "kicking" (pushing with foot), I do not want to tolerate this! Everyone needs to feel safe. I tell DS1 "it's not okay to push. Pushing hurts people," etc., and then he will just do it again and again. It is not working.


I have been trying positive discipline, whenever I can, I get DS1 involved in what I am doing so he can feel he's contributing. This always keeps the attention off of DS2. But, poor DS2 has to be abandoned all the time? That is so unfair. I have talked to him about it in moments of calm, and I understand that he is feeling jealousy. But, have not been able to figure out a solution with him. For a while, we tried that if DS2 was trying to get a toy of his, he could say "stop" instead of hitting. But then, that means I constantly have to be pulling DS2 off of him.


I have read "Mom, Jason's breathing on me," but I feel the hands off approach is not okay yet (as DS2 is still too little). I have tried talking to both of them, "you need to be nice to each other, boys," or directing a message to each, and while DS1 likes seeing DS2 getting a lecture, the behavior does not stop.


I have tried time outs, and as predicted by positive discipline messages, this does not really work and probably just makes him want revenge. The behavior does not stop. Sometimes DS1 is really wound up, like running around crazy wound up, and when he gets like this, doesn't respond to anything. Moments like that, a time out will at least break the cycle. We have not tried "positive" time outs, since for us, time outs have always been more of a punitive thing.


I admit I am starting to get angry. I pull off DS1 from DS2 without being exactly "gentle and kind" (but I am not extremely rough either, just brisk) I lecture with emphasis when I say "no hitting" rather than state it calmly.


I can't find a lot of info out there on dealing with this! There is a paragraph here and there in each book, but this behavior has been going on for a month or two and I really want it to stop. Positive discipline seems unrealistic at times when there are siblings involved, and maybe works better for a less persistent and energetic boy.


Advice from Talking so Kids will Listen on this topic is, for example, focus on hurt one, remove from situation, and say, "DS1 needs to learn to express how he feels in an appropriate way." I have offered him to "show" me how he feels with drawings, etc. None of this is working. He doesn't want to, the behavior continues.


One of my friends said this was a problem for her, and while she does not advocate any physical solution, she did spank hers once for pushing the younger one onto the pavement. She said it never happened again. I really don't want to take this route, but I really, really want the behavior to stop. I feel like sometimes I'm getting close to deciding to spank. I would only try that if I had carefully considered it and truly nothing else was working. '


So, please, does anyone have any advice?


Oh, one other thing I tried one day was to get on the floor and be physical/rough housing with DS1. This also worked -- because attention was deflected off of his brother and onto him. But, once again, this is not a long-term solution...

post #2 of 12

I only have one, but what I'm seeing is that there are no hard and fast consequences to DS1 for hurting his younger brother. There needs to be a consequence, one that is always enforced. Paying attention to the behavior also won't work - so picking up DS2 and going somewhere else and paying attention to the little one while ignoring the older one might work.


Then OVER doing praise when DS1 is being nice to DS2. Whenever they play nicely together go WAY overboard one praise and happy happy joy joy type words and just shower attention on the positive interactions - this will reinforce the positive treatment that he gives his brother.


I have to say though, my brothers are 3ish years apart in age, and they are SUPER rough with each other - even now and they are 27 and 24. It was INSANE when they were younger, so some of it might just be rough playing.

post #3 of 12

Taking notes on the responses. Our 4 year olds sound VERY similar. 

post #4 of 12

In my experience with kids behaving violently/aggressively, the best approach is to state clearly and firmly that what they are doing is not ok and why, "squeezing your brother is not ok, squeezing hurts him and makes him feel sad"  and then implement a consequence that is consistent every time. I would recommend telling him that you and DS1 need some time by yourselves because you feed sad about DS2 being hurt and you need to take some time to feel better, and then take a few minutes to do something fun with DS2 and give him lots of attention--have the two of you take a fun time out from DS1.   

post #5 of 12

Have you ever looked into any sensory needs?  All of the deep sensory input he's looking for when upset (in addition to you saying he gets wound up and not reachable) makes me think sensory work could help him.  Yes, along with consequences for actual violence.  

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I agree we need to be firm and consistent with the consequence when there is hurting behavior. I have a hard time figuring out what that would be, though. Time outs are tough because we normally would do them upstairs, but I can no longer carry him up, especially when DS2 needs me to hold him at the same time! I guess taking DS2 away and doing something in another room would be a possibility. I have done that many times. I can tell it really hurts DS1 to be left out, which just feeds into the jealousy. (Once he said, "oh no, not again!!")


Altair, you know I have thought about sensory issues with him a bit. He is definitely very sensitive to everything from his clothes to loud noises to needing closeness with me very frequently. However, I don't know what resources to look to, first, to see whether it may be an issue for him, and second, what to do if it is an issue. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

post #7 of 12

I'd check into your insurance to see if you can see an OT for an eval to see if SPD is present.  Based on what you said, there's a decent chance that it's impacting his behaviors and you could potentially see a BIG difference if those needs are met! 


Even if it's not fully SPD, an OT can advise what types of sensory input he's seeking and how to give it to him in more appropriate ways.  Every kid is different in what their are seeking-- but things like lots of clay/playdough play, heavy work (carrying heavy backpack), weighted blanket, squishing in beanbags, etc can go far with the right kids. 

post #8 of 12

I just wanted to add that it sounds like you are doing a great job! I have cared for and aggressive foster daughter and it was so frustrating and exhausting at times. It's so hard to balance the needs of both kids, too. The only other advice I have is that another thing that helped for me was giving her a lot to time to run around outside and be wild & crazy, because she was more likely to be aggressive when she was feeling cooped up and board.

post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks, RStelle! Yes, you are right, it is a lot harder when they are indoors -- so sad the cold winter is arriving! I know, we can get them out anyway, but it's just a lot harder (and less pleasant for mom!). Not to mention, I come home around 3:30 which is just when all those evening needs start to come to play (time with me, snacks/dinner, etc.).  I will try to make an effort, though!


So, does that mean he is not acting "normal"? Do most kids shape up after some acting out, and he's just not getting it? I kindof thought this was just all normal (though clearly frustrating)...

At the same time, a friend of mine has talked about some "problem" behaviors in her son, and that they were going to get him evaluated, and all of the behaviors were things that I had experienced!...


Anyway, thanks again for the feedback, everyone!

post #10 of 12

Well, I do work with a lot of 4-5 year olds (I'm a teacher, work with general education students, students with SPD, and students with high functioning ASDs), and what you're saying does seem more out of the norm than typical.  The combination of aggression, deep sensory seeking, and sensitivity to loud noises and other things just SCREAMS to me to get the child checked for sensory needs.  Being treated for sensory needs is actually really fun for the child, and the rewards in terms of behavior and the child's own bodily comfort can be pretty drastic.  



post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks, Altair. You are right, he is doing a lot of sensory seeking. He likes to be squished between pillows, he likes to be swung around and dance to music, he likes to play in the ball pit, he likes to be rolled in a blanket, etc. I have him enrolled in a gymnastics class, and he always wants to do more of it (his favorite part is jumping into the foam blocks). He hates the sound of the beater, the cuisinart, and the blender, and actually runs out of the room if I am using them (or yells over it in his own voice so that the sound does not fill his ears). He hates the tags on a lot of his clothes and I have cut out many (his dad is the same on that one). He likes to have a fan blowing wind on his feet when he falls asleep (also from his dad). I never really thought that by incorporating many of these things into his daily activities, his behavior might really improve. I'm going to do some more reading on this and look into more resources. Thanks again!

post #12 of 12

While you're looking for a good OT, read The Out of Sync Child (and then as a follow up, The Out of Sync Child Has Fun)... the first will really highlight what's going on internally with him, and the second will give you ideas on how to treat at home.  


I'd also specifically look for an OT who works with kids with SPD regularly who uses a sensory gym during sessions, not just any OT.  

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