Hi everyone - I'm not quite sure how to describe my question but I'll try. I am a SAHM to two boys, 2.5 and 4.5. I am lucky to live in a neighbourhood with lots of pre-teens and young teens and we've had many offers from them to come over as mother's helpers, to make a little money and practice babysitting. Two have been coming over (separately) once or twice a week each for about 4 months now. It's just for an hour here or there after they get home from school or on weekends. One is a girl, 13 years old and the other is a boy, 12 years old. I am always home, in the background but not far.
The issue is that my 4.5 year old turns into a totally different kid around them, especially the boy. I think DS1 is trying to act older than he is and impress them, and trying to figure out how to fit in with them. His way of acting up to their age is to be very aggressive and to bully them. He bosses them around terribly and teases/insults them. This is totally unlike him usually. I presume this comes from insecurity and that makes sense to me. The thing that has me stumped is that it hasn't subsided as time has gone on. I assumed that things would normalize as they got to know each other, and as my DS1 gained confidence around them. But it hasn't. In fact, things have escalated to more physical rudeness such as constant rough grabbing, throwing things around and pushing (very different from roughhousing that he does with his brother and kids his own age, which I totally support), verbal insults along with almost no attention span and hyperactive behaviour, which is not his norm at all. All the while, he is laughing (well, wild-eyed cackling is more like it) and appears to be having a good time. I'm finally realizing that he is under extreme stress during these visits.
Another piece of this is that both of the neighbours who are coming over have very gentle, reserved dispositions. They are nice and fun but very low-key. I have often stepped in gently to try to lower the intensity of the visit, and have encouraged them to tell DS1 'no' and tell him how they feel about his behaviour. They do a bit, but not much, and there hasn't been a change. They tell me that they like coming and don't say much else. When I talk to DS1 afterwards, he usually isn't able to express what he's been feeling but has twice said that he isn't ready to play with older kids. When I bring it up a few days later, he says that he can't wait for them to come back. So I've continued, expecting things to mellow. We have tried planning for the visits with special books to read, new toys to show, projects that need help from an older kid (such as lego) - the planning gets DS excited but he quickly gets wound up once the neighbour arrives.
I would really appreciate some insight from experienced mothers out there to help me understand what is going on and what to expect if we continue these relationships. I'm thinking about taking a break for a while or trying to connect with others in the neighbourhood who have more outgoing, dominant personalities who may be more likely to lead DS1. Or is this age combination likely to always be challenging? Most importantly, I need to figure out how to talk to DS1 to boost his comfort level and teach him about behaving kindly and just, well, normally around older kids (he's absolutely great with adults and kids close to his own age.) I don't know where to begin. Discipline doesn't seem appropriate, though I have been firm about specific incidents when they occur. I'm very into emotional validation (as per Naomi Aldort) but this kind of talking doesn't seem to be helping in this case.
Sorry this has been so long.... I'm grateful if you read this far and very thankful for any advice you can offer.