Our son just turned two at the end of August, so I get that he is very young. He is being pretty rough in general the last week or so (it has been going on longer but to a much lesser extent). Grabbing the pets, testing boundaries. He's always been really interested in physical reactions - knocking something over, throwing a ball, banging on a drum, etc. It seems like now he has realized he can make the puppies yelp, the cats meow, his sister squeal, and he's exploring that. It's really hard! I just have no idea what to do.
I feel like there are kind of several issues here. He doesn't rage, but when he is frustrated he will hit or kick his sister. Sometimes he pulls her hair. She is almost seven, so she's able to respond helpfully (most of the time) with "That hurts me" or "Can you be gentle" that sort of thing. I have been trying to find the perfect phrase to use but I haven't found one yet. He doesn't really respond that much to direction, although it is happening more and more every day. He also gets very upset when told he can't nurse (this usually only happens in the morning when he has already nursed both sides and it is physically uncomfortable for me to continue) and at that point he hits and kicks like a wild thing. The kicking almost seems like instinct, he doesn't do it any other time than in bed and I almost feel like he isn't aware of it. We've been dealing with it by telling him it hurts and if he hurts he'll have to get off the bed, and then gently moving him to the floor. For a few months now. It hasn't gotten any better at all. This morning I did get him to practice gentle touches, which was awesome. A lot of times if he knows he's in trouble he will immediately say "hug?" I try and always respond, but sometimes it is very hard for me. Especially when he hurts our kitten, which was diagnosed with a fatal disease last week.
The other issue is that he is just rough with everyone. I think he likes to see the reaction. He pulls on the cats, hurts the puppies, the chickens. I don't think he's being mean but he doesn't have that sense of empathy, which his sister did in spades at his age, and I desperately want him to care that he is hurting our animals. I know he's really young for that, but what I'm saying is emotionally for me, seeing him hurting animals and howling with laughter over it (even though he doesn't understand they are in pain (although I tell him so, but I get that he can't comprehend what that means yet)) is very, very hard. I sometimes feel like he is mean, although I know he isn't.
I have PTSD and am feeling really triggered at times when he hurts me, to the point I've wanted to slap him back twice. Which I am NOT comfortable with. I haven't, and I am not really worried right now that I will (it wasn't close, but just it popped into my mind as if it was a reasonable choice) but just the fact it has been close to the surface tells me this is something I really need to find a new way to handle.
Help! Tell me my son won't grow up to be an evil animal torturer.