toddler hits infant - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 05-21-2009, 01:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Okay, so my daughter is 2.5 and my son is 10 mo. I don't find it surprising that my daughter sometimes (not all that often) hits her brother (with a toy or her hand) or throws a toy at him.

I know how I *don't* want to respond (spanking, yelling, etc.). But I'm not sure what TO do. We do time-outs sometimes but they don't really help. They just get her upset and that doesn't benefit anyone. So what do you do? I would say this comes up at least once per week--so it's a persistent problem but not a rampant one.
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#2 of 16 Old 05-21-2009, 02:07 AM
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This morning when I was changing my 6 month old, I discovered more than a few scabs on his arm where his 2 year old brother had scratched him. Yikes. When the baby was crying in the car yesterday I thought it was because he was tired - I had no idea it was his big brother hurting him.

I remember our 4 year old doing something similar to our 2 year old a few years ago.

I think that natural consequences can often be a really important tool for discipline/teaching. Like if your child is careless and breaks a toy, don't immediately buy a new toy. Let the child experience the sadness as the natural consequence. But when it comes to hurting other kids, especially siblings - or to anything else regarding safety - I can't let my kids experience the natural consequence.

Just as it's not okay for me to let my 4 year old ride his bike into traffic, it's not okay with me for my 2 year old to hurt his baby brother. In this situation, if I caught it in time, I would do a time out followed by a conversation to make sure the 2 year old understood. Time outs for us involve a fixed amount of time (2 min for the 2 year old) on a step. Our son must sit quietly and alone and cannot leave the step until the time out is done and we come get him. The time out is followed by conversation and by dealing with whatever needs to be mended. In this case, apologizing to the baby brother.

It's hard for me not to get too angry. There are some situations where I've had to take the older child out of the situation for a longer period of time. I've also had to take away the toy that was used to harm the other child.
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#3 of 16 Old 05-21-2009, 04:29 PM
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Once a week isn't too bad. Every day, that I would be more worried about.

When it happens, I would:

1) Take the toy if she hit him with a toy,

2) Put her in another room and explain that she needs to go somewhere else until she will be gentle with the baby.

3) Have her apologize/hug him and talk about gentle touching vs hurting him.

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#4 of 16 Old 05-21-2009, 04:48 PM
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I would do what phathui recommends but when I would move with the child to another room not put the child in another room. Time out isn't working for your daughter and doesn't feel right to you, so maybe time in would be a better aproach. I would add one more step though, and the first step would be to comfort the baby, which I'm sure you already do, but I think its important to address the hurt child first while the other child is present. I might say "I'm sorry he hit you. No one deserves to be hurt." Then I would go to another room with the child where we could be alone for a minute. When he was ready to talk I would listen. And then when he was ready to listen I would talk. I find when they get a chance to express first they are more open to hearing what we need to share with them as well. Sometimes they express in words, sometimes in tears or actions.
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#5 of 16 Old 05-21-2009, 09:40 PM
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I would never, ever make a child apologize in any situation. What I do is apologize for the child. I would scoop up the baby and give the baby lots of attention and maybe apologize. I might apologize because the baby got hurt, because I wasn't watching and the baby got hurt, or because the sibling hurt the baby.

When you force a child to apologize you are making them say something they don't mean. That is a very bad thing to do and can set up all kinds of problematic behavior like hurting the baby more. If you give attention to the wounded child then the child that did the deed doesn't get attention if that was part of the motivation.

If you apologize for the child and you continue to do so in all settings there will come a point when the child will want to apologize. They won't want their mommy apologizing for them, they will want to be mature and do it themselves. People accept apologies from moms. Then kids apologize when they mean it.

I would try to figure out why the child is hurting the baby. It can be because of psychological things like being made (forced) to apologize, hug the baby, express love, share, be the helper, ect. Two year olds aren't good at those kind of things and problematic behviors can happen like hurting the baby. Conversations may make it worse. Two year olds aren't good at converstations or empathy.

Remember, it's the adult's responsibility to protect the baby. You may need to keep the baby in sight at all times. Toys and other things that could hurt may need to be put away.

: Grandmother , 3 Adult Sons

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#6 of 16 Old 05-21-2009, 11:13 PM - Thread Starter
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These are helpful ideas, thanks. I don't ask her to apologize to the baby. If it happens (and I try to prevent it by being vigilant and by keeping her from getting overtired), I tend to him first (pick him up, tell him I'm sorry he got hurt, soothe him, etc.). But then I'm not sure where to go from there. I always join her in time-out so I'm not sure it's exactly time-out. I sit next to her. (Usually I can soothe the baby quickly and give him a toy, then let him sit a few feet away while we do time-out...she's never done actual damage that would make him stay upset.)

The trouble is that I can tell her why she's not allowed to hit Wesley (it hurts him, gives him an owie, etc.), but I don't feel like any of it sinks in. Usually, time-out entails a tantrum (which she seldom has at any other time). When she calms down, which can take 10 minutes or more sometimes, we talk about what could have happened differently. But increasingly I'm feeling like the time-out makes a big production of something that, to HER, seems minor...and maybe it makes things worse? But I can't let it slide, obviously.

I've never pushed her to behave a certain way toward the baby--never forced her to hug him, hold him, etc. It's one of the few parenting choices I am absolutely sure I handled right! She is very interested in him now and they are good friends most of the time. The trouble is that once in a while I think she gets carried away, either because she's mad at him or just overexcited. I know she's only two and she can't help it, and usually I am quick enough to prevent her hitting him or whatever. (And she's mercifully grown out of the "pulling him over while pretending to give him a hug" phase.)

It's just hard to know whether this is normal 2-yo behavior that will go away if I am consistent about removing her from the situaiton every time, or whether I could be doing something better to stop it. I am sure that siblings of these ages have this problem most of the time, but I want to nip it in the bud, you know?
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#7 of 16 Old 05-22-2009, 01:55 PM
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We are dealing with this, too! Ds1 is 28 mo and ds2 is 2.5 mo. About 2-3 times a week, ds1 will go all squirrely and start trying to hurt his brother, it is always by pinching when I'm nursing baby(and a very few times, pinching in the carseat). I swear, it's taken all my mama love to keep from shoving ds1 away from the baby . Sometimes I wish I was a mama dog so I could just give him a nip!

The main thing that has helped us is that I can almost always sense the "attack" before it comes. I can smell it, like a thunderstorm! Ds1 is bored, I've been nursing a loooong time, and he (ds1) wants me to STOP! So, what I do is try to engage him to prevent it. The best methods I've found are for us to sing songs with motions (itsy bitsy spider, head shoulders, teapot, etc), count, abc's, etc. I also keep a stash of books by the nursing chair in my room, and worse case scenario I nurse on my bed while we watch videos on my computer.

When it happens, I do tell him that baby has a booboo and I ask him if he'd like to kiss it, or to show me a gentle touch, usually he says yes and then, "John loves baby Nick, mama."

Worse case scenario, though, when none of this works I just carry ds1 into his playroom and set out some trains, ds2 usually gets upset b/c I interrupt nursing and have to set him down, but it does help diffuse the situation. I tell ds1 that he needs a little break from baby nick and they can play more when nobody is upset.

By the way, for the record I am NOT all zen mama throughout this encounter! It takes about 10,000 deep breaths for me to keep from losing it! And every time I ask dh to come home early it's because I'm tired of running interference.
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#8 of 16 Old 05-22-2009, 02:40 PM
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In same situation here. DS is 2.5, DD is 10 mos.
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#9 of 16 Old 05-23-2009, 02:03 PM
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What if your toddler is 18 months with two 5 month olds???lol
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#10 of 16 Old 05-23-2009, 05:10 PM
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I would look at why the toddler is hurting the baby...

In my case, I found that she got instant and undivided attention from me when she did got my attention quickly.

So instead of trying to modify her behavior, I modified my own by giving her as much attention as I could when she wasn't being hurtful and giving the baby a ton of attention when she did hurt him. I don't believe she was hurting him to get HIS attention or to harm him but it was a way that was very successful at getting my matter what I was doing...I found I was neglecting her compared to the baby just becasue of how much care an immobile baby requires.
Just another thought

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#11 of 16 Old 05-24-2009, 12:57 PM
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When they are 2 (and 3 and probably 4 too) you have to repeat yourself....a lot. I also scoop up the baby if she got hit or something by my older one, say "DD, hitting hurts, ouch!" and give baby lots of attention "Aaww poor baby, let me kiss it better...." Thankfully I don't have this problem often and I try to model proper touch and help her do it as well (taking her hand and stroking softly)

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#12 of 16 Old 05-26-2009, 06:48 AM
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This article has some wonderful insights... it may not seem relevant at first, but keep reading. The author talks of a similar time between her two youngest sons:

The best to you, and hang in there, mama.


Em 43 - Wife to hubby Mom to DS born: Jan. '01
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#13 of 16 Old 05-26-2009, 11:15 AM
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I was thinking of that passage from Aldort also! And here's another article that may help:

Even if the second baby was planned and great effort was made to prepare the first child for a sibling, the first born will feel some loss when the new baby comes into the family When the new baby comes, life is never the same again. The following quote is the best description I've ever heard of what it feels like for the first born.
"Imagine how you would feel if your husband (or wife) told you that it was so great having a wife (or husband) he (or she) was going to get another wife (or husband) and you will now be sharing him (or her)!" Just because the parents are in love with the new baby doesn't mean the child should be expected to feel the same right away. The younger the first child is when the new baby arrives, the more time the child will need to bond with this new member of the family.

Children under three usually have the hardest time sharing their parents with the new baby. Many young children tell their parents they want them to send the baby back. Under-threes are still very focused on their parents and still need a lot of attention. When very young children can't get what they need, right when they need it, they get very frustrated and some may express that frustration by trying to hurt the baby. While parents must protect the baby and make it clear that hurting the baby will not be allowed, they must also recognize the behavior as an expression of the child's need for more attention. Punishing the child or withdrawing love and attention will only make the child resent the baby more. It is important to let the child know we understand how hard it is to wait when the baby needs attention and then give the child some love and attention as soon as possible.
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#14 of 16 Old 05-29-2009, 10:57 PM
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I had the same problem (and still do from time to time) but stood back, watched closely, and noticed something.

My 10mo was pinning my 2.5yo on the ground and BITING HIM. Yes, with good intention and all in the name of "play"--because they actually LOVE to "wrestle" (gently) and roll around and tickle each other--but BITING! Hard! And DS1 immediately responded by screaming STOP STOP STOP!! and hitting DS2.

In that type of situation, I have to calmly explain to both injured parties that biting and hitting aren't acceptable (not that DS2 can understand--but I also want DS1 to understand that it wasn't right for him to BE bitten) and just comfort both of them.

Of course if DS1 is just hitting DS2 for attention, I comfort DS2. Once he's calmed down I referee the playing and remind DS1 to play "easy"--and of course lather on the attention while they're playing "easy".

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#15 of 16 Old 06-01-2009, 02:21 AM
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I wouldn't bother with T/O, because, as you say, it's turning it into a bigger production than necessary.

Here's what I finally figured out. I briefly comfort the baby (in this case, it's a daycare baby), but not overdoing it because I think that tends to reinforce the whole pattern. Then, I seriously and in as few words as possible sum up the situation:

"G, you thought she was going to take your Lego, and you didn't want her to. Tell her, 'Don't touch my Legos', but do not hit/push/hurt her. Hitting hurts!"

Then I move on.

I don't know if you have this problem, but when my oldest was 2.5, I gave her way, way more credit than she deserved. I was explaining way more than necessary, and expecting too much. I think it's a normal tendency - I guess that's why oldest children tend to have Type A personalities. Anyway, I think it's normal 2 yo behavior, and it will go away. But honestly? It will most likely just be because she grew out of it.

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#16 of 16 Old 06-01-2009, 02:38 AM
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With our kids we've always soothed the child that has been hurt, and then turned to the offender (if under a certain age) and told them that hitting, throwing a toy, etc gives the baby owwies. If it's hitting I will touch the hand or foot that was used to hit the sibling while telling them about being soft. I tell them we must always be soft with the baby and then show them what being soft means; i.e. I will stroke their hand or face softly and say, "See? Mommy is being soft. This is how we touch the baby." I then ask the child if they can show me soft and touch me softly like I touched them. If they cooperate with that, then I ask them if they can show the baby how soft they can touch. I found out that with children under the age of 3 or so T.O.'s really don't work. They just haven't accumulated enough knowledge for them to figure out what they are in time out for. Tim out is supposed to be so a child can think about what they have done wrong and what they can do to fix it or should have done differently. A 2 yr old can't do that. With the little ones, if a toy is used to hit or is the source of contention between two kids, I put the toy in time out. Not the kids. Most of the time removing the cause of the anger defuses the situation and allows them to go back to playing with no problems.
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