2-year-old is aggressive toward newborn sibling - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 03-04-2004, 02:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi all,

I just discovered this forum and I'm hoping someone has some advice for me.

We have a 2-year-old son who is generally very loving, sociable, and cheerful. We haven't had too many aggression problems with him. Every once in awhile he'll give one of us a shove, or start smacking our laps, but it seems less aggressive than it is a sort of testing game, to see what we'll do. This was before the new baby arrived, however.

Now that the new baby is here, he is very interested by her, and likes going over to her and patting her and stroking her. This is all fine, obviously. He even says "Niiiiiice" when he pats her, because we've talked to him about how we need to touch the baby "nicely, gently" so many times. But then every great once in awhile, he hauls off and smacks her upside the head! Or, he'll grab a hand and yank really hard. The smacking is what really upsets me, because a lot of times when it happens, he'll give us this defiant look like, "Look what I did!" I don't know if he's testing our limits, or genuinely feels aggression towards the baby (jealousy issues?) or what. My husband and I are kind of at sea about how to handle this.

For the first couple of weeks we tried what we always did with the cat, which is to take Zeke's hand and stroke it nicely over the baby while saying "Look, this is how we touch nicely! You need to touch the baby gently and nicely. Hitting hurts!" However, that did not seem to curb the behavior. We also experimented with removing him physically from the situation, by lifting him up and taking him elsewhere, and distracting him with his train set or whatever. That worked kind of okay, but led to tears and temper tantrums more often than not. We tried giving him a "time-out" in his booster seat at the kitchen table one time, and one time only. That was not fun for anybody and I don't really want to try it again. We also considered just prohibiting him from going near the baby at all, but neither my husband or I are really happy with this solution. We'd like him to be able to interact with the baby on at least a limited and controlled basis, rather than learning that the baby is forbidden and off-limits.

Is there anything else appropriate we should be doing? And if not, does anybody have insight into why he's doing this or how long it should take before he understands that hitting the baby hurts and he shouldn't do it? He's only 25 months old so I know that he's a bit young to expect him to empathize, but I just feel like nothing we're doing is working, and I'd like to have a consistent method of handling this problem.
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#2 of 7 Old 03-04-2004, 03:17 PM
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Our 2 are 19.5 months apart, and we had similar problems at first.

For us, I think it was mostly just a matter of time. Ean eventually got used to Zoe being around and gradually realized that her existence didn't mean anything dreadful for him. We made a special effort to spend one-on-one time with him -- making sure Zoe was nowhere in sight. We also did a lot of modeling -- over and over and over again -- and showered him with praise when he touched her softly. We also made a point of giving him a fair amout of access to her and tried not to interfere unless it looked like someone was going to get hurt. We wanted to allow him to form his own special relationship with her.

Zoe is now 4 months old and it's probably been well over a month since he last hit her (at least on purpose!!).

Good luck!!
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#3 of 7 Old 03-04-2004, 05:27 PM
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Yikes! You guys are scaring me!!!
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#4 of 7 Old 03-04-2004, 10:46 PM
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We have gone through that a bit. My latest two dds are 2 years 5 days apart. My 2 year old is just exactly like your ds. She loves the baby but will suddenly hit or try to pull her head off. I have chalked it up to jealousy and am waiting for it to pass. It is loads better now, one month later, and I know it will get better. We do basically what you do...distraction is the major tool "Hey, can you bounce that ball really high???" lol Sometimes i will remind her to touch softly and all that, but it doesn;t seem to do any good and I don't want to nag so most of the time I sort of ignore the behavior and move on. GOod luck. Its just a phase and will get better.
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#5 of 7 Old 03-05-2004, 12:30 AM
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I know you from the other site before it went to a paid site. It is so nice to see you here.

Congratulations on the birth of your new little one. I hope your birth was what you were looking for w/the GD and all

No advice, but lots of to you!
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#6 of 7 Old 03-05-2004, 12:48 AM
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Mine are 18.5 months apart... definitely BTDT. Eventually my dd seems to have accepted her little brother as part of the fabric of life... isn't jealous of him any more. Annoyed, yes, but not still wanting him to go back to wherever he came from! So it's easier to deal with. Now when she hurts him it seems to be in reaction to a particular situation rather than an all-consuming negative feeling toward him. Now she loves him, thinks about what he needs, helps him do stuff, gives him hugs and kisses and makes sure he has his lovey, as well as pushes him in the dirt when he takes a stick she was playing with, oh, about an hour ago...

I'd agree with others, try to get through this initial phase with distraction and lots of love and attention, and try not to imagine horrific sibling rivalry down the track. It will get better and worse... when the baby starts crawling and messing stuff up and bothering big brother, you will have to think up new strategies again. I'd recommend Siblings Without Rivalry to help you think about what you will do as the nature of this relationship shifts and changes over the years. I really like that book.

One thing I did which seemed to work was that especially in the newborn stage, if I could hide the baby from view, that really helped. In my case that meant him in the sling, covered with a gauze 'blanket'... I just basically looked pregnant still... he was happy as a clam in there, nursing etc, and I could do a lot... I remember even swinging on the swings at the park next to her etc.

By the way I do do timeouts if there is hurt involved... pretty much the only reason she gets a timeout is for hurting ds. I get really angry when she hurts him, it helps me actually to have something to do in that situation that feels real and important... seems to be working, we have a timeout probably about once a week lately... and she never actually hurts him on purpose, ie she is not going all out with the violence, but for example she'll push him down and he'll clonk his head on the wood floor so it comes to the same thing. Not acceptable.

Oh, and I'm sure you know this but never leave them alone together, even if they seem to be getting along fine. Even once mine were mostly good, I'd still see her start to pat him gently and then it was like her evil side took over and the pats would get harder and then WHACK... or give him a hug that started out gentle and ended like a boa constrictor... or even right out of the blue, he'd be sitting up all wobbly and she'd just go over and push him gently on the forehead and WAAAHHH down he'd go. I guess part of it is a power thing too... hey look I can hurt this little person! They do say the biggest danger to a baby is his big brother or sister.

I know I'm scaring you Foobar but I have to tell one more story... I had her in the middle and him on the side in their carseats in the back... well one day I'm driving along and she's hitting him! just whacking him.. he was like 3 months old... it's the worst feeling, that whole mamabear anger that someone is hurting your child, combined with the impossibility of feeling like that towards your own flesh and blood... AAAAGGHH... so anyway I had to move and reinstall her carseat on the far side, with her in it, still trying to hit him, and me, and oh did I mention she was going through a biting phase... all before 9am... that was not a good day...
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#7 of 7 Old 03-05-2004, 10:38 AM
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I think you'll be amazed once you get further past 2. My ds was 2.5 when dd was born, so the scary stuff has never developed.

I think a lot of it has to do with the cause-and-effect play, and beginning to test your authority. Once they move on to more imaginative, pretend play, and get more comfortable in their own individual skins, your baby will be safer and you'll feel so much better.

I would recommend slinging too, and keeping the older sib busy. In our home, busy means all the things big boy can do that baby cannot. I point that out a lot,that dd has a lotof growing to do before she can play football with us, or knead bread like ds.

An active dh is really helpful here too.

I really feel like I hit the jackpot with their age difference.
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