Setting boundaries for behaviour around baby brother - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 07-06-2012, 08:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi- dh and I are struggling to find a way to set boundaries for our almost 4yo son. The most worrying behavior we see is when he hurts his little brother, who is just 10 months old. So, one minute they are together on the floor, each playing with a toy, maybe interacting, maybe the older bro is even giving the baby a little affection by kissing him or tickling his toes. The next moment, he might push, pull, pinch, hit or something else that makes the baby cry. He says he doesn't know why he does it and we are at a loss because we explain every time that he hurt the baby and how does he feel if someone hurts him at daycare? Not good. Do you cry when you are hurt? Yes. That's why baby is crying, etc, etc.


Yes, we agree that this is likely a way to get Mom and/or Dad's attention. But telling him not to do it again and trying to get him to be empathetic is not working. This happens about once a day, often after supper.


It all seems further complicated because dh and I can't agree on how to handle discipline. I keep saying we need to pick something and stick to it, and he tries to do everything on the fly, including setting a boundary, inventing a consequence for breaking the boundary and how that is all carried out.


Please help! What are your experiences with stuff like this?

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#2 of 4 Old 07-06-2012, 10:00 PM
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Do you notice any patterns of when he engages in hitting/pinching/etc or is it random? Since your baby is 10 mos your older son has had some time to adjust, but he could still be reacting to the very fact that there's a new being in the family equation. Have you tried upping one-on-one time with him to make sure he's getting age-appropriate attention? I know that's easier said than done, but he might be acting out and need a little more direct attention. I know my older son was happier and better behaved with his brother when we would regularly take him on special one-on-one outings.


I would also have a talk with DH about needing to be consistent. Whatever route you decide to go with trying to get your older son to be more gentle, it's going to need to be consistent! I didn't personally have to deal with this too much, but when I did I went the route of setting expectations and if DS1 broke them there would be a consequence. I don't completely believe in that but I didn't see another way. I hope some other mamas can chime in.

Jean, feminist mama raising three boys: W (7), E (5) and L (2.15.13)

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#3 of 4 Old 07-07-2012, 05:47 AM
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Is he having a good chunk of time to play, and I mean roughhousing type of play, with dad or other boys? I would keep a very watchful eye on the situation and when this starts to happen either have someone else watch baby or put him in a playpen for a few minutes, and for your older son I would have him role play exactly what he's feeling and wanting to do with you. I think the message your older son needs to get here is it's ok to want to play with the baby like this, or it's ok to think these things about the baby, but it's not ok to act on these feelings because they can hurt the baby; but that's why you're there to help him by role playing.

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#4 of 4 Old 07-07-2012, 08:36 AM
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We've got a similar dynamic. DD is 3 1/2, DS is 11 months. I noticed this sort of jealous behavior start up again when DS became more mobile, and into her stuff. It will quickly turn into, everything is mine (from the 3 1/2 year old). One thing I do is to address DS completely when DD does something aggressive (Ie, no attention to the one who is misbehaving). I will pick him up, and snuggle him, and say, "Oh, poor baby, that must really hurt, etc." Usually, after a few moments of him getting tons of attention, and DD getting none, she will come over and apologize. Then, I address her with something along the lines of, "Hitting hurts. That hurt him. What can you do to help him feel better" and she will usually bring him a toy, kiss him, or something like that. Later, I will talk about "house rules" and how we can manage our frustration in other ways.


I also try to be aware of her mounting frustration, and when possible, step in before she acts on it. In that case, I will usually address her frustration, and ask her what we can do to make it better. Often, she will ask me to get DS, so that she can play with her stuff. Other times, though, I notice her frustration rising, and get her involved in something I"m doing, that only big girls can help with- "washing dishes", cleaning things with a spray bottle filled with water and a towel, you know, something babies just aren't able to do. I make a big deal of how much she is able to help me, and what a big girl she is. I'll point out to DS that when he gets big, his sister can teach him how to xyz.


I do look at this as a phase. It's gotten much much less since we've adopted this strategy. It now happens maybe once a week, and usually isn't anywhere near as severe (she'll put her hand out to push him, but she really expects intervention, so it's half-hearted)   The next "step up" which I've had to do maybe three times, is that I will say, "well, it looks like I need to take him in another room so he can stay safe until you can control your actions. We'll be in the living room. Come join us when you can play and follow the rules" I try to focus the attention on him, and not "feed" behavior in her that I don't want to continue....

I hope something in there helps and/or applies to your situation.

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