This issue seems to come and go in our household. Currently, it is the almost 5 year old who is pulling the clothes of, or tripping, or pushing, (but not usually directly hitting), the 2 year old. These types of conflicts are usually related to fights over toys, or demonstrations of jealousy. I usually try to follow the suggestion of give your attention to the victim, say something indirect like, "older brother needs to learn how to use his words," and pick up victim to console him. But, I have to say, this is really not working. I get angry and feel like mama bear when little one is hurt. Lately it has included yelling, "it's not okay to hurt people" to the older child. I have come a long way in controlling this kind of anger since DS2 came on the scene, but sometimes it rears its ugly head.
What are your strategies to keep calm, and maintain a no-tolerance policy on physical aggression? What works for your family?
DS1 (6) , DS2 (3) , DD is here!
What about trying to look at the older child as a child suffering, not able to succeed? Maybe acting really shocked that she/he would do such a thing and comforting them as if there must be a problem if they were to react in such a way?
Special time with the older child?
More time out and about where both kids are entertained by other things?
Would asking the older child to help with the younger help, maybe?
Two things that help in our house:
1. Interfere when the fight is small before it escalates into hitting.
2. Explain to the older child that you will come immediately to help work things out if s/he is having a hard time playing with the baby.
I think it can be too hard for a child under seven who is in the habit of hitting etc. to have the self control to stop when angry. We've had similar issues around here. When I expected my daughter (who was already in the habit of lashing out when angry) to respond in a non-violent way without any help, it would usually end up with her hitting the baby, me enforcing a hitting consequence (like sitting in a chair until she was ready to be gentle again), and her sobbing in rage and kicking at me when I tried to pick her up. Not what we were looking for.
I think the key is modeling appropriate behavior toward the baby when solving the problem. That way, she has more to work with when responding to a difficult situation. In the last few weeks, I have assured her that I will drop whatever I'm doing and come to help her work things out with her younger brother whenever she needs it. Now, her automatic response is not hitting. She sometimes calls me for help, but she is also starting to imitate what I modeled to her, i.e. distracting the baby with another toy, gently bringing him into the kitchen, finding a stuffed animal that he can use in the game, bringing him his own paper to draw on, etc.
Hope that helps!
These are helpful ideas, thank you ladies! Yes, modeling is totally key. I will have to work more on showing him how to deal with the situation.
Sometimes these things are unintentional -- like laying on top of 2 year old, kicking over a stool with his feet, etc., as he has no concept of his strength. And I like the idea of making him more aware of his body too.
Getting out of the house always helps, but it is not always possible (hurricane, for example!). Older child will help with younger only if already in a helpful/happy/content mood. If in a bum mood, everything bothers, and more likely to lash out. Sometimes I am successful at distracting older child by having him "help" me with whatever I am doing. Other times, I have younger child do that if he is bothering the 4 year old.
Sometimes giving him special time really does help -- helping him make a tower or something makes him more willing to cooperate. But other times, more special time makes him resent the other child even more. For example, in the morning, if older child is up first, he will get my full attention. Then, when younger child comes down and needs some mommy time, he feels the jealousy even more acutely.
I guess I know it is too much to expect at this age, but I still really believe it is possible to have a more gentle child. I'm going to keep working on it.
DS1 (6) , DS2 (3) , DD is here!