We've been struggling with 4yo (actually will be 4 next month) DS and his constant hitting, poking, pushing and all around constant touching of his 14 mo. old little sister and we're at the end of our ropes!! I've been as gentle and understanding as possible keeping his developmental stage in mind and his adjustment to having a sibling as well. Recently DH and I have been less patient because it's so constant and we're worn out! We're also worried about what it's doing to DD. Today has been an especially bad day since we're all sick and tired but, as the day progressed I noticed that he was really upset and remorseful once he had hurt DD. The final situation involved his throwing a toy at DD in the bath and getting her right in the face. He was taken out of the bath and gently but firmly (with a raised voice) told that it is not ok to throw things at his sister and he was devastated. He has never shown that kind of remorse before, it was heart breaking.
Is this a new developmental stage or just weariness on his part? Please tell me he's starting to develop empathy, I'm ready for this stage to be over!!
My 3 yo is very sensitive and will break into sobs at being gently reprimanded for something ("Alden, it's not ok to hit your sister over the head with that stick"). I don't think it's remorse that he's feeling though... he just feels bad that mommy and/or daddy aren't happy with him for what he did. I think at this age "remorse" is still externally driven for the most part. My dd is 6 and now sometimes feels genuinely bad about something she did due to lack of impulse control, but sometimes not. I think the development of empathy/remorse is kind of a work in process. It starts with us teaching teaching teaching and eventually it becomes internalized as they reach the point of maturity at which they're consistently able to put themselves in someone else's shoes. I don't remember exactly what age dd was when she first started to *get* it... it may have been as young as your ds's age... I just don't remember.
Kate, mom to 7 year old Djuna and 4 yr old Alden. Missing our good friend Hal the cat who died June 2, 2010
Developmentally, most kids begin to understand that other people can have ideas/feelings different from their own at about 4. I think they also start to understand the consequences of their actions a bit better. So, it sounds to me like he might well be entering a new stage!
I had one child hit this stage early (2-3), one late (about 5).
Empathy stems from being able to see the other person's point of view, which requires realization that he's a separate person from you. That separation happens between 3 and 5. It helps if you teach him empathy, somewhere along the lines of: "How would you like it if someone did that to you?" I think you absolutely did the right thing, and keep putting your foot down. You have to hold the line to teach appropriate behavior.
I think some time around the early 3's. She could not watch almost any show, as she would start to cry. "That deer is sad!" CRY "That deer has to wait for mama deer" SOB. (She was with me, always, unless she wanted to go out with dh, so it was not as if the deer mama being away should have reminded her of any big emotions.) Partly, I think, the reaction was so strong because she had not watched much tv. I think she was 4 when someone gave her the Curious George movie. She really liked it, but sobbed throughout. The first time I believe we just turned it off.
Interestingly, though, it took dd muuch longer to be able to put these feelings into action with friends. She was never an agressive kids but, as an only child, it took her a long time to learn to share her toys.