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· Registered
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
... and by DS i mean dear sister. i have a 2.5 year old sister. my mom and i are super close, so my sister and my DD (15 months) spend quite a bit of time together. there's a 14-year gap between my brother, age 16, and my baby sister - so my mom has trouble remembering what parenting techniques she used to use with the earlier children! i should add, very important, that my mom and i share almost every parenting philosophy imaginable - AP, GD, extended BF, child-led weaning, family bed, ETC. - she is my best friend and my teacher, and i'm soooo grateful for her. she's very much a follower of dr. sears, alfie kohn, etc.

that being said, she wanted me to ask on her behalf what some of you would do in this scenario.

my sister seems to have this weird, negative little energy that blows up at the oddest times. for example, last night, my sister and my DD were playing on my mom's bed with plastic spoons - tapping them against each other, putting them in a little wooden bowl, trading back and forth. all of the sudden, out of nowhere, my sister whacks my DD on the forehead with one of the spoons as hard as she can, which is pretty hard. we seperated them for a moment so my mom could explain that it's not okay to hurt DD. my sister cried hysterically until they were back together.

skip forward to 30 minutes later, in my sister's "room" (where most of her toys and things are); the kids are playing again, getting along wonderfully, sharing beautifully, when my sister raises her little hand and gets that all-too-familiar gleam in her eye. my mom managed to gently grab her and swoop her up before she could hit DD, but this has happened MANY times before, and we don't always get there in time.

it's not just directed at DD. my mom tells me my sister lashes out towards her father, my mom's DH, at odd, unexpected times too. he has to go to bed earlier than they do, so at night they'll be kissing him goodnight, and my sister will lean in all sweet, loving, then WHAM - she'll jab him in the eye with all her might. my mom and her DH are very, very diligent about always telling my sister that it's NOT OK to hurt, treat others how you would like to be treated, and so on. so she knows that this is not nice to do.

for clarification's sake, i should add that my sister hasn't mastered language quite yet. she has many signs that she uses, and she says about 10, maybe 12 words, and my mom and stepdad think she will probably have a speech impediment. she had a weak suck as an infant and had a rough BFing start, but is a pro now. frustration from lack of communication/understanding with her parents is not the reason for these outburts, IMO. when they occur, it's right in the middle of some activity where everything is going well, everyone is having fun, etc. which is part of the mystery.

thoughts, ideas, opinions, advice?

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11,160 Posts
A couple of ideas. Does she have baby signs for 'may I have that'; 'I want a turn'; 'please'; 'I don't want to play'; 'all done'; 'I want to play alone'? I think it sounds like her desire specificity is more advanced than her ability to articulate. Basically, she is frustrated but can't express what she wants without physcial "communication", imo. It sounds like she loves playing with your dd, but you know we all reach a limit for sharing and just want some space. It is even hard for adults to find the words to 'don't touch that'; 'could you leave now, please?'; 'I am done having company' etc.

Another idea is to watch for the other HALT needs: hungry, angry, lonely, tired. Perhaps, especially late at night, it is harder for them to play without default to less impulse control. I certainly am when I am tired.
So, I would watch for patterns related to time of day, duration of visit, location of physicality (in her space), adequate physical play, recent food intake, proximity to sleep/nap needs, etc.

Perhaps, offering the host-child a location for 'taking space' in their home when there is "too much" company. Somewhere they can be quietly engaged, either with a parent, some activity like playing in the bathtub, or watching a familiar comfort video, a snuggle chair that they can request for instance. Offer opportunities for a 'cuddle time out' with the mama. Create an inviting place where they can recharge when overwhelmed, stay with them and provide engagement.

Obviously, nursing is the number one comfort. But as they get older, they really don't want to stop playing, but they don't know quite how to 'take a break'. If there is a quiet location where the play can continue, with full engagement of the mama's attention, perhaps the child can recenter and be able to play *with* again. I am NOT meaning an imposed "time out", in any way shape or form.
But, I noticed that our son prefered that he have my undivided attention when he was needing help to resettle from becoming over stimulated. And nursing while I still chatted, didn't cut it for him. The stimuli of me talking, my emotional expressions and my focus elsewhere didn't provide the same degree of connection that he needed to feel re-grounded.

I don't know if any of this applies or not; but these are some of my observations when ds wanted to play, but just seemed not to have the impulse control of ususal. Oh, the other thing is to provide physical outlets for their energy. It takes a lot of impulse control to play without large motor movements for an extended period of time. I would take the physical expression as communication of a need to expend some physical energy. We have a mattress on the floor for jumping, an old couch for bouncing, we will wrestle, chase, play in the tub, go swing, ride bikes outside (even at night on the driveway) to release some of that energy when it builds up.

Related to hitting the other people, I might conjecture that she didn't want them to change the preceding dynamic, ie. she felt they were intruding. Or that she didn't want the person to stop playing/leave/go to bed.
I know our son didn't have a way to express 'I don't want you to interupt the fun that we were having' when dh would arrive home and our evening transitioned to a different dynamic. Similarly, he doesn't like 'good-byes'. He doesn't want the fun to end. We have offered words to communicate these emotions of 'please keep playing', 'stay with me', 'don't leave yet' which help him to have a way to ask to have his needs met. Perhaps a baby sign for 'play more' would help.

The other thing I do is to describe my observations of other's non-verbals when there is an impact to some behavior of our son's. For instance I would say 'Oh, look, ds is crying. Her head hurts. It hurt her body when the spoon hit her head.' 'Ds are you ok? I am sad you are hurt'. Instead of just telling a child 'it is not ok to hit', provide them with the language and skills to observe the impact of their actions, and what *to do*, without imposing 'I am sorry'.

Oops, I guess that was more than 'a couple of ideas'.

HTH, Pat
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