Momlogic's Jackie: It's one of those things that happen all the time but many moms are too ashamed to admit. When a formerly sweet, sensitive and funny preschooler starts physically pushing the baby around -- and I don't mean in a stroller.
Most babies come home a few days old, giving an older sibling time to adjust before the rivalry completely begins. But when we brought our boys' 19-month-old sister home, we're pretty much guaranteed our three-year-old is doing one of the following at all times: thinking of pushing her, pushing her, or has just pushed her. I've tried talking, time-outs, and screaming, screaming, and more screaming (hey, I'm not proud but it's the truth).
I desperately turned to momlogic contributor and parenting expert Jill Spivack for help:
"I would say to your son that sometimes, when he has a big feeling, like being angry that his sister is crying, or when he's just really excited to play with her, etc. -- his body has been wanting to push her. Tell him that the rule in your house is that everyone needs to be safe ALWAYS. That you won't let anyone hurt him and you can't let him hurt anyone else."
Jill had three important tips that could make all the difference:
- Tell him that you get upset when one child hurts another in the house.
- Tell him that you want to come up with a better solution than whacking her when she's being annoying....can he hit the floor, come tell mommy he's mad, etc.?? Maybe (possibly) he'll have an idea, and if not, give him some other ideas.
- Tell him that you'll need to help him stop his body if he's pushing....that he'll need to go to a "calm down place" where he can get his "angries" or "lovey-dovies" etc. out before he comes back to join everyone in the living room/play room. In that "calm down place" he can have a bunch of pillows or bean bags or even a girl doll to hit/push/jump on/etc. to get his emotions out and when he's calm, he can come back.
Also, some other things to be aware of that could help the whole family through the transition.
- Make sure he gets alone time with you and that you call his attention to the fact that he's getting special "mommy time."
- Empathize with this whole sister transition being hard...also empathize with the fact that when she cries, it can be really loud and hard to hear and can make everyone feel a litt le bit upset. If he knows you understand, it will help him tolerate the feelings he has. Empathize, but FORBID anyone to get hurt. "I know it's hard when your sister plays with your toys, but I can't let you push her...what else can you do if you're angry?"
- If necessary, make a book (stick figure) about how he feels like pushing sometimes and his feelings are normal (in kid language) but pushing isn't allowed and generate the solutions in visual form in the book so he can read it over and over.
Thanks to Jill Spivack, I hope to play referee a bit less and mommy a bit more. Wish me luck!