I don't have all the answers btw. This is new to me entirely. And I find it upsetting and difficult. I hate that my lovely, kind dd feels attacked by her brother.
BUT I do know that it's nothing you've done or I've done. It's just a personality and age thing. Every single moment of every single day I spend trying to teach ds how to behave. He wasn't born knowing any of this stuff. He doesn't get the rules, he doesn't understand that there are good and bad ways of getting attention. It's my job to teach him.
We role play with his teddies A LOT too. How to be kind, how to share, how to kiss and cuddle and he's learning all the time. It will pass and in the meantime, I spend lots of one on one time with dd (ds doesn't like this either) and I talk and talk and talk to her about how brilliant she is and how her db's frustrations aren't directed at her really.
He genuinely doesn't understand that it hurts her. If he can't feel it, then it doesn't exist. This sounds like an excuse but it's utterly true. They are so self-centred at this age that their feelings are the only feelings in the world. And all he knows is the cause and effect of lashing out. I don't think he genuinely wants to hurt your dd, he just wants the ease of the reaction. It's bloody annoying and tiresome but all you can do is try and teach him a better way every. single. time.
So, in the instance you describe, I would have moved in, removed the umbrella immediately with a firm no and turned my back on ds to attend to dd. I would have checked her over, cheered her up, made sure she was okay all the time ignoring ds. As soon as I was satisfied that dd was fine, I'd retrieve the umbrella and engage dd in a game with it, so open it up, see who could spin it, who can throw a cushion in it from what distance, all still ignoring ds (he would howl and remonstrate but I would ignore it). I would then bring ds in, firmly and clearly on his level explain that we do not use the umbrella to hit and he must say sorry to dd and then he can have his turn at spinning his toy in the umbrella or chucking a cushion at it. Praise him for the better behaviour if he manages it, if he continues to hit or kick then he is moved out of the way and I continue to play with dd whilst clearly telling him what I expect of him in order to change the situation. He has to show he is sorry and I have to model what it is I want from him with dd as a happy ally.
The consequence of his behaviour is that he is ignored, dd is the centre of attention and the play is directed at her. If he tries to join in, then he is not allowed to until he has said sorry and I have explained the situation to him. It does work.
But you're right, usually not letting it get that far is best. He will grow out of it and he will finally realise that the behaviour which gets the biggest reaction is the good behaviour. It's all about gaining a reaction. I have taught dd to move away from ds the second he seems to be gearing up towards hurting her and to come and get me as calmly as possible. Usually, they're closely watched but when hanging washing/washing up/in the loo, I can't monitor them.
How is his speech? I have found that teaching ds to use key phrases often avoids the hitting in the first place. So he knows to say "play please" to dd instead of whacking her on the head to get her attention and every time he wants to play then I encourage him to ask first. It then becomes his go to way to get attention and I encourage dd to respond positively to it. Likewise, bashing on the cupboard doesn't get him a drink. He has to say "drink please" or fetch his beaker and show me what he wants. I'm trying to encourage him to see that he can communicate with us using his words and manners and we all respond positively, which is what he wants. If he's angry or violent, he gets no response. It's the simplest way.
ShowOfHands - you have explained it far more eloquently than I. I think we will give your method a try.
DD tries to say, "No, we don't hit" and to walk away from him but she's increasingly just shouting for me or crying. She's so had enough.
Earlier today DS followed me into the garage and then, whilst I was hanging laundry on the line I heard DD screaming, came in the house to find DD curled up in a ball on the sofa with DS hitting her with an umberella (which he'd got from the garage) - all within the space of two minutes. I must admit to telling DS to get onto the naughty step whilst I cuddled and calmed DD. He'd really laid into her.
How would you have dealt with that SoH? If I'd been there I would have diverted him before he got near her and thus it wouldn't have happened. Plus, he'll often just walk past her and kick her for no reason - with absolutely no warning or sign.
I have a 20 month old ds who is exactly the same towards his nearly 6yo sister. He has never seen anybody hit, kick, headbutt or bite in his life and is at home with me at all times. It's frustration in ds's case and usually comes from his inability to express himself. He chooses dd I suppose because she's the other child in the house and he adores her. Like yours they otherwise play together magnificently and dd is v inclusive of her baby brother.
We see it more when ds is tired or in particular, teething. Also when hungry. He just can't manage his own feelings or frustrations and it's almost an uncontrollable, visceral reaction to what he's feeling.
We find that if we intervene as soon as we see him looking like he's about to hit or push and calmly ask him to use his words or model gentle hands or move him away and remain v v calm, no loud noises and sudden movements, he's actually able to manage his own behaviour.
If he does continue we remove ourselves from the situation and remove all attention from him. We clearly tell him that if he can use gentle hands and big hugs, we will come and play with him again and then we carry on as normal. No shouting, no recriminations, just a clear message that we don't interact that way.
DS is getting much, much better and it helps that dd is very calm with him. We've explained to her that ds adores her and wants to be like her and to be able to speak better and join in more but he can't and that makes him cross and he knows how much she loves him so feels safe to be cross with her because she will always love him back. She also knows that we always, always step in, always go to her first if he's hurt her and we value her help in teaching him how to behave. She takes pride in teaching him how to share, how to ask for things in a better way etc.
I don't know about you but dd never, ever hit, kick or even tantrummed. DS's physical whims are a real shock but he's getting better as he gets older.
Does he do that thing where he gets angry and will run to seek out his sister just to push or headbutt her? It's almost like he wants to share the anger with his best friend.