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Disciplining DS (4) over his 'playing' with DD (9 months)

(29 Posts)
CoffeeChocolateWine Fri 10-May-13 19:49:04

DS is 4-and-a-half, DD is 9 months. They adore each other and there's a really beautiful relationship forming between them.

BUT, DS can be quite boisterous and is sometimes too rough with DD. For instance, DD will be happily sitting and playing with something, and DS will come up behind her, grab her by the shoulders, pull her backwards and start rolling around on the floor with her. Sometimes she loves it and will be giggling, but other times it really bothers her - especially if she had been doing something that she was enjoying - and she'll start crying.

It's really beginning to bother me too. I've tried telling him that that's not the way you play with a baby and if he wants to play with her, he should sit down beside her and join in with what she's doing, help her or show her how to do something like he does if he wants to play with a friend. Deaf ears.

I've tried telling him that babies are very precious and he should treat her like she's a precious little egg - he has to be very careful with her, treat her gently because if he's too rough the egg might break. Deaf ears.

Today, when he did it, I put him straight on the naughty step because he just won't listen! But in hindsight, it just seems a bit harsh as I really don't think he's being deliberately naughty, he just wants to play with her but doens't know how to go about it in the right way. It's like he doesn't know the difference between playing WITH her and using her as a plaything!

Anyone have any advice as to how I could better handle this? AIBU using the naughty step?? AIBU putting this under AIBU...don't know where else to put it!

OTTMummA Fri 10-May-13 19:55:39

I am In the same boat, have no advice just looking for answers as well, sorry!

Footface Fri 10-May-13 20:02:20

I've a ds, 3 and 1, I think it's a common problem. Sticker chart when they are playing nicely seemed to help

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 10-May-13 20:03:01

I think he is old enough to be disciplined about this. Talking to him is not working. He has not developed the empathy for this to work. Obviously, model how you want his to treat her, praise him for being gentle, but ultimately, after a warning, I would put him somewhere else to calm down.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 10-May-13 20:04:22

him to treat her.

Stickers are a good idea

CloudsAndTrees Fri 10-May-13 20:16:57

You haven't done anything wrong by using the naughty step, he does need to know that rough play isn't acceptable.

I would tone down the 'she is precious' stuff though, he needs to learn to be kind to everyone, not just babies, and I don't think it will help in the long run if he thinks you see her as somehow more special than other people, or even him.

Try going over the top with praise when you see him being kind and playing nicely. Stuff like 'DS, I'm so pleased with you when you sit next to your sister and play' 'It's so kind of you to show dd your toy like that, she is lucky to have such a kind brother'. Lay it on thick at every opportunity, and when he's rough gently remind him how to be kind. Preempt it and ask him to do kind things, but also, when the baby hits a hand out or pulls hair in a baby like way, tell her about the kindness you want her to show. She won't understand it obviously, but you are doing it for his hearing, not hers.

Remember, you are trying to help them build a good relationship, so you don't want him to be worried about having physical contact with his sister, because that will create a barrier between them.

wickedwithofthenorth Fri 10-May-13 20:17:00

Probably not that helpful and only a tiny part of any solution but why don't you try playing with ds and dd, showing him how to play with her in the ways you find acceptable. Make up some really simple games he can play with her and practice playing them together, build a tower for her to knock down, filling and emptying containers, racing cars around.
It's probably a hard concept for him to get his head around and he might get caught up playing with her.
Really common behavior with older siblings and is usually over excitement and nothing vindictive.
In a nursery setting lots of practicing playing with adult and younger child was the only thing that reliably worked. Then having special sharing toys to offer when they did get over excited, the best ones were a tin of corks and a basket of lights and shiny things.
Good luck and I hope you find a strategy that works for you.

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 10-May-13 20:20:06

Think about if he was at school/playgroup and playing rough with other children, sometimes hurting or upsetting them?

How would you like them to deal with it?

The natural consequence of being rough is that you don't get to play with someone for a while - they don't like it and will not want to play with you if you continue.

Of course in your case you need to be careful that, if seems likely, this is the expression of some sibling jealousy, that you give him loads of attention and time alone with you. Also think about when he is like this - is he hyped up because he is tired or hungry.

I suppose what I'm saying is, that you should not feel guilty about teaching him to control himself, and protecting your DD

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 10-May-13 20:24:48

A toy that worked for us was a zigzag wooden track that you put cars down, in turns. This taught my DSs to take turns and to share

JamieandtheMagicTorch Fri 10-May-13 20:27:49

Clouds has a pint about the "special" thing, and "little". My oldest did not like being referred to as a Big Boy. In his head, he was still a baby.

DevonLodger Fri 10-May-13 20:39:40

I don't think you should discipline him. Just intervene when or before it happens. It's the natural way that an older child plays with a baby. Children adore babies. I always intervene when another child comes to bother my daughter (8 months) but try to hold back when my 4 year old plays with her. My baby adores her sister. Her face lights up whenever she sees her. Sometimes my eldest is a little rough. She means no harm by it at all and for that reason I don't think discipline is appropriate. I try to show her how to play with her so that everyone can have fun. There will be plenty of ocassions in years to come when my youngest is rough (unintentionally) with my oldest.

DinoSnores Fri 10-May-13 20:41:31

We have a similar issue here. As Clouds suggests, I pretend to give my 3mo DD into trouble if she (accidentally, obviously) hits my almost 3yo DS. Now obviously I don't put her on the naughty step grin but he hears me telling her that she shouldn't hit and should be kind to him, reinforcing the same messages that I have to say to him a few times a day. Thankfully he does adore her but he just isn't as aware that she isn't as robust as he is!

Floggingmolly Fri 10-May-13 20:43:33

Teach him how to be gentle, sure, but "discipline" should play no part in this.
She's not a precious little egg ...

CoffeeChocolateWine Fri 10-May-13 20:57:28

Thanks. There's some really good advice here.

Remember, you are trying to help them build a good relationship, so you don't want him to be worried about having physical contact with his sister, because that will create a barrier between them.

^ Especially this ^

TBH, the "precious egg" thing didn't last very long. It was a suggestion from a friend and I thought it was quite sweet, but it didn't take long to see it wasn't having the desired effect. But yes, I do take the point that I don't want DS thinking that DD is more precious than everyone else including him.

I do try to give him a LOT of praise when he plays nicely with her, which is often in his defence. Yes, he can be boisterous like a lot of 4yo, but he's a lovely lad, very kind and affectionate, but quite sensitive too so I do really want to handle this well.

We do play games all together, as was suggested by building the tower for her to knock down, and she loves copying our actions so we do that quite a lot as well. And I really go OTT with the praise and saying how much fun and how lovely it is when we all play nicely together.

Jamie, really good point about WHEN does he get like's usually when he's a bit bored in honesty. DS is not great at entertaining himself...he's getting better as it's something I'm trying to encourage, but generally he wants me to play with him. I do play with him, and them, a lot but obviously I can't all the time, and that's when he gets hyped up.

Cloudsandtrees, also a very good point about being seen to "discipline" DD for DS's benefit. You're absolutely right and I will do this.

CreatureRetorts Fri 10-May-13 21:05:59

Does he get rough play with his dad? Rolling about rough housing rtc is very very important for boys.

My ds is rough with his younger sister but I get DH (or even me) to do some physical play with him every day if we can so he gets it out of his system. He also wrestles with his male friends (they all love it). So ds learns that he can play in certain ways with certain rules but if dd or someone else doesn't like something then he doesn't do it.

CoffeeChocolateWine Fri 10-May-13 21:13:54

Yes Creature he does get plenty of rough and tumble with both DH and me...but it seems hasn't quite grasped the concept of if someone doesn't like it then don't do it!

But that's another thing I do say to him often...when he is a bit rough with DD, I say to him: "Listen to her and look at her reaction...does she like it or does she not like it?" And as I said in my OP, sometimes she does love it and giggles away, but he just doesn't stop when she clearly doesn't like it and I have to intervene.

CreatureRetorts Fri 10-May-13 21:34:05

I think the constant reinforcement will help. Sometimes they just forget themselves. How about saying "when dd cries, what should you do?" get him to think about it. If he doesn't know, tell him what he should do.

pictish Fri 10-May-13 21:36:48

I combat this by saying to the older child "does (younger child) look like she's enjoying that? No? Then why are you doing it?"

It's simple, basic and makes them think.

marriedinwhiteagain Fri 10-May-13 21:43:24

Sorry but I think he needs to have some boundaries set in relation to what is not acceptable. Naughty step is fine. Ours always had a tiny daily sweetie ration and it was withdrawn if they were naughty. It is frankly unacceptable to push over another person however small they are and whether or not they are a sibling. It is wrong on every level and your ds needs to learn with before he starts school.

Our gap was similar btw - 3.5 years. We were expecting problems but they didn't happen but I really think you need to sort this out because if your ds does this to younger children tehre will be terrible problems at school. We had a nephew who did this and it was principally because he was pandered to and had no boundaries.

CouthySaysEatChoccyEggs Fri 10-May-13 22:24:57

This isn't always about sibling rivalry.

Sometimes this is just an exuberant 4yo wanting to play with their sibling.

Think how your 4yo plays with his very best friends. Similarly...?

He is possibly trying to play with her in the same way he and his friends like to play together.

You might find that telling him that 'this is how we play with babies', and showing him might work. Explain that she is too little to play those big boy games, but that she likes to watch him play his cars, or build a tower and knock it down.

You might actually find that far from behaving like this through jealousy, he might be doing it in a misguided way of treating her like one of his very best friends, and him thinking that she will love the same games that he and his friends do...

CouthySaysEatChoccyEggs Fri 10-May-13 22:31:17

(My DD was the same with DS1, and me getting all PsecondB with DS1 and doing naughty step etc for DD in this situation actually harmed their sibling relationship. Have looked at it differently with the others, and found it far more effective.)

Unfortunately DD was somewhat of a tomboy, and was used to lots of rough play, but her speech wasn't up to telling me what was going on to start with. As her speech improved, she used to say "but I play my best games with him, cos he my brother".

Made me realise that she wanted to play her favourite games with her brother, not understanding that HER favourite games at 4yo were too rough for a baby.

CoffeeChocolateWine Fri 10-May-13 22:37:24

marriedinwhiteagain I do understand what you are saying. However, I feel like I need to defend him here.

He has NEVER done this to another younger child. He's actually really good with younger children and he's around younger children a lot...he's kind, he's compassionate and he's gentle. He's not AT ALL agressive. When I say he can be quite boisterous and rough, I mean that he has a lot of energy and is quite noisy, but he's NOT agressive. I have never (or not since he was very little) seen him hit or push another child, younger or older, apart on very rare occasions in defence. He goes to pre-school where he is very popular and the carers often tell me how nicely he plays with the other children so I have no worries about him for when he starts school.

Maybe it wasn't clear in my OP, but when he does this to DD, in his mind he is being playful...I am very sure that there is no deliberate agression towards DD there. He never hurts her when doing this, and sometimes she absolutely loves's just 2 siblings having a playful roll around together and so long as they are both enjoying it and having fun then I'm ok with it. But I think he gets confused by the fact that sometimes she loves it and other times she doesn't. He loves nothing more than making her giggle and he thinks that because she giggled at it before, she'll giggle again.

But as she's getting a bit older she can give more attention to playing with toys and it upsets her more when she's happily engrossed with something and big brother comes bounding in and wants to play rough and tumble. I have to keep saying that he has to let her do what SHE wants to do, not what HE wants her to do. But he just doesn't 'get' that and I feel like I'm continually having to repeat myself and it's this that bothers me.

CoffeeChocolateWine Fri 10-May-13 22:47:10

Couthy, EXACTLY. I think this is exactly what it is...I really don't feel like there's jealousy/rivalry there when he does this, because if he is feeling like that he'll go into his shell, become a bit withdrawn and clingy to me. I think it absolutely is about an exuberant 4yo wanting to play and have fun with his little sister but not quite knowing how or what she's capable of playing.

But yes I agree that maybe I do need to spend more time SHOWING him how to play with her (which I do feel like I do) and maybe when I can't play with them both together - like when I'm cooking or doing a bit of cleaning up - I should seperate them for now.

marriedinwhiteagain Fri 10-May-13 22:53:44

I think Couthy made some really good points and I agree with them. Sorry if I was judgy - didn't mean to be. You are doing the tough stuff at the moment and I'm not. I still think he needs some gentle boundaries though in relation to his little sister. And btw I do honestly think that if you weren't a brilliant mum you wouldn't be on here asking the questions.

Good luck - hope it all works out.

ChippingInLovesSunshine Fri 10-May-13 23:01:17

I do the same as Pictish - 'Ask him to look at her and say 'Does she look like she's enjoying that? No? Then why are you still doing it? Would you like it if someone did that to you?' In a very firm tone and if it persists, there's nothing wrong with using your normal 'punishment' for 'not listening & doing as your told'.

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