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Toddler pushing baby over - alternatives to naughty step

(18 Posts)
PhilPhil Fri 08-Feb-13 21:37:12

ds (3yo) is suddenly being really rough with dd (11 months) and pushing over - including pushing her down the stairs this evening. we've never used the naughty step before, and tried today but to be honest our hearts probably weren't in it, and he just kept getting off and wanted to talk to us. It doesn't sit very easily with me to put him somewhere on his own as a punishment, when he doesn't seem to understand it as a punishment anyway, and really I want to get to the bottom of what is going on for him, and help him to find better ways to treat dd and/or deal with his anger/frustration if that is the problem. Any suggestions for an alternative approach for dealing with this while being very clear that he must not do this? I've so enjoyed being able to leave them to play together and can't see how I will get anything done in future if I have to keep dd always within sight.

tiggytape Fri 08-Feb-13 22:09:07

Well, you definitely cannot leave them alone unsupervised even if it means you get less done. It isn't safe. Pushing down the stairs is potentially pretty serious even if DS doesn't understand the dangers fully.

It also won't give you the opportunity to correct things if you're only there when trouble has started.
If the naughty step doesn't appeal (and frankly there's no point doing it unless you do it consistently and DS understands why) then you need to be on hand when they are playing. You can use the chance to really reinforce good behaviours. So if DS does anything vaguely kind towards DD (passes her a brisk, pushes a teddy closer, shows her a book) you can leap on this and praise him really enthusiastically for it explaining why it is so kind and why it makes you proud to see him be so kind.

And if he does something mean, you are there to ensure it doesn't escalate into something very dangerous but also to lavish comfort on DD. This will show DS that he gets no attention at all with rough / mean behaviour. He only gets your attention for the good behaviour.

The danger with leaving them to play together alone is that it isn't safe with such rough behaviour going on but also it isn't fair on DS. All the time he plays wonderfully with DD, it goes unnoticed and the only way to get you to come running is so give his sister a sneaky, or not so sneaky, shove.

MrsMushroom Sat 09-Feb-13 07:59:53

You need to let him feel the consequences as soon as he pushes her you say NO in a firm voice, then put him out of the room and shut the door.

Only for a few seconds...because obviously you don't want a vengeful 3 year old on the loose without you around....then let him back in and reiterate Poor DD....say sorry...

then carry on as normal, I found my older DD hated it when I did this...they dont like being ignored.

seeker Sat 09-Feb-13 08:11:29

Do you know who he's doing it? Has the baby done an development leap and is suddenly able to do stuff she couldn't do before?

I am going to go against the flow here. Ds is still very little. He is probably massively jealous, and the novelty of having a sibling has worn off, and nobody's paying him extra attention any more because everybody just assumes he's used to it. And the baby is probably now demanding/needing more attention too. So don't punish. Don't give him the slightest indication that (in his eyes) you prefer the baby to him. Accept that for a while you won't "get anything done" because at the moment the thing you have to get done is to build a relationship between your children. Watch them like a hawk. Get in before toddler pushes or hits, with a "don't do that, do this" type intervention.And watch for anything the baby does, even accidentally which might "hurt" her brother and interven their too, so the toddler sees you're being even handed. And it doesn't do the toddler any harm at all to see that sometimes you find the baby a bit trying too. A theatrical sigh when she cries sometimes will make him laugh, and reassure him that it's quite normal to have mixed and complicated feelings.

Sorry- essay alert! I feel quite strongly on this one- as you can see!

MrsMushroom Sat 09-Feb-13 08:20:59

I have to disagree can't not punish a 3 year old for pushing a baby over! And OP probably wont be able to intervene every time...

seeker Sat 09-Feb-13 08:25:13

You can and should say that he shouldn't do it, obviously. But you're in this one for the long haul. You're building their relationship. And withholding your attention from a jealous 3 year old and lavishing it on the object of their fury and jealousy is, IMHO, counter productive.

MrsMushroom Sat 09-Feb-13 08:41:17

No....of course the DS should have equal attention...but not when he pushes his sister over. OP is building their relationship which is why the DS needs to know that pushing his sister has consequences. 3 is old enough to grasp right from wrong.

BertieBotts Sat 09-Feb-13 08:51:47

I'm with seeker on this one, although I'd go for the positive instruction first. Ask him to do something for her, like find a toy she might like or hold her hand (once she's fairly steady walking) or build a tower for her to knock down, or show her how to do one of those baby jigsaws. Only if he continues hurting would I say something like "that's too rough". I wouldn't go overboard on the praise either - of course recognise if he's being extra nice or making an extra effort, but even children can tell when you're being fake.

seeker Sat 09-Feb-13 08:57:36

But by putting the toddler out of the room you are withholding attention. 3 year olds do sort of know right from wrong- but have no empathy and are completely self centred. All they will get from being removed from the room is that mum likes the baby best.

SamSmalaidh Sat 09-Feb-13 08:59:05

This article might help - - it talks about similar aged children. It also recommends a no punishment/time out approach:

"Never leave DS unsupervised with the baby. Little ones cannot be expected to control those jealous emotions and the stakes are just too high to take a chance. That split lip is a warning, supervise closely. Try to avoid admonishing him. If you notice him getting rough, quickly move the baby away from him, and distract him with a question, song or story. However, if he actually hits or pushes her, remove her and and shower her with attention. (If you focus your attention on him, he'll do this again just to get it, even if it's negative!) Then set the limit in no uncertain terms: “I see you're mad. We don’t hit. Use your words and tell me.”

You don’t need to punish him for hitting her, in fact, research shows that just makes him feel worse and act worse. Instead, empathize with the feelings and offer him another way of expressing them: “I guess you were pretty mad that she had your toy. If you need help to protect your toys, call me and I will help you.”

I know that "experts" often recommend timeouts, but they actually make kids feel worse about themselves and erode the parent-child relationship, which leads to more misbehavior. Most kids can't cope with their complex emotions about the new baby -- usually a combination of protectiveness and the desire to flush the baby down the toilet -- and feel guilty. If they act out because of the pressure of their tangled-up feelings, and parents react with timeouts, they are confirmed in their conclusion that they are a bad person for hating the baby, and the situation spirals down into further tantrumming and hitting."

elfycat Sat 09-Feb-13 09:36:52

I put DD1 into the toy room, on a small sofa thing and tell her to have a 'thinkabout'. I leave the room and after I've taken a few deep breaths and picked up DD2 then go back in, sit down with DD1 and talk about what has just happened.

Now at 2 and 4 years old there's only the occasional overly rough moment. And because DD1 isn't told off she'll come running to tell me if DD2 does get hurt.

PhilPhil Sat 09-Feb-13 20:38:13

Well, thank you everyone for your thoughts. This is exactly why I am stuck, because I can persuade myself that both approaches are right: that ds still needs to know I love him and that it will only make things worse to put him away in another room or similiar, and yet that at 3 (or nearly - 3 next week) he's old enough to know he must not push.
So yes, we are of course no longer letting them be together without an adult - especially not near the stairs - there was no violence at all until about a week ago, they played beautifully together so it felt fine but now things have changed. And for those who have wondered about the baby growing up, dd has just hit separation anxiety and so is inevitably in my arms a lot more, and it's no wonder ds wants more attention. I can understand that, just struggling to steer him towards ways for that attention to be positive. And sometimes things have to be done - I have to cook dinner and clear up after meals, at a minimum.
Up until now, ds has been quite an easy toddler, so we are struggling with having hit our first proper 'issue' where we need to decide how we are going to parent, and then get on with it. My Mum is firmly in favour of putting him in his room for 'timeout' (although she wouldn't use that word) - but ds just dances in and out of his room, and so gets more and more attention, which I guess will only encourage him to keep pushing when he feels he's being sidelined.

elfycat Sat 09-Feb-13 21:52:08

If it's new can you try to keep going as normal and be mild on the attention changes, for say another week. You might find there's a growth spurt, or a low-grade virus making DS out of sorts and it might resolve if that's the case.

Or it could be a new phase not a fun one but a week of gritting your teeth and keeping reactions as light as possible won't do any damage to your authority.

We've had this and now DDs are playing better together (2&4). There's still the odd violent moment though.

Good luck!

elfycat Sat 09-Feb-13 21:53:02

If it's new can you try to keep going as normal and be mild on the attention changes, for say another week. You might find there's a growth spurt, or a low-grade virus making DS out of sorts and it might resolve if that's the case.

Or it could be a new phase not a fun one but a week of gritting your teeth and keeping reactions as light as possible won't do any damage to your authority.

We've had this and now DDs are playing better together (2&4). There's still the odd violent moment though.

Good luck!

Bearandcub Sun 10-Feb-13 05:25:15

I can see no reason why you can't try both approaches.

Issue 3 warnings prior to a timeout, enforce the timeout, completely ignore them - it will result in a tantrum but that's because they don't like and are expressing it. The whole point is they don't like it.

Equally with positive praise and stickers/rewards jar/ etc, really praise him when they are playing nicely together: involving, being kind, being gentle.

LovesBeingWokenEveryNight Sun 10-Feb-13 05:54:47

So basically it's like this

I always try and explain it to dd by relating to how she would feel if she was pushed over.

Bearandcub Sun 10-Feb-13 07:49:40

Oh lord I'd forgotten all about those sketches - that is my life.

BertieBotts Sun 10-Feb-13 15:51:57

OP I had a similar thing with DS that he was lovely until he was 3 and it was only then that we had some big issues which started to come up. I think that you need to talk to DP and decide how you're going to deal with non-negotiable stuff, because it's not just going to go away by itself. But bear in mind you don't have to have one generic punishment which you use if that isn't how you want to do things. I am hugely in favour of looking at the bigger picture and seeing, can we prevent this from happening, can we encourage the behaviour we want (and not just encouraging it via rewards and praise but encouraging them to choose it for themselves) so showing them alternative ways of dealing etc, and then if you need to send a clear message that this is unacceptable, how to do that - is there any way of doing so which teaches them more than just "Mummy and Daddy don't like it when you do that"? Say, removing them to another room to calm down rather than as a punishment - hence they may not mind, you can provide distractions etc, but if they do mind, well, it's still necessary because the point of them coming away from the baby is so they can calm down.

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