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4 year old hurting younger siblings - what to do?

(9 Posts)
Manyofhorror3 Tue 16-Apr-13 13:34:20

Just that really. He is pushing a lot of boundaries at the moment, and if we tell him off he retaliates by hurting his younger brothers. He often waits until he thinks we're not looking. My nerves are shattered with it and I feel like we can't turn away even for a second sometimes.
What should we do?

spixblue Tue 16-Apr-13 14:24:48

My ds (age 3) often exhibits the same behaviour with his older sister. It is very tough, and you're probably doing all the stuff I'm about to suggest, but here's how I handle it:
- Make sure he gets really big praise when he IS good to his siblings.
- Try to avoid comparing his behaviour to theirs, eg. "Look how good your brother is being!"
- If at all possible, try to spend a small amount of time giving him individual attention.
- Lastly though, you're completely right - he needs to know that violence is never acceptable, and he must understand that hurting his brothers is very upsetting for them, and it doesn't help himself either.

Good luck.

LightAFire Tue 16-Apr-13 14:25:59

Another MNer recommended a book which sounds good: www.amazon.co.uk/1-2-3-Magic-Effective-Discipline-Parenting/dp/1889140430/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pd_nS_nC?ie=UTF8&colid=1TR3DGY2ULQ72&coliid=I2I5HBAMXXYNQA

Also I always think worth trying a rules/rewards/consequences system.

With that age I'd stick to three really simple ones like:
- Be nice/polite to everyone
- Do as I am told
- No hurting anyone or anything

And make sure he knows them. If he then breaks one, calmly tell him that is what has happened and have some form of small consequence for it. Time out maybe, or whatever you feel is most appropriate. Needs to be immediate at that age though. If he does it again, you need a "sliding scale" of slightly worse things (but each day is always a fresh start).

Every time he keeps one, praise him and reward him. Stickers? Again whatever is suitable.

Also - might there be a reason he is doing this? My first suspicion would be maybe he wants attention - even negative! So try to make time to spend with him in a positive way, if at all possible away from the younger ones.

Sorry if you have already tried all of this! The book is meant to be good, must read it myself!

Manyofhorror3 Fri 19-Apr-13 08:41:01

Sorry for taking so long to reply! Have ordered that book and have booked myself on a parenting course. I got up today and thought "today is a new day" and did loads of praising/stickers etc with my eldest. All good till I was turned away from him, putting on 2 year old's shoes. He ran up behind me and kicked me, hard. I think he's got me in the kidney as it REALLY hurt. He said he did it because I was helping his brother. I told him firmly to never ever kick anyone and he just looked at me.
Am so tired. I spoke to my HV about it and she said "well he just needs more of your attention." But he gets way way more than his siblings already, gets a full hour at bedtime usually too and it's still not enough.
He knows how he should behave but where we are falling down is on our reactions to bad behaviour. If I have the patience I try and work out what's going on, but if its 7:30pm and I've been at it since 6am without a break, I'm less accommodating!
I feel defeated.

LightAFire Fri 19-Apr-13 11:38:48

Many I'm so sorry to hear you are - very understandably - feeling so low. You have made a great start in ordering book and booking on course - they will help you to find a way!

It's also great that you are already doing the praise/rewards thing. You are clearly giving as much attention as you can with other children to consider, so I don't think you can make many changes there. I also think you're right re the reactions to bad behaviour, and FWIW my DD went though a very tricky phase at the same age, and I struggled too despite years of training in behaviour management. It's very hard when you are getting screamed at or physically hurt as your own emotions get involved.

Anyway I finally worked out the problem:
- she was partly doing it to get attention, even negative (despite lots of positive attention too!)
- therefore the best solution was to NOT give attention
- I was also being a bit inconsistent in which way I responded (as you say, depending on time of day/how I felt etc.)

So, I set up this "sliding scale" of small deterrents for her, and the key was things in which I did not pay her attention, so time outs or time in her room. I stuck religiously to doing the same thing each time, being calm but firm, and she very quickly gave it up. I know "deterrents" sounds really harsh with little ones, but a mixture of "carrot and stick" does work best, and if you think about in school they will most certainly be punished if they hit, so you are really just gently trying to teach what is and what is not acceptable.

Anyway hope the book arrives soon - and hang in there, it will get better!

Manyofhorror3 Tue 23-Apr-13 11:36:50

Lightafire that sounds v encouraging. We've been putting a lot of stuff into practice with some good results but as I type I'm in tears. My 4 year old has just dug his nails into the hand of his sibling, for no apparent reason. I don't know what to DO when he does it. I must admit I got very cross and sent him out if the room. I need a structure/method of What To Do when he does this. I can't leave the other two unattended and when I've tried sitting him on the "thinking chair" he kicks off so much that he ends up getting loads of negative attention, and that sets the other two off.
I'm at my wits end with it. sad

LightAFire Tue 23-Apr-13 17:10:11

Am sending a hug!

I'm so sorry to hear that. Think you're right re the What To Do part - I know I struggled there too. I tell you what, I know a couple of people with more early years experience than me - I will email them and see what they suggest.

Don't despair, it will get better! It's just finding the key.

Manyofhorror3 Tue 23-Apr-13 21:18:13

Thankyou. That's very very kind and I really appreciate it. I spoke to his nursery teacher today and she says he's good as gold there so at least we know it's situation specific.
We had a lovely play in the sunshine this afternoon and he was kind to his siblings but literally as soon as I looked away, my mum caught him trying to empty a bucket of gravel on his little brother's head! My nerves are shredded and I'm having a glass of wine. blush

LightAFire Fri 26-Apr-13 20:32:17

hi many I am so sorry not to have got back to you before but annoyingly I still haven't heard back from either of the people I emailed!

It's good news though that he is good at nursery - situation specific is easier to sort out (my DD was same). One thing did occur to me - maybe you could ask his nursery what they think would be the best way to deter him? Since they work with this age group all the time? I think once you have a plan in mind for exactly what to do it will make all the difference and leave you feeling more in control. My DD used to be perfect at school and out of the house, but a nightmare in the house. I eventually twigged that in the house I was not 100% consistent - I was always worrying about things like the neighbours will wonder what is going on?! Whereas if she screamed at me out of the house, every time I would just immediately take her home, so she stopped bothering.

When is the book arriving - and when is your course?

I hope you have a lovely weekend, and shall be keeping my fingers crossed for you!

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