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HELP! Forever Fighting Siblings (1 and 3)

(10 Posts)
Rezimezi Thu 23-May-13 23:39:52

Big problem, bear with me please.
My 3 years old DD is very aggressive towards her younger 1.3 sis. Hitting, pushing, screaming at her all the time, about pretty much anything. When I see it coming (in a rush to get there in time) I tell her to stop but she doesn't even seem to hear me, she's so into the act of hurting her sis by any means. Younger DD now started learning to hit without being provoked - automatically, just in defence. She's only learning words like NO and MINE, because that's all she gets from her older sis. The young one is such a happy bunny, so openly loves and adores her older sis... well, used to, anyway.. About two months ago we had a brief period when things started to miraculously improve. They were laughing together, playing together - it was so lovely to see, and so hopeful!. Now it's worse than ever, no idea why, no idea what to do. (She started pre-school part-time abt a month ago, maybe that is part of the problem?)
When younger sis was born, older dd took it very badly. We have a very strong bond, it's all 'mummy', I'm her best friend and she admits it daily: she doesn't want her baby sis around. Which I accept, it must be difficult for her, but, I add, sis is my baby too and I won't let her hurt her; she is here to stay, so they must work it out. I tried talking to her about it, asking her to stop it, time out... Can't say I'm much into various punishments, upon close observation they only bring resentment and mistrust, they don't seem to work in any ways for us. BUT my usual clever ways are failing me here. I have learned to find peaceful ways of dealing with my DD (took me a while) and would like to continue this, but here nothing seems to work. I read somewhere that I can't expect her to understand the situation, I must just prevent it - but in most cases I can't prevent it, it happens so fast! And how much longer do I have to watch her hurt her little sis? It really hurts me, especially that I know she's doing it because she is being hurt too! HELP, somebody! It really wears me down to see them hurt and being hurt so much! How do I help them?

cathan Fri 24-May-13 15:01:31

I think that a couple of things are going on here. First, there is the obvious (and entirely natural) jealousy that your older DD feels. There is not much you can do about that beyond continuing to reassure her that you still love her etc. The second issue might well be the recent start of pre-school. Not only is that stressful in itself, being such a major step for her, but she may well be feeling envious/jealous of the time that her younger sister is now having alone with you! My DD used to be particularly "cross" with her younger brother when she came home and I eventually figured out why. What I did (which may help you) was to make sure never to mention the fun we'd had while she wasn't around! Also, I made sure he was occupied with his "boring baby toys" when she came home and that her big girl things were safe. Then, I'd made an extra effort to do something "grown-up" with her on her own each day, cooking say. That, along with a lot of emphasis on the benefits of being a big girl eventually helped us get through it. You might also find that helping them play at things together improves things, just pretend you're taking part while keeping it friendly, help her see that her younger sister can be fun. Certainly you must keep doing everything you can to stop your older one from hurting her sister as this will make friendship between them less likely. Hope this helps.

Beatrixpotty Fri 24-May-13 15:22:12

Oh dear,I've been there too,with my 2 older boys(19m apart).They are 2 & 3.9 now.Has improved as younger one able to do more & can join in the games so is more fun for DS1 and more of a fun addition than a threat.I've got through the last 2 years by being consistent with reprimanding unacceptable behaviour with age-appropriate things,either naughty step/time out/confiscation.DS1 understands but doesn't always remember.They both really need 1 to 1 time which I try & do.I take each one out alone & do something fun at the weekend,DH does the same.It's sad when one resents the other but don't get down about it as I'm sure it will get better as the little one becomes more useful & fun for her sister.

Beatrixpotty Fri 24-May-13 15:28:06

Apologies for overuse of the word fun!

Rezimezi Fri 24-May-13 22:48:28

Many thanks for the great suggestions! I can't say I will use punishment (DH really tries using time out, but it doesn't work at all for us) but all the other suggestions sound like really useful ones, thank you. Yes, I think it is mainly jealousy and pre-school; also that playing with them together helps - will try to do it more. We do spend time together with each of our children as much as we can and I am as reassuring as one can be... I think DD1 knows I love her very much, she just doesn't want sis to be around, full stop. Well, there are lots of good ideas here, thank you again. I'll give it a try. I'm also sure you are both right and time will help - but I really need to change a few things for the better until it does.

LittleMissLucy Mon 27-May-13 00:12:49

Saying "stop" is not enough. You need to take her hand off her, lead her away - give her something else to do, or pick up your smaller child and protect them actively. I have seen this "stop" only technique and it only leads to a wilder older sibling continuing to punish and victimize a younger one.

MaMattoo Mon 27-May-13 05:08:17

Not really going up help but smile this sounds like my sister and me from way back...! It was terrible then, painful for my mum I am sure. But hilarious now that we are both 35+

From what I remember small individual spaces were provided to us as retreats, to calm down. Just a giant cushion in a corner from where eye contact was not possible..

MaMattoo Mon 27-May-13 05:08:18

Not really going up help but smile this sounds like my sister and me from way back...! It was terrible then, painful for my mum I am sure. But hilarious now that we are both 35+

From what I remember small individual spaces were provided to us as retreats, to calm down. Just a giant cushion in a corner from where eye contact was not possible..

ThreeDudesOnABus Mon 27-May-13 05:51:52

You need to take action and stop wringing your hands and trying to "reason" with a 3 year old. Who exactly is the parent here? hmm

I think this is completely natural between siblings, how any babies ever survive is beyond me. I have a similar age gap and this is simply the way things are - and my observations are less about "passive parenting" and more about "oh, it's happening to everyone else too".

Don't want your one year old getting kicked in the face again ? Fucking move the big one then ffs. I am known to say "stand in the corner and look out of the window. LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW!".

Don't become one of those ineffectual idiots we all take the piss out of by sitting there saying "Jemima darling, mummy said don't hit Arabella. Jemima darling, we don't hit others who aren't as strong as us. Jemima darling, please dit down whilst mummy fetches the first aid kit. Jemima, don't eat that man's dinner. Jemima, we don't drink other people's G&T until we go off to university".

sedgieloo Mon 27-May-13 22:34:17

My two are a bit younger but the gap is the same. My dd has a strong personality and I've observed her to be a bit rough with dc2. I didn't get time out etc and preferred gentler guiding type discipline but it wasn't stopping certain unwanted behaviours. Like a pp we have a calm down zone. It's a form of timeout in reality as I 'put' her there. But there is no shouting, berating or negativity but it is a consequence, and it puts me in control and gives her a chance to check her behavoir and gain some control herself (I count 1 and 2 as a warning before imposing calm down time, but in the case of hitting it would be immediate sending to the calm down zone because of the unacceptable nature of the behaviour)

It is important to me that I help dd to develop emotional control and understand that certain behaviours are never acceptable. I appreciate that you have misgivings about punishment and have observed that it brings resentment. Ive seen that but i feel how it is metted out (angrily, frustratedly, with insults etc) has a lot to do with it. But failing to sufficiently protect a younger child - what might that bring for that child? This behaviour has to stop now to protect dd2 and prevent dd1 from thinking she can lash out because she is angry resentful jealous or whatever. Even if you do not punish in any other situation, do you have a choice not to in this if your 'usual clever ways' are failing them.

On another note my having 1:1 time with each has also really helped.

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