||Subject: 3-year-old boy is mean to
We have a 3-year-old boy and 1-year-old girl. The
3-year-old is high-need but generally pretty good-natured (although quite
stubborn sometimes) and shares well with other children. The 1-year-old is
a pretty easy baby, good-natured, and adores her brother. They sleep with
us. The 3-year-old was nursed for 21 months. Our daughter is still
nursing. I am a stay-at-home mom.
The older one is very mean to his little sister. I know
this stuff is supposed to be "normal but it is quite distressing. We
have never hit him, and we say "we don't hit in this house",
give him quiet time alone and so on, but it doesn't seem to make any
impression. I always bring one of them to the bathroom with me because I
can't leave them alone for a second. Any suggestions? I'm going nuts!
My heart goes out to you. It must be so hard to see
conflict between your children, especially when you are conscientiously
doing the very things that generally bring children closer.
One thought I have is that your son, being only two years
older, may still have "baby needs". Many mental health
professionals are recommending a minimum of three years between children,
to help ensure that the older child's needs have been well met before
having to share the parents' attention.
Another possibility is that if it was not entirely your
son's idea to stop nursing, it would be only natural for him to feel some
jealousy toward his nursing sister. Many mothers have found that tandem
nursing is one way to prevent or minimize sibling problems. As it has been
so long since your son stopped nursing, he probably wouldn't remember the
technique; on the other hand, if he wants to try, or even
"pretend", that might be helpful.
When he expresses a need to be a baby at certain times,
this should be encouraged. Whenever he wishes to be cuddled, rocked, to
crawl, or in any other way to be a baby again for a while, it can be very
helpful to meet these residual needs. Unfortunately, our society urges
parents to do just the opposite - to encourage older siblings to be
responsible and mature. But if an older child believes that his younger
sibling is receiving an unfair amount of attention and cuddling, he will
quite naturally feel frustrated by this, and will present "baby"
behavior in order to have those needs met. Unmet needs - for undivided
attention, kindness, touching, and so on, will continue to be expressed in
one way or another, until they are met. Meeting these needs is not only
helpful in changing unwanted behavior, but it is fair and right. Every
child deserves to have his/her needs taken seriously, whether they appear
to be "age-appropriate" or not. All underlying needs are
appropriate, in the sense that they would not be there without a reason.
In situations where jealousy and frustration have become
pronounced, counseling may be the most