4 Year Old Seems to like to Hurt His Baby Brother and Dog

Updated on May 24, 2007
E. asks from Indianapolis, IN
9 answers

I am very worried about the behavior of my 4 year old son. He seems and says to love his little brother and seems very caring and protective of him. Yet when we don't see it (or he thinks we don't see it) he can just hurt his brother by biting him, hitting him, poking him etc.. He also does this to the dog. We tried talking to him, doing to him what he did to his brother, giving him time-outs, taking away what he loves but we don't know what to do anymore. My spouse is ready to hit him with the pancake turner.
We are trying hard to make time for him alone, to tell him he is loved and special. He never shows that he is upset he has a brother now. He always wanted a sibling and has been happy from the moment he knew he was going to get one.
Has anyone experienced the same? Is this normal? Sometimes I just wonder if he lacks empathy or something.

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answers from Indianapolis on

My only advice is to be consistent! We have a small dog & I have 2 nephews who are both 5 and they tend to get rough with her. I really have to keep an eye on them when they visit. I think it is the age, I think they maybe realize they have some "power", but I have had a talk with both of them (seperately) when I have caught them being rough with my dog. I have told them they will no longer be allowed to TOUCH her at all if they continue to be mean. I also asked them "Do you like the puppy?" They answer "YES!" Then I ask "Then why would you want to hurt her on purpose? She will think you don't like her at all!"

Keep talking & keep scolding! Good luck!



answers from Indianapolis on

Maybe he just needs a little alone time with mom...
My son was doing similar stuff, not to the baby, but just being naughty when I was trying to get her to sleep and jumping around and waking her up. I usually put her to sleep then just rested while she was asleep, sat on the couch etc.
Then it occured to me that he was needing his mommy!
So now, no matter how tired I am, when I have a free moment away from the baby, I'm chasing him, tickling, playing games, reading books, whatever he wants to do as long as it's in the other room away from the baby.
If you can plan a day where someone else could watch the baby, even if it's just for an hour or two, take you son someplace fun, the park, McDonalds playground wherever, and just spend some alone time with him.
then ask him if he would like mommy to spend more time alone like this with him.
Same with the dog, you may not realize it, but maybe you come home from work, sit down and the dog sits at your feet. To you son, the dog's getting your attention. Even if you never touch the dog.
Anyway, I'm sorry to ramble on! But if you'd like to talk more or just have someone to listen feel free to e-mail me!



answers from Louisville on

You sound like a good mother and I think your intuition is right. I'm guessing his behavior isn't normal.

I have a friend who's child was sweet in person but neighbors and other friends confided in me that this little girl torchured animals and babies when she thought no one was looking. It was sociopathic behavior and got worse dispight her mother spending more time with her.

I would seek advice from a mental health person rather than trying to figure it out on your own. Maybe your pediatrican can recommend someone good.

Best Wishes,




answers from Lexington on

I have 3 children. 10, 2 1/2 and 6 weeks. My daughter is 2 1/2 and she also gives her baby brother hugs and kisses and rubs his head easy. But when she dont get her way she will hit the baby or if i am in the car and she doesnt get what she wants she will kick him with her foot. I have tried spanking her and giving her time outs. Nothing seems to work. She will yell at me and get a attitude. I just have to keep doing what i have been doing. And hope that as she gets older she will grow out of it. Although my 10 yr old son and his sister fight constantly so who knows. I guess as long as you are consistent with discipline and letting him know he is loved and spending one on one time with him. Things will work themselves out.



answers from Fort Wayne on

Wow, not good. Try talking to your child. Get him some counseling as well. This is indeed sociopathic behavior in some instances. Don't take the chance in it flourishing. Has he been to a babysitter where he has seen these things maybe? Children mock what they see, but children may also act this way if they have been witness to violence or experienced violence. Either way find out why he's acting out.



answers from Indianapolis on

I would say it is just his age and a normal reaction. But, you may look into having his behavior monitored because I have heard of some disorder that starts with things like this and becomes much worse as the child gets older. I wouldn't worry, I would just be aware and keep a close eye out. Don't give your son any extra attention for the behavior, stick to the same punishment without raising your voice.
On a different note, I see that you work from home and I was just curious at to what you do because I have been looking for ways to stay at home with my son. Thanks


answers from St. Louis on

Hi E.,

It is hard..I know it...but it is a normal reaction, and it will last for a little while. Some kids take more time to adjust than others. It happened to me with my older kid. He wanted to have a baby brother, and he was very happy when the baby got home. He wanted to help with the baby, he wanted to hug him..etc..Later, he started to have tantrums, he cried a lot for everything and was kind of mad; his behavior was hard to manage..I couldn't let him being alone with his baby brother because he was too rough, and he did some things that could hurt the baby even when I could see that he liked his baby brother. Sometimes he did realize about it and sometimes not. He got time outs,but the approach which worked better was to spend more time with him. It was and it is very hard to share the time with two of them and doing everything it is necessary in the house. The house is still kind of messy.
You will have to have a lot of patience and energy. At the beginning, this made me cry because it was not so easy to divide my time between a baby and a kid full of energy. Also it was sad because my kid started to feel lonely and feel that the 100% of his parents' time was not just his anymore, and you know that a baby needs 100% of your time always.. That was when we decide to share time with him and give him "mommy time" and "daddy time". The first one is the most important. So, since then I spend time with my child, playing, reading or watching TV while the baby is napping (even when I need a nap too!!) That is a "special moments" for him and sacred! we do homework together. He does his homework by himself but I am there by him. We make a cake together and prepare a weekly menu for lunch and diner together. Saturdays, my son goes with his daddy to play soccer or something else, and I have time for the baby and myself when he is napping.Things like that...

Being realistic, I think it is the only way to balance this situation. I hope you find more solutions with the other moms, but this is what worked wonderfully with my older kid. I know he adores the baby, and they get along very well.
I think is the same about the dog.
Good Luck..I undertand you sooooo much!!


answers from Louisville on

very normal. hes wanting attention even if it is negative....try to catch him doing good things and praise him even if its just cleaning up... tell him hes awsome when he does something that has really seemed to help us... good luck!



answers from Fort Wayne on

Have you tried talking to him? Ask him to use his words to explain to you why he is being rough with his little brother. A lot of little kids act out when they think they aren't getting enough attention. They feel that any attention is good, even if it's negative attention. As with adults, actions speak louder than words. I can only imagine how hard it must be to split your time between two children. Good luck to you!

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