19 answers

How to Deal with 2 Yr Old Hitting and Pushing Younger Brother

M 2.5 yr old girl is constantly pushing, hitting, pulling clothes, hair and generally being very aggressive with her brother who is 13 months younger. I am getting really fed up with it as I spend every other minute pulling her off him, consoling him, telling her over and over and over again that this is not ok. The only time I resort to time out is for this cos I have to do something. I feel that I spend our whole day telling her that's not nice but this is, (cuddles, hugs, kisses) over and over and over. I am not sure if I agree with time out but I do it for extreme behaviour cos I'm not sure what else to do. We go on outings most mornings, but when we are home, if I try and do any cooking, cleaning, chores etc I have to stop what I am doing I swear every minute, to separate them, discipline her and comfort her brother. It has gotten to the point that I can only answer the phone at nap time cos if I am on the phone she is even worse. And I am soooo fed up with it. I cannot get anything done. I feel that she has always had this tendancy but it is getting much worse. Plus I have noticed her getting more pushy and shovey with her friends and her brother is starting to copy. My instinct is that she wants more one and one me time but my huband works really long hours and I can't make her brother go away. I do little things that are just me and her but it saddens me that the majority of our dialogue is about not beating up her brother. We talk about it, she then looks me straight in the eye and shoves him to the floor. What do I do?????

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you all for taking the time to respond. I read all the replies (and am still open to more if you have anything to add) and I got alot of great insight. I want to clarify (my request was written when tired and a little unclear maybe) that I am consistent with time out for hitting. This is the extreme behaviour I was talking of, meaning that I only use time out for her aggressive behaviour but I do so each time. If I did it for everything, she would spend half her waking time in time out! As it is, I am still putting her in time out too often for my liking. And that would be fine if I saw it working, but we have been doing it for 2 months+ and I see no change. Plus I feel that she is doing it for attention, and then I ignore her more and her brother gets the cuddles. It feels counter productive cos though I am discipling her for bad behaviour, I am not meeting the need that I think is driving this behaviour and this is why I added that we also spend time cuddling too, but I do this seperate from hitting incidents and time outs. I am not clueless as one of you suggested!! The boundaries are very clear and very consistent and she does not get mixed messages as far as I can help it.
I really appreciate those of you who addressed this - attention seeking, jealousy and making a real effort to spend some special one on one time with her. They go to bed and for naps at the same time so I am going to start letting her stay up a little after he has gone down as a start - even though I am always so ready for bedtime! And some girls night out, just me and her, are on the calander. Thanks again for all your wise words.

Featured Answers

When we've had a child acting out in the past (hitting, kicking, or even just whining) something that has worked great is for me to pull the child aside and say, "That is not okay to do...if you need Mama's attention, you need to just ask." I was really thinking this would be over their little heads the first time I tried it, but it was NOT! After some practice, I now have my three-year-old come to me before a situation escalates to a meltdown or hitting - he will say, "Mama, need some 'tention". Then he gets a hug or a kiss, and he's usually off and running. For whatever reason it works, and it's positive, and it doesn't take much time!

3 moms found this helpful

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When we've had a child acting out in the past (hitting, kicking, or even just whining) something that has worked great is for me to pull the child aside and say, "That is not okay to do...if you need Mama's attention, you need to just ask." I was really thinking this would be over their little heads the first time I tried it, but it was NOT! After some practice, I now have my three-year-old come to me before a situation escalates to a meltdown or hitting - he will say, "Mama, need some 'tention". Then he gets a hug or a kiss, and he's usually off and running. For whatever reason it works, and it's positive, and it doesn't take much time!

3 moms found this helpful

Helen,

The first thing I'd do is stop paying any attention to her at all when she's aggressive to her brother. I would also heap lots of hugs and cuddles and attention on him; saying things like "Oh, it's ok Joey, even though sister was mean and pushed you over you're ok", and other loving comforting things.

Your daughter is wanting attention of any kind right now, good or bad. Part of it is being two and wanting independence, but also not wanting it (if that makes sense). part of it is that they are so close in age. My friend and her sister are 18 months apart and still fight like cats and dogs even though they're grown. Two of my husband's brothers are 11 months apart and fought like cats and dogs growing up.

For right now I would either keep them in separate rooms until her aggression changes. When she deliberately challenges your authority she should have immediate consequences. The best one is to remove either her, or her brother from the room and give her little to no acknowledgment for what she's done. I've seen a lot of different techniques on Super Nanny and supernanny.com that should really help you.

She's testing her boundaries and seeing what's ok and not ok. Be firm, be consistent, be loving. You and your hubby should make the time to have individual special time with her too. Even if it's playing a game in her room with her while brother takes a morning nap, or cuddling on the couch for an extra 10 minutes after brother goes to bed.

Something I heard from somewhere: Adults spell love l-o-v-e. Kids spell love t-i-m-e.

M.

3 moms found this helpful

My question to you is....are you spending any quality time with you 2yr old? Just you and daughter alone. Maybe she is jealous of her brother. She sees that he get certain attention and she is striving for your special attention too. I only have one child, but I was just curious...my thought is that she is just jealous of her brother. She was the only one who got all the attention and now that he is here and is moving around getting into things that are "hers" or getting into "her" space. She's getting a little territorial. I would try to do one on one activity with her and make her feel just as special as her brother. Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful

When you start to do your chores, what are your children doing? It might help to give each of them an activity to keep them busy during that time. Set aside some special coloring books for your daughter and maybe some cars for you son, somthing that your daughter isn't interested in for him to do away from her and something that if taken away for bad behavior, she will really miss.

I have also found that having kids "treat the wound" seems to work as well. If she hurts him, have her put ice on the owie, if she pushes him down, make her help him up. Teach her to deal with her own actions, when she experiences the outcome of her behavior, she might start to think ahead before she hurts him because she remembers other occasions.

I also believe that time-outs really work. Not just for extreme behavior. Set the rules and stick to them. Kids need structure and consistancy. If the rule is no hitting or you go in time out, it should be exactly that, all the time. Not just: you go in time out when you hit really hard. This will only teach her to try to push the limits to see how far she can get without getting into real trouble.

Time outs also allow you to remove her from the situation and give her time to think about her actions. At 2.5 years, she is old enough to know hitting is wrong.

Put her in time out EVERY TIME, my rule is 1 minute per year of age. When you put her in time-out, tell her why she is there. Set a timer and go back when it goes off. Tell her again why she got sent to time-out and remind her that if she repeats that behavior, she will go back to time-out.

You are absolutely correct about her brother imitating her behavior. So if you act now and are firm about the rules and consequenses, hopefully you will be able to avoid the same problem with your son when he is bigger and possibly has a younger sibling.

You can always remind your daughter that if she's not nice, one day her brother will be bigger than she is... :) lol

2 moms found this helpful

Hi,

This also happened to me. My eldest, daughter, is exactly 2 years older than her brother and it was a nightmare. She was unkind to her brother every time my back was turned and when the phone rang, well you know.

For her, she was jealous and just desperately wanted my attention. So, I started making special time just for her. Nap time wasn't for me to do chores but rather, it was Mommy and Haileigh time. I started including her with the housework with what she could do and when possible, I would do errands and just take her. It made a huge difference. Good Luck!

2 moms found this helpful

I just gave this advice to someone in a similar situation and they said they saw improvement in 2 days.
She may want attention from him, but, of course, he doesn't know how to give it. Spend time with the two of them... Pretend the baby is a "puppet" and have him talk to his sister about stuff to foster a relationship. Have the baby "tell her" that he is looking forward to his sister teaching him how to ....walk,crawl, jump, etc. Show her how to play pee A boo with him.
Hold the baby and have him roll a ball to the sister. Teach her other things she can do with him besides just hugging (hugging isn't very fun)

2 moms found this helpful

It will probably make the situation ever worse to heap cuddles and sympathy on baby brother while reprimanding his sister. She doesn't see herself as a villain. She's a darling girl who needs love and feels displaced in her mommy's attention. Of course she's jealous, and possibly worried and confused. I agree with the moms who suggest giving your daughter more of what she's craving: YOU! Not an easy thing with a baby to care for, but there are strategies that will help.

When her brother is napping, let the houswork go at least once in awhile. Get cozy and down at eye level with your daughter. Talk about how much you love her and how happy you are that she's your little girl. Suggest (or ask her to suggest) a new and special activity she might like to do while you're working. Tell her how much you enjoy it when she's helping you in the kitchen, or working on her art/puzzles/whatever, or (add this last, and only if appropriate) playing nicely with her little brother. Elaborate: work up a believable scenario of how happy everybody will be while she's doing these things. Even if she's not very verbal yet, she'll still understand the content of what you tell her.

Then NOTICE and COMMENT when she's in a positive space. Take a minute now and then to stop and admire what she's doing. Give her an occasional smile at eye level, and hugs. Do these more frequently at first. You may have to train yourself to do this - sounds like you've got a habitual situation on your hands, both in your daughter and in yourself, and a set of negative expectations that you will both need to overcome.

If your daughter feels genuinely reassured about her place in the family, change will probably begin quickly. But don't get discouraged if the old habits die out a little at a time. Keep on! You'll be setting new patterns that will serve you all well.

2 moms found this helpful

Find a way to spend more time with her! Try changing up Nap time and bed time. Make a big deal out of the fact that she is bigger and gets to stay up later. Put her down after him, even 15 min can change things. Try to do some swapping with other stay at home mom's. Drop him off and take just her shopping for groceries. At 2.5 she can help with your chores. Have her put the clothes in the dryer, or have her find all her shirts in the clean laundry,or her socks.
Try the Love and Logic books or podcasts.

And time out works only if you are calm, and ignor her(our kids have to go where they can't see us or be a part of what we are doing) until her time is up. (2min of no crying) and make her make a specific appology to her brother and you. "Sorry I hit you" "Sorry I didn't listen". Words have power. Accept her appology or forgive her, but never say "That's okay" if it was okay she wouldn't have been sent to time out. Kids are literal.
It is a simple every action has a consequence lesson. And don't over comfort her brother, some times it's the retaliator that gets caught ;).

2 moms found this helpful

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