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

Updated on August 14, 2008
H.C. asks from Portland, OR
19 answers

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?????

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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.

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answers from Seattle on

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!

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answers from Seattle on


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 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.


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answers from Eugene on

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 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.

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answers from Portland on

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.

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answers from Seattle on


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!

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answers from Seattle on

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)

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answers from Seattle on

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

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answers from Seattle on

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 ;).

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answers from Seattle on

"I'm not sure if i agree with time out but I do it for extreme behavior"
What's wrong with that statement? Come on mama, you have to give her consequences for her actions! If she hits she get time out...end of story. You are firm when you tell her that it is NOT okay for her to hit her brother, you put her in time out and tell her WHY she is going there, and then she stays! If she gets out, you put her right back. You MUST show her that it is not okay to hit, because she obviously feels like it is okay, or she would stop, or at least not do it as often as she is. You must be consistent, EVERY time that she hits, she goes to time out, and every time you put her there you tell he why.
I understand your frustration, but she is just as frusturated with no boundries.

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answers from Jacksonville on

She is definitely running the show and is only going to get worse. I strongly urge you to read Making the Terrible Twos Terrific by John Rosemond. Your baby shouldn't have to be abused all day to spare her some time outs. He gives advice in that book exactly for your situation. That book will teach you what to do to reign her in, and will give you some sanity. It is an entertaining read, and so helpful. I got it cheap off amazon. His website is

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answers from Seattle on


I am the mother of four, ranging in age from 5-20. You cannot "reason" with a child this age. She needs firm consistent discipline and if she is putting her hands on another human being (which is bullying), she needs to be spanked and put in time-out. What you are doing is providing no consequences, which leaves your younger child at even more risk because with out serious consequences, her behavior will escalate. Violence towards other children & bullying need to be handled immediately. She has to learn these boundaries & this respect for other human beings and talking to her is not going to fix the problem.

Good Luck,
D. P.

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answers from Seattle on

Hi There. I don't have any great advice but I do have the same problem! I have a daugther who is almost 3 and a son who is 14 mos younger. My daughter seems to be COMPELLED to poke, hit, and pick on her brother. Then he screams at the top of his lungs to get her to stop. They drive me crazy! And she is so sweet when she is alone but together it is just awful. I also have tried time outs etc. but then I am just ushering her to time out all day long. It hasn't stopped the behavior. The only thing that helps is to try to get their energy focused on something productive (if I take them to the park, outside to play, for a walk etc.) If we are inside at home, she must get bored or something because that is when it starts up. Although I have gotten her some new puzzeles that she is really into and that helps keep her occupied too. So maybe try finding something to really absorb her attention (and pull it away from harassing her brother??).

If you get any good advice from anyone else, let me know! :-) Good luck!!!

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answers from Portland on

Melissa has explained the most likely reasons for your daughter's aggression and I whole heartedly agree with her suggestions for handling it.

My grandchildren are now 5 and 8 and are still hitting, kicking spitting every day. Once Chase was mobile and getting into her territory Monet began pushing and hitting him. She was 3 1/2 or 4. She still complains that she has nothing that is hers only. They do share a bedroom and most of their toys are kept in the same places but she does have some toys that do not have to be shared and many that her brother is no longer interested in playing with.

One reason is that Chase does get a whole lot more attention than Monet because he is a special needs child. At 5 he is still unable to speak so that he is easily understood. Just the ordinary interaction of asking what would you want for a snack takes more time with him than with her. He has learned to compensate by taking your hand and leading you to and pointing at what he wants. But first it's important to take time as often as you can to make an effort to understand what he said and then repeat the word correctly, ask him to copy what you said. Even to me that feels more personal and does take more time then asking what do you want for a snack and handing it to her. I've noticed that sometimes when she's unhappy her speech becomes less clear than it usually is.

Babies learn how to get the attention they need and negative attention is better than no attention. Hitting brother does get your attention and for Monet her mother's attention.

Jealousy is a big reason for hitting. The older child is jealous whether or not we think she has reason to be. It is appropriate to give the younger child hugs and sympathy to model the appropriate way to respond to hurting someone. And she does need consequences because hitting is not acceptable.

The reason time outs are not effective is that we've only dealt with one part of the issue. We've shown her that hitting isn't appropriate because it hurts brother who then deserves supportive attention. But we haven't shown her that we're aware that she has these feelings and doesn't know how to handle them. He gets some special attention. She gets a time out. His needs are met. Hers are not.

It is important to separate the two of them, to not allow her to hurt him, to show her that hitting hurts and we expect her to not hurt him. I think tht is consequences. The purpose of consequences is to teach. She knows that she is not supposed to hit. She wants your attention. She also has anger created by the jealousy and she doesn't know how to express these feelings. That's why we also say use your words. At 2 1/2 she doesn't have enough verbal skills or even enough understanding to be able to adequately use her words to relieve the tension that is causing her to hit. And brother is unable to respond to her saying I'm angry because you took my doll.

My 5 yo grandson still responds with hitting when his sister says she's angry and want's her doll back. Probably because he doesn't have adequate language. He does often say it's my turn which makes sister angry because she already feels that he gets "more" turns that she does.

This is part of the reason that it is so important that you spend quality time with her when he's not there. You need to separate them and show your daughter that her hitting, etc. is not acceptable. Separating them does that. Giving her a "time out" in her room which allows her to move around allows her to work off some of that energy. Having toys to distract her helps point her in an acceptable directions. But this action doesn't change her feelings of jealousy.

Before she can learn better ways of handling her anger she has to know her feelings are OK even tho she reacted to them inappropriately. That is a difficult concept for a 2 1/2 year old to learn. She doesn't know that jealousy is a big component of her angry. She hits because she's angry. So does he. Do we put him in a time out? Probably not, at 17 months. We don't expect as much from him as we do from her. Reality is that there are reasons for their anger and are at different levels of ability to learn how to deal with their feelings.

A time out without at some point giving her some sympathy for how she's feeling only makes her angrier. She "knows" that you prefer brother; otherwise you'd show her some sympathy and awareness that you understand and accept her like you treated brother with understanding of his feelings.

One way of helping her feel that even tho brother gets extra attention ( she doesn't understand the difference in their needs) is to spend time with her when she doesn't feel that she's in competition with him. With time she will feel more secure in your love for her and feel less like he's replaced her in your heart. As Michelle said love is spelled t-i-m-e for children.

You don't have a whole lot of time so how do you spend one on one time with her? The cuddling for 10 minutes or so after he goes to bed is a good way that doesn't take up so much of your time. You could also do something with her while dad takes care of him and vice-versa. Take a walk, go to the playground. The parent with him can leave the house and she can "help" make cookies. Dad can keep him occupied in another room reducing her awareness of him. The two of you could color together. Her coloring will be really messy and not look like our concept of coloring but it will be her concept and she'll feel your approval. Tell her what a beautiful picture she's made. When you do it with her away from brother you're telling her she is just as important to you as brother.

Soon brother will benefit from his time alone with you. As he gets older and more verbal you will discover that he's also jealous of her. Because She's big and can do things he can't. As he becomes more independant you will spend less time with him and he'll think she gets more attention. It is common for both children to think the other child gets more attention, more things, is the favorite, etc. Sibling rivalry. This is the beginning of their expression of rivalry. You can lesson some of that jealousy by spending one-on-one time with both of them. It's important to find ways of showing them the many ways in which they're special as an individual. And this is one of the more difficult tasks of parenting because our time is limited. We have to find a way to schedule individual attention into our days. Does your husband have to spend long hours at work? I just reread your message. He can't take one child and you the other if he's not there. I've known many people, mostly men, who were workaholics. This condition is similar to the super mom concept. We expect so much of ourselves that we don't find a way to spend time with our children. When we are home we're so tired that we're not able to have quality time with our family.

I know first hand about super moms and workaholics. I was trying to be a super mom and didn't realize it for many years. I didn't really get it until after my daughter was grown. I became so stressed that I had to cut back my work hours to half time. I was our sole financial source. Working less meant spending less. That is difficult.
fortunately I had adequate money to still have a comfortable life. Many families need both parents working just to get by.

If your husband isn't able to have time to share the one on one time with the babies can you arrange to do it some other way? Exchange baby sitting time with another mother for example. Right now Monet has a friend whose mother has her over for the afternoon. They have a swimming pool. I recipricate by taking them ice skating and having ice cream.

Find a responsible teen to watch one while you have the other child for an hour. My daughter lives in an apartment. A couple of pre-teens loved babies. They came to the apartment and played with my granddaughter. My daughter could then do other things. (Monet was an only child then.) She was nearby if there was a problem and she didn't have to respond to Monet's need for attention. The girls didn't expect payment. This was play for them. We did have snacks for them and thanked them often.

If you don't have girls in your neighborhood you could try recruiting someone thru the school. This may not be easy to do and will require some creative thinking.

One of your friends or your husband's co-workers may even be willing to watch one for a short time without pay. I babysat for a co-worker an evening a week when his and his wife's schedules required them both to work and I loved it.

If you go to church, letting people know your situation may open the door for someone to watch a child or give more suggestions on how to make one-on-one time possible.

I wrote this thinking that you could get help from your husband. I'm sorry that I didn't remember that he worked long hours and that my suggestions for one-on-one time are not possible. I'm too tired to go back and edit. but I'm sending this anyway because the importance of finding a way to lesson your daughter's stress and improve her coping skills is important.

Talking about it when she is angry won't help. I'm not able to listen when I'm angry. And she doesn't understand what you're saying because her brain isn't mature enough to think in an abstract way. She knows that she is not supposed to hit. She doesn't know how to express or reduce the strength of her feelings any other way. She still feels jealous and insecure. She's angry but it's not the more simple anger that results from every day disagreements. Her anger is fueled by her jealousy. Responding to the reasons for her anger is more complex. She does need consequences for hitting but she also needs understanding and concern for her how she feels. This meets the need for attention as it also reassures her that she does have a place in the family. My grandchildren are still hitting, kicking, spitting much more often than they might be if we had found a way to know and meet their individual needs as toddlers and preschoolers. Because of Chase's disabilities and because he is a boy (It is common for parents to prefer boys without even being aware of it.) he does get more attention and understanding than Monet does. Learning how to balance so that each child feels as important to you as the other is important to you is a big challenge and often difficult to conquer. I'm glad that you are aware and wanting to learn!

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answers from Seattle on

Hi Helen,

Although you don't like to use time outs, I think that you need to do so EVERY time there is a problem. My two boys are 13 months apart as well, and we used time out consistently with both of them, rather than spanking. If you don't get this under control for both of them, you will have many more problems in the future. It will be very difficult and exhausting for you at first, but if you are consistent and don't waffle at all, you should see benefits within a week or so. And yes, your 2 year old will understand what you are doing, if you are very consistent. You need to find a quiet time to sit down with both of them to go over your expectations for behavior and then if either of them step over the line, you MUST nip it in the bud right away. I did my Master's degree when my boys were your children's ages, looking at child brain development and violence prevention, so I know what you are up against.

Let me know if you want more info on how to handle this.
Good luck!



answers from Seattle on

This is a very difficult time for you. When my daughter was very young and my son about 21/2 it wasn't that he was the problem, she was--screaming all the time if I didn't hold her. So I put her in a backpack and cooked dinner that way. I also played with my son and went grocery shopping that way.

The other thing I would like you to consider is to think of something positive to say about her every day. Maybe make a list the might before so you won't have to make up something on the spot.

She is at a difficult time in her emotional growth and needs boundaries, and love. It is hard and it looks like you are mostly on your own. It will help if your husband can help some on the weekend.



answers from Seattle on

I would try "time ins".you can give them as a reward for good behavior.if she hits she looses her time in with mommy.they can be short,use a timer. Three to five min doing something she really likes to do. Also when she hits her brother pay attention to him not her. Give him lots of cuddles and ignore her. She is using the hitting as a way to get your attention. Any attention positive or negative is still attention. My 2 1/2 year old was hitting the dogs all the time and we did this and the behavior has stopped. Hitting your daughter will just show her hitting is ok. It doesn't make sense to punish her for a behavior and then mimic that behavior your self.
Good luck.



answers from Seattle on


I wanted to let you know that I'm going through the exact same thing with my son who is going to be 3 the end of October. He doesn't have any siblings but the hitting, shoving, kicking is terrible around his friends. I do, however, have the luxury of knowing that most of his behavior is not "behavioral" but the result of sensory integration issues and an OT gave me exercises to use with him before he spends time with other kids. In a nut shell, I have a child that craves lots of sensory input so he's shoving not because he's mad, upset, or to get my attention. Sometimes he's doing it for these reasons but it's also a result of having stronger sensory needs than other kids and he's 2 so he doesn't know how to control it. Thus, he shoves a kid he's excited to see because he forgets to stop and wave instead (we are working on substituting behavior). Talking about it with my son does not work. He hates seeing others cry and upset so he really doesn't like hurting kids. Traditional time outs don't work since then he's more isolated from his sensory needs. I've been told that what he needs are a variety of activities that meet these needs so that he doesn't shove kids. Any pulling, pushing, or heavy lifting activity will satisfy these needs. For instance, tugging on a rope, doing wheel barrows, climbing or hanging on monkey bars, pushups agains a wall, carrying groceries in, pushing toys, carrying rocks, etc. And it does help. For instance, he started getting aggressive one day in a restaurant and I just grabbed him by his arms and did pull ups with him (the pressure from stretching his arms is suppose to help too). I didn't punish him for hitting this time. I just said "Let's see how big you are getting" and made a game out of lifting him from his arms up and down for about 10 times. Then I sat him down and he sat calmly and didn't bang into the person next to him. I was told that doing pushing, pulling, heavy lifting before interacting with kids will help him for about 1.5 hours and then you have to do something like it again. I JUST started doing it so I can't tell you exactly how effective it is. I was also told that for time outs to give him something to help with the sensory needs, such as a theraband to pull on while he's in the time out. Thus, the time out isn't used as punishmet, it's used to get him to re-group and take time to meet his sensory needs in an appropriate mannter.

I know what you are going through. My husband is deployed and I'm at my witts end with his behavior. I haven't constantly remind myself that he's 2 and that he's not like other kids, just so I can be patient. But I can't talk on the phone, I can't have a relaxing playdate, my neighbors give me nasty looks because they don't understand why he hits their kids.

The other problem is that kids are going to start disliking a child like this and, I don't know about yours, but my child craves social interaction and when he's not pushing he's SO loving and sweet. I've talked to kids that he's pushed and explained to them that my son didn't mean to hurt them. And then talk to them about how a puppy who likes you jumps all over you because he's so excited to see you and he's still learning that that's not the right way to play. That's helped lots of kids understand it and tolerate my son more. And the kids have learned that I remove my son immediately from the situation, calm him down, and then he plays nice with them.

This is easier to write about than to deal with on a daily basis. You might also have a sensory issue going on and the fact that your child wants your attention just adds to it. I know my son's sensory behaviors got worse when dad got deployed. If it is sensory that treating it solely as a behavior problem isn't going to work for you or your child though.

I would love to hear anything that you find that works for you because I would love the "perfect" solution too. I just don't think there is one when they are two since they aren't able to control their behavior and if their behavior is driven by a real need they have and not because they are being mean that's tough.



answers from Seattle on

Helen -

This will be more of the same, but I can only respond to your situation with two points.

First - she has to have consequences. Being told "that's not nice" and then hugging her to give her an example of what is nice basically tells her that she can do whatever she wants and all mom is going to do is say no, and then give her hugs and cuddles. If you're reluctant to result to spanking - and I assume you are if even time outs give you hives - then time outs are your only answer. You tell her no, you let her see that you are upset, and she doesn't get anything resembling a hug until she's sat in a corner for a few minutes while you take care of her brother.

And for the record, if your daughter is getting the reinforcement that implies it's okay to pick on her brother, that means your son is getting reinforced that it's okay to be the victim of bullying.

Second - the points about children acting out due to boredom are valid. Now, I don't think it's your job to keep your children entertained every minute of every day, but maybe having more structured activities for them to do while you're working on other things could be good.

Anyway, best of luck.

- D.



answers from Seattle on


My son was 2 1/2 when my twins were born and when they came home from the hospital (after 20 days) we too had issues soon after with him hitting and/or being too aggressive with the boys.

First, I will say that the most important thing you can do as previously mentioned is find a way to have some positive interaction/time with just your oldest perhaps when the youngest is napping or whenever it is possible. For me, this is THE most helpful strategy for keeping my oldest happy and we have FAR fewer incidents when I can take the time and play with him and give him more positive attention throughout the day. We usually have more outbreaks of aggressive behavior when I have a busy day and haven't spent much time with him.

Secondly, I will say that removing him from the situation was only part of our strategy as just leaving the room didn't seem to fully solve the problem. Right when he hits his brothers, we immediately remove him from the situation and then we give him a swat for this behavior also (on the diaper, not hard enough to make a mark, but enough to make him understand). He sits in his room for a little bit afterward (2-3 minutes) and then we come back and get on his level and ask him, "Why are you in this room?" And he says something to the effect of "I hit brothers," and then we ask, "Is that good?" and he says, "No." Then we make him go back out and say sorry to the brother he hit. Then when he started acting up again at another time we would say, "What happens when you hit your brothers?" and he responds with "I get swat." We then say, "Do you like getting a swat?" He says, "No." (As a side note, we make a distinction with him from what a swat is as compared to just plain hitting. AT first, he would say, "Don't hit me!" when he got a swat. I would then explain that Mommy was not hitting, but giving him a swat for doing something bad. He understands this distinction now, but it took a little bit for him to understand the difference.) We had to rinse and repeat this cycle until it became drilled into his brain that hitting his brothers was not OK. He has GREATLY improved and as I said, he only acts aggressively now on days when he hasn't had much time with me. Some people are against swatting, but I will tell you it is more effective, since words aren't always comprehended and remembered well at this age. My son and I have a great relationship and he respects my authority as well. He knows that Mommy is in charge and though we sometimes have little incidents, he has learned that he can't win the battles with me. I think this is key to changing a child's continually win the battles and not to let them dictate how things are handled.

Best of luck to you, hope this helps!


H. C.

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