Mean Big Brother

Updated on June 16, 2010
T.R. asks from Fort Atkinson, WI
9 answers

My almost 3 year old son is constantly aggravating my 9 month old daughter. He has a lot of his toys around the house (we have zeros storage options on our 1st floor) and she'll pick up his car (that he is not playing with) and he'll run over and snatch it away. I am always telling him to put away what he doesn't want her to play with (he has a toy box). He pushes her down when she pulls herself up on the couch. He pokes her in the face, puts his toys on her head and constantly yells at her 'no'. It's to the point where I feel like I'm constantly stopping him from doing something or another to her. I do praise him when he does something nice, like offer her one of his toys or makes sure she accepts something he offers before taking away what she wants (he's learned this, gives her hugs and kisses, or if I just see him playing nice along side her. I make sure to play with him throughout the day (I'm a SAHM), and play with them both together. When she goes down for her nap, we play together or cuddle on the couch and watch a show like Sesame Street or Word World. He was in school 1 day a week, and I have noticed a big difference in my daughter's disposition when he's not here. She will play on the floor for awhile without crying or fussing. When we are all here, she'll play for a few minutes and then start fussing to be picked up right away because it's just a matter of time before he starts in on her. I am worried that all the negative attention he is showing her and her getting upset so often will result in affecting her overall disposition as she gets older. What other things can I do besides tell him no, stop that..or please don't put her car on her head, or your foot in her face..? I've been trying the last few days to talk about treating her the way he wants to be treated. I know he's too young to understand that, but I figured over time after me saying things like that and explaining it often, he'll start to get it.
Please help a frustrated house!

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much everyone. I appreciate all the feed-back. I'm glad to hear that I'm on the right track. He does get time-outs after telling him twice not to do something. I have swatted on the butt if he's doing something that could/would hurt his sister. That's a good idea about putting the toy on time out. I started doing that yesterday. I'll be glad when this phase is over, but I'm sure the next phase will be just as fun (when she's old enough to fight back herself!!). Thanks again!!

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answers from Des Moines on

Redirect, redirect, redirect. I really feel for you - my son was 2 when his twin sisters were born. Boy, those were some tough days. Now he is 4 and they are 2 and they play nice sometimes, and not so nice other times. Keep up with the positive reinforcement for him, and consequences if he's "naughty" to her. I try to tell my kids to "stay out of her/his space" when someone is getting picked on. Timeout for toys is a good idea. She's only 9 months old, so it will get better as he gets used to her and as she can start to defend herself :-) Until then keep up the good work, it's exhausting and frustrating, I know - but you're doing a great job!!

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answers from Houston on

I think there needs to be more consequences for the undesired behavior. If he's putting his toys on her head, then you need to tell him that whatever toy he puts on her head will be put in timeout and he won't get to play with it anymore until he can apologize and stop the behavior. He need to learn to respect her boundaries, but there are going to need to be consequences for his actions if he's going to learn that. Just telling him to stop with nothing to back it up is probably not going to stop the behavior. If you know that he is doing these things on purpose (like putting his foot in her face) and he continues to do it after you have asked him not to, then it is blatant disobedience and you need to follow through with whatever discipline you use in your home for disobedience. I think it's fine to have the discussion about treating others like you want to be treated, but as you mentioned, he probably won't grasp that concept right now and until he does, you need to establish what is acceptable behavior and what isn't and follow through with that. I am all for positive reinforcement, but I also believe in consistent discipline so that they learn what is acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior. I don't think you necessarily have to rely on one or the other (reward vs. discipline)....I use both and it seems to work well in our home. Good luck. It's a tough adjustment (mine are 2 yrs. 5 months apart, so we've been there), but it does get better. Mine are 2 and 4 years old now and play together nicely a lot of the time.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

You don't say what else if anything you do to him for treating her this way. I think you need to start time outs. He sounds very jealous of her, and this is is not wanting to share, but you have to teach him to stop his behavior.

Sounds like you have the good part down well, telling him what a good boy he is. Try talking to him about the future as well, how sissy will grow to be his age and what age he will be.......let him pick clothes out for her, tell him he has to help protect her......get him to feel close to her......not jealous........

If he continues to do things that are mean, take away the toy, and give him a time out.......he needs to learn that this is not acceptable behavior and that you mean business. Be consistent. Talk to him on why you are taking up for her so to speak, that she is small and can't take care of herself and that she loves her big brother.

He'll get it all figured out......just keep loving on him when he is good, maybe even give him a sticker now and then for good behavior.......

Hang in there....take care.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I think you're doing basically fine with what you are saying, but you can also validate his feelings. You're probably focused on how HIS behavior is affecting your daughter (justifiably - it's not ok to drive a car over your sisters head!!!!!!) But, you're probably not focused on how having a daughter affected HIS behavior. You're focused on HIM as the problem. He can sense this and it's not a good feeling to have.

Tell him "it's ok to be mad at xxx, but here is how we behave". At 3 he may not be old enough to follow direction like "put away the stuff you don't want her to touch". Can you be more specific? "I know you like your car and xx likes your car - can you put it on your desk now, so you have it to yourself later?".

Think of it in his terms.... he had this great life. Then you wrecked it by bringing home this blob of a screaming thing that takes HIS parents attention AND touches his stuff. Now he's in trouble all the time and is forced to do stuff with this other person that isn't any fun. You play with them both together? That's not 3 year old boy play and he knows it..... he feels like he's getting the short end of the stick. He had no say and now you even want him to be HAPPY about it!!!!!

He'll grow to love her - when they can play together. at 9 months old, she's just a frustration to a 3 year old boy.

So, validate his feelings. Praise the HECK out of him everytime he does something good and reinforce the behavior that you want to see.

Good luck with this tough age!!!!!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

It sounds like you are doing a great job trying to make sure that he is getting enough attention, but he still wants your negative attention...I think he needs more than just talking to. If it was my little guy (and I'm about to be in the same situation as you-due next month!) I'd put him in timeout chair in a different (isolated) room for 2 or 3 minutes (set a timer) every time he misbehaved. (This is what I do now when Kylen doesn't listen)

I tell him:
what he did that put him there (& why it's bad)
what he could do instead
when he is allowed to get up (the ding)

Then I leave the room. If he decides to get out of time out early I put him back, explain again, and start the time over. This way he is removed from his toys, and is removed from receiving any attention. I won't lie: I've found that occasionally he's really stubborn and I'll be doing this for 45 minutes, but then for weeks at a time afterward he'll be the best listener, because he knows that there are real consequences he doesn't like.



answers from San Francisco on

"No, stop that..or please don't put her car on her head, or your foot in her face."

Sorry, but LOL!!!!!

Been there, done that. My oldest son spent his whole childhood bugging his sister. It was his raison d'être. I've always said that my life as a parent would have been completely different if my sweet, nurturing daughter had been my oldest. Instead, my children were a noisy, squabbling, exhausting bunch, mostly egged on by my son's need to pester his sister (he was always pretty nice to his younger brother).

Now that my son is 21 and has been out of the house for 3 years, they are actually finally getting along, and my son is even sweet to his sister sometimes. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

First of all, let me assure you that my daughter was in no way harmed, if anything she garnered strength from putting up with her brother, and she's now a happy, well-adjusted 17 year old. I will say though, that she's always been that way, and I think she could withstand just about anything. Also my son was never COMPLETELY brutal to her, if you don't count the time he had her trapped in her walker and was hosing her down with the garden hose while I was fighting on the phone with my mother. (We just recounted that story, and everyone now thinks it's hilarious.)

In hindsight, I would have done very little punishing of him for his behavior towards her, instead I would have focused on rewarding good behavior and mirroring his emotions. It would have saved me YEARS of aggravation and made our home much more peaceful. Mirroring is the best parenting technique there is. It goes like this: "Billy, little sisters sure are annoying, aren't they." "Billy, don't you wish sometimes that you didn't have a little sister?" and things like that, mirroring what you believe his emotions are at that moment. If you can bring yourself to say these things, I PROMISE you that you will notice an IMMEDIATE improvement in his behavior.

We are so afraid to state reality to our children. The truth for some children is: it WAS more fun when that pesky sister wasn't around, and I had mom all to myself. Why do we deny this reality? That sister doesn't add much to HIS life -- yet.

Anyway, your son won't become a serial killer and your daughter won't end up in the loony bin, even though it might seem like it.

Reading below: OMG Brenna, thanks! Listen to Brenna. And nope, if you do the time outs etc. suggested below, you will make your son's behavior worse.



answers from Omaha on

Aaah yes sibling rivilary is horrible but absolutely normal. And no it should have no effect on her later in life at this age. Remember not only is he going thru the normal stages of having a new sibling in the house he is going thru what I call the trying 3's, which means he is going to try your patience no matter how calm you are. Sharing is always a difficult stage for a child to go thru and his actions about grabbing things away from her is perfectly normal. What I did was take the "item" away from my son and give it back to the younger saying we must share and if he grabs it again then it gets taken away again, this time not to his sibling but away for a good long while. Try getting him involved iin safe ways to help you out by getting a diaper or feeding her anything that will show a positive way of interactiing with her. It sounds like you spends quality time with him when your daughter is sleeping but what about when they are both awake? Is the majority of your time discipling him and giving more time to your daughter? Young ones demand alot of attention even when everything is normal, I would make sure to give him some good times when they are both awake. Also if she fusses when he is in the room, don't pick her up unless she is really hurt or whatever. Also I know alot of parents don't believe in spanking and overall neither do I but a little swat on the butt doesn't hurt anyone to get your point across that if his actions are really bad then he will suffer consequences. Along with a slight swat and stern NO!! will usually do the trick. Good Luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

My kids are 2 yrs apart and here is what worked for us: try to have him involved in the care of his sister (make him "mommy's big helper"): fetching diapers, bottles, holding her hand, helping get her dressed or pick out her clothes. Also, if he is mean to her or you, remove everyone from his area and play somewhere else (leave the unshared toy with him) - tell him no one likes to play with little boys who are mean or can't share. Direct all attention to his sister, discussing his bad behavior with her (so he can hear) - he will come to you and want to play again, make him appologize for the bad behavior. It won't take long for him to realize that his bad behavior isn't getting him the attention he wants - but when he does come and appologize - pile on the praise and love, from BOTH you and the baby! ("your sister just loves when you play nicely with her and share your toys! See how happy she is?")

Good Luck!


answers from Washington DC on

you're right, he's too young to get complex psychological rationalizations or lengthy potential consequence forecasts. keep it very simple. i like the idea of removing whatever toy he is using to menace his little sister. removal of self is also extremely effective, either removing him from the play area (time out) or removing yourself and baby from him. you are doing great with the positive reinforcement for good behavior. just make sure that when he is acting out that you don't just tell him what not to do, that you follow through on immediate consequences. his jealousy is perfectly natural and doesn't mean he's naughty, but he does need to have clear unambiguous parameters, and for you to enforce them.

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