Friday, October 31, 2014

Sibling Rivalry Gone Bad: A guest post by Dr. Psych Mom

Today I have a real treat for you! My guest blogger handles all kinds of issues on her blog, from reader's questions to psychology issues, and she is quick to give out some advice sprinkled with a dash of funny. Today she answers a reader's question that I think we can all relate to! Enjoy a taste of Dr. Psych Mom...


Sibling Rivalry Gone Bad
by Samantha Rodman

Help!  My Toddler Son Beats Up His Baby Sisters!

A reader writes:

My 2 year old beats up his 1 year old sisters. Intentionally. He's the sweetest boy I know (says his mom and biggest fan) but seriously they get their asses kicked every day and it seems to be getting worse. My son thinks it's funny to headbutt, tackle, hit with his hands, or worse with toys, and now runs them over with his trucks. Sounds fun over here right? You definitely want a playdate with us. Any input?

Dear Sibling Beatdown,

Well, it sounds like you need some 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12Description: in your life.  You haven't mentioned what, if anything, you're doing to address this issue but I assume it's a mix of telling him nicely, giving time outs, yelling, and giving up.  Sadly, that particular combination usually accomplishes nothing, which is unfortunate, since it's the most common parenting routine in the world.  I am also going to assume that your son's behavior is due to a combination of jealousy of the attention given to his sisters, toddler impulsivity, and boy brute force.

We are going to try and address this issue with a combination of time outs and increased special time.  The time outs will have to be CONSISTENT.  You can read about how to do this here, in my post about how to discipline a 2 year old.  Every single time he engages in a violent act against your girls, except if it's truly an accident, you put him in time out for 2 minutes, saying, "you are in time out for hitting."  Do not engage with him at all during the two minutes (the two minutes only start once he's sitting and quiet).  Then at the end you say, "You got a time out for hitting.  Don't hit your sisters."

I also want you to try to cultivate empathy in your son for his sisters, as I discuss here.  Then you can read about what to do when a toddler is jealous of a baby here, which also includes a description of special time and more about making him feel valued and loved (e.g., have him help with the girls, praise him for being nice to them).  Remember he is just two, and he was your baby till recently, so treat him with kindness and give him as much alone time as you can.  Can you get a sitter and have special Mommy-Son time once a week?  Twice a week?

To recap, you're going to love him a lot, lots of quality time, and a zero tolerance policy with hitting.  Even if he hits in the supermarket, he gets a time out in the cart.  But how the hell could you even go to the supermarket with three kids under (gulp) 2?  You must either do Peapod like me or grow your own vegetables.  But you get my point.  There is no incident of hitting from this point forward that doesn't get an instant time out.  I predict hitting decreases by 50% by the end of two weeks if you couple this immediate consistent time out with increased special quality time and cultivating empathy.  If not, well, at least I didn't put any money on it. 

Good luck.  And kudos to you for surviving with three toddler/babies.  And I thought I had it rough with three under three and a half!

Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who, You're Right, Doesn't Want a Playdate With You, Because We Would Have Six Damn Kids, And What Is This, a Daycare?

Dr. Samantha Rodman is a clinical psychologist in private practice, where she works with individuals and couples. She is also a wife and a mom of three.  She wows us with both her brain and wit over at Dr. Psych Mom, and would love you to join her on Facebook and Twitter

*Title photo courtesy of Prawny at


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