Posted by Barbara F. Meltz December 18, 2009 06:00 AM
Barbara, Why does my 32-month-old grandson hit and take toys away from his 12-month-old brother? How do we show him that that is not proper behavior?
From: Patricia, Las Vegas
Consider these possibilities:
Because he's frustrated and doesn't yet have the language to express what he wants or what he's feeling.
Because he's in a very ego-centric stage of development and, through no fault of his own, can't help that he wants what he wants when he wants it.
Because this is also a stage of development where children have little (if any) impulse control.
Because this is a stage when children imitate what they see around them. What is he seeing on screens that he watches? Cartoon or dramatic violence? What about the adults at home, or children with whom he comes in contact? Do they solve conflict with hitting?
Because adults around him are inconsistent in their limit setting; inappropriate in what they expect from him and thus giving him conflicting messages; or inappropriate in how they try to get him to change his behavior.
Because he's jealous that the baby is getting too much attention and he's not getting enough so he's using negative behaviors as a way to get parents' attention.
Those are some of the why's. Here are some ideas for correcting the behavior:
1. When he's with his brother, watch him carefully and be prepared to redirect his arm if he looks like he's about to hit. Tell him in a firm voice, "Hitting is no," and move his hand to do something else.
2. Label his feelings for him: "I can see you want to play with that toy. You want your turn. You wish it was your turn right now."
3. Give him the words: "When the baby has something you want, come to mommy and say, 'I want a turn.'"
4. Help him to see that you will protect his right to some privacy, that he has control over his favorite toys and that he doesn't have to share everything. Tell him, "This is your favorite toy, isn't it? And it's not a baby toy, it's your toy! You don't have to share every toy. Let's put it in the closet so the baby can't reach it and when you want to play with it you can ask me for it."
5. Help him to see that he doesn't have to resort to negative attention to get more attention from mom or dad. Arrange so that, if possible, each parent has five minutes a day that is devoted to him. Call it "Mom and John's time," and tell him that this is a time just for the two of them, so he sees that he has his mother's undivided attention. They should spend the five minutes doing something simple that he enjoys. It can just be sitting on mom's lap and cuddling, or reading a book, or playing.
I hope readers will share some of their ideas with you, too.
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