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How can I stop my almost four year old from being a bully?

I have two boys, my older will be four in June, and the younger will be 2 in july. My oldest always did really good with the baby, untill he started walking around 15 months( yes he is delayed) then he started picking on him, taking his toys, now he has gotten into pushing and shoving and this isn't just about he has my toy, if he trips he will go and push his yonger brother saying he pushed him, if he gets in trouble for something or dosn't get his way he will take out his fustration on his brother, we have a large home so I have tried to put him in the downstairs den, where he has all his toys and tv and we are litterly just up four stairs from him so he can even still see us but this makes me feal like i am isolating him which i don't want to do but I am lost we have tried to tell him it hurts we have tired time out. He will be in pre-k in august i am worried he will be the same with other boys, although he dose have a little girlfried his age whom he gets along pretty well with.

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Asked by Codragonfly at 12:38 AM on May. 20, 2011 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Level 10 (414 Credits)
Answers (19)
  • If he keeps it up I would start taking away his things or send him to the corner. He needs to know what he is doing is wrong and serpating him in another room isnt going to do anything but make him feel alone and not apart of the family

    Answer by Augusta at 12:48 AM on May. 20, 2011

  • Keep in mind when interacting with your son that kids learn by example. If you make him feel like he's being pushed around, he will learn to treat others that way. It's complicated and I'm not trying to lay any blame here, but just keep in mind that he mimics how you behave towards him so putting him in time out or whatever is very counter-productive, as it will make him more resentful and more inclined to take out his frustrations on his brother. You need to show him how to be loving and to share by showing him love, respect and kindness. Not easy, I know, and you don't want to let him "get away with" bullying behaviour, but punishment may not be the key here. I'm not sure what the best strategy WOULD be, mind you, and I'm not saying it's easy, just something to keep in mind. Good luck momma!

    Answer by judimary at 12:58 AM on May. 20, 2011

  • Aww, hugs, I know this is so hard! I will piggyback onto judimary's train of thought for now, because I agree that punishment/consequences won't be an optimal response because it leaves important needs (that are behind the behaviors) unmet. I have twin toddlers so I've had lots of experience parenting two at once & trying to balance their needs, particularly when protecting/defending one & responding to problematic behaviors WITHOUT thinking of the other one AS the problem, the aggressor, as wrong, or "misbehaving." It sounds to me like your older son is experiencing lots of frustration, sadness or other painful things (kids who feel good generally are kind. When they are hurting because something inside is "off," they hurt others, or literally "act out" their pain in behavior.) Building empathy for them with,in ourselves is crucial (for best outcomes for all involved) but that is so challenging because their behavior triggers

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:52 AM on May. 20, 2011

  • (cont.) US to feel fearful, overwhelmed, uncertain, and other painful feelings that trigger OUR anger & blame. Having empathy & seeing their behavior as valid (making sense from their point of view) is very difficult when we are feeling triggered & very much wanting to STOP them. I completely know how hard it is to have compassion for someone who is literally HURTING someone else, irrationally/unfairly blaming them, etc. (esp. when that "someone else" is a child in your care, so there is likely self-blame or criticism/doubt going on below the conscious level & the behavior triggers thoughts of "I shouldn't let this happen," "I should know how to stop this," "If I were a good mom this wouldn't keep happening" every time the littler one gets hurt. These unexamined beliefs lead to painful feelings which in turn trigger you to feel anger & blame toward the older child.) Being present with myself (my reality) IN THE MOMENT is my

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:04 AM on May. 20, 2011

  • (cont) first step to connecting. This is as simple as non-judgmental observation, just acknowledging what you are thinking & feeling: "I feel frustrated/hopeless/furious," "I don't know what to do," "I just wish he would STOP," "I am thinking thoughts like 'he should not be doing this'/'he should know better'/'there's no excuse for this behavior'." The more you NOTICE your feelings & thoughts, the less YOU will "act them out" because you are giving yourself (or being for yourself) a "bowl" to contain them. I get why connecting to his validity doesn't come naturally in the moment, so in the interest of promoting more empathy, I'd suggest that you try to find some way to orient yourself in that direction--such as thinking of his "acting out" as charades, literal "acting out" of the way he feels inside. Instead of focusing on what is wrong with his actions, notice what they show you about what he feels inside. Angry, small, mean,

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:10 AM on May. 20, 2011

  • (cont) powerless, resentful & critical, like he has less, like he matters less, like he's not important, like he always gets blamed, like bad things always happen to him & it's always someone's fault (these are basically all variations on feeling powerless or in victim mode, which is always how we're feeling if we blame, criticize & accuse someone else.) (Which is why it is SO helpful simply to NOTICE when we are feeling powerless, helpless, or trapped, ourselves!) I think the thing such a person needs MOST is validation: acceptance of who they are & how they are feeling, of how they see things at the moment (acceptance of their reality.) So many of our automatic responses are invalidations, denials of another person's reality & experience. And this triggers their defensiveness, or their insistence on their own validity. We are so oriented to defending, explaining & justifying ourselves that we don't see this as a negation of

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:17 AM on May. 20, 2011

  • (cont) another person. Like, my son wants me to pick him up while I'm cooking, or wants to do what I'm doing @ the stove, & I very nicely explain to him why I can't/he can't, pointing out the problems with the situation. But this is about validating ME (explaining why I'm not wrong, unreasonable, or mean) & it essentially is negating in that it's an effort to convince him that his wishes don't work (are wrong) & why he "shouldn't" be upset! This doesn't mean that I'm "wrong" or that the circumstances need to change (I can hold the limit), just that I am negating/invalidating him & therefore contributing to his frustration, resistance & the possible tantrum, & possibly even causing them. (I know this because if I focus on his validity rather than mine, simply reflecting what he wants & how it makes sense, it's often "enough" & not getting his way right then isn't the big deal because he was UNDERSTOOD & accepted, not "wrong.")

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:38 AM on May. 20, 2011

  • (cont)I hope this doesn't seem irrelevant. It's an effort to illustrate how many times we routinely & unconsciously negate others, then send the message (also negating) that their feelings/reactions are unreasonable (because we exp. them as a judgment against us, & we know we are legit/being fair/just keeping them safe...) Even as I began to think in terms of validation, times like you describe were esp. hard for me with my older daughter, because "how do you validate illogic?" or something "untrue"? (She would trip, then accuse one of her little brothers of pushing her, or of making her fall "on purpose." Or she'd accuse me of doing something/hurting her "on purpose," when I clearly had not.) Yes, this kind of thing is provocative or triggering. But I didn't have to accept blame or agree that her bro was to blame; I just had to accept her reality as hers. Seeing her need to lash out & accuse as indicative of how miserable she

    Answer by girlwithC at 9:52 AM on May. 20, 2011

  • (cont) is inside is helpful, if I can get there! (It is hard to "get there" because it's so natural to respond to unprovoked lashing out by defending the "wronged" person, pointing out how it doesn't make sense, couldn't possibly be true or have happened, the person is a baby and lacks motive/intent, etc. lol) But connecting to your own needs (being present to your own reality in the moment) actually makes you more likely to connect naturally to the needs of others . So it all works together. And just WANTING to respond with empathy & to help your kid will help bring about the shift in consciousness, too. Accepting my daughter rather than engaging her logic or trying to convince her, gave her the space to adjust herself (and to acknowledge what she really knew.) If your son is very entrenched because of lots being "off" for him, it won't be an instant transformation after being validated. But acceptance (versus resistance)

    Answer by girlwithC at 10:04 AM on May. 20, 2011

  • (cont) does give the space & conditions required for real change. Change from within, that you don't have to control & punish into existence & then maintain (via fear of consequences.) SO..(sorry so long) as for how it looks to empathize & validate in the moment, with hurtful or grabbing behavior, you first connect to the child's reality within yourself. Assume positive intent (not that "he didn't mean to hurt" but that he is hurting for an essentially good reason, if only because he feels miserable & unhappy & mean, not simply because he's a bad person or "out of control") & speak to the child from this perspective. Your words convey your belief that he is a good person who wants good things, he just needs help. With me (toddler grabbing & biting behaviors), I gave thought to what I DID want (I wanted them to ask for help) & that was my response to anything problematic. "If you feel like hurting, it just means you need help.

    Answer by girlwithC at 10:17 AM on May. 20, 2011

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