When Preschoolers and Toddlers Hit
A dad asked me what he should do when his 4-year-old son hits his 2-year-old sister. I informed him that preschoolers have not yet developed their social skills so it is unfair to get angry at them or punish them. I do realize that you may react out of anger because he could hurt her. You do however; have to keep the 2 year old safe. When preschoolers hit other children, it is a message that must be interpreted by the adult. It could be one of the following:
WHY IT MAY BE HAPPENING
1. He has had enough of her and needs to be separated from her, but not punished in timeout. Just separate them and give them time to cool off.
2. He could be using inappropriate skills that he learned somewhere, such as television or adult other relationships around him
3. He is being overpowered by adults in his life and knowing he can't exert power over the adults, it all flows down hill and he becomes powerful over those smaller than him
WHAT TO DO
1. Remain calm and avoid getting angry or emotional over it. If you do, you could end up giving this behavior value and motivation for him to repeat it. In other words, don't over react
2. As soon as he has hit his sister, all the attention goes to the little sister with no attention to him. If you can, include him nurturing his sister.
3. Separate them silently and with kindness. Avoid making him feel like he is bad or that there is something wrong with him.
4. When things calm down, get to his eye level and in a calm tone, tell him that "you can't let anyone hit in this house."
5. Whenever you DO see him getting along nicely with this sister, make a big deal out if and acknowledge good behavior
6. Make sure that he has plenty of alone time and space and is not always having to be or play with her.
One final note; little children don't see their siblings as wonderful gifts to love and enjoy. Instead, they sometimes see them as competition who could take his possessions away from him, including his parents. Do your best to see the world through his eyes