Three year-old hits younger brother

I have a 3 1/2 girl and 2 year old boy. My 3 1/2 year old is constantly hitting her brother. It can be for no reason at all. She can go up to him and hit his cheek. She is at home with me 4 days and my Mom comes to our house the other 3 days. When she does this I get very upset with her because my son has become used to her doing this and does not even do anything. I feel so bad for him. He does get a lot of attention because he is funny. I try to give her one on one attention.

I put her in her room when this happens but she comes right back out. I've tried to hold the door closed and wait for a few minutes but she doesn't seem any different once she comes back out. She is very strong willed.

I'm thinking of signing her up for pre-school because I think she needs that special time for herself. I did want to only send her one year but I'm not sure if this would change anything in her behavior by sending her to pre-school. Any suggestions?

Thanks.

Question:

Dear Betty,

It is often very difficult for an older sibling to behave properly with a younger sibling, especially one who is getting a lot of attention because he's so funny. It makes perfect sense that your daughter would feel angry and jealous of her younger brother. Hitting him is her way of making sure she gets your attention, as well. But it is also a way of expressing her anger towards her brother. So, you need to approach this situation in two ways, to deal with both problems.

First, your daughter needs some time alone with you doing things that are "only for big girls." You may be spending this time already, but not saying these words. She needs to feel that being the older child is special and important. For example, you can take her grocery shopping and say "Gee, I'm glad it's just us today. I think this would be VERY HARD with a two year-old around!" Or you can take your daughter to a movie, and tell her it's just because she's older that she gets to go. Things like this will help her feel good about being the oldest.

Second, you need to talk to your daughter about her angry feelings. If she isn't able to express herself, see if you can help her explain them to you by saying them for her. "It must be hard to have a little brother who's so cute, and who gets so much attention, huh?" Once she realizes that it's okay to be angry, she won't feel so guilty about it. Then it will be easier for her not to hit.

These suggestions can take a while to work, but they usually do the trick. As for pre-school, it would be very nice for a three and a half year old, but it won't solve the problems at home. And, if you do decide to send her, don't tell her it's because of her brother. You don't want her to view school as a punishment!

Best of luck,
Patti Greenberg Wollman

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