I have an introverted, sensitive (gentle and kind) four-year-old son and an extroverted, physically rambunctious two-year-old son. The two year old is physically aggressive (biting and hitting) towards the four year old. The four year old just melts in a puddle of tears with each encounter. We have tried "use your words," "run away," and even "bite him back." None of that seems to work. The four year old doesn't seem to know what to do with his brother, and to be honest, I am not sure how to coach him. "Bite him back" seems wrong for a million reasons, but I do want him to defend himself when necessary. HELP! How do I teach each of them to navigate this?
Hello, and thank you for your question. Sibling rivalry comes in all kinds of forms, and never really disappears. The trick is to teach your children to live with each other with respect and kindness. When you have two children with opposite temperaments, their differences can make them unsuitable playmates. For now, I recommend giving your 4 y/o a special and safe place to play where your little one can't get to him. There's no reason he should have to suffer his little brother's abuse. If you have to move some furniture around to make that space, so be it. (Note that I am not recommending you send anyone to their room.) Your 2 y/o wants to play, but hasn't learned how yet. He'll want to reach his big brother, but you will calmly tell him that he can't because of the biting and hitting. After a week, give him another chance. At the first offense, reinstate the separate but equal play areas. You know your children best, so you can certainly play with the time between trials. Just be sure to stay the course, keep calm, and use as few words as possible to explain to your little one why he can't play with his big brother. He'll catch on if you're consistent.
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