Stop hurting your sister!
October 21, 2014 2:05 PM   Subscribe

11 month old "Grabby" touches 3,5 year old "Argh"'s toys, Argh reacts by pushing or dragging Grabby away. Inevitably, Grabby ends up hurt. Mom yells, banishes Argh to room. Everyone feels bad. Cycle repeats. Oviously, Mom is Doing It Wrong. What now?

I am frankly at loss how Argh should be reacting when Grabby touches her stuff, grabs her stuff, knocks over her stuff (that she is playing with). What should I be teaching her to do, how should I be helping her?

Grabby loves Argh and wants to be wherever Argh is and do whatever Argh does.
I wouldn't mind a bit of shoving or dragging, but inevitably Argh drops her sister headfirst on the floor or bangs her headfirst into a door, or, recently when I completely lost it, knocks her off the bed. It's a mixture of being so angry she doesn't care and not being physically strong enough to gently carry her somewhere else.
I have been sending all the wrong messages (by shoving Argh away from Grabby so hard that Argh hurt herself! I hate myself for doing that.)

Things we have tried:
- Giving Grabby another toy. Doesn't work anymore. Argh wants to minutely control what her sister is allowed to touch and Grabby does not easily accept substitutions anymore.
- Calling mom to deal with it: I can't come running fast enough before Grabby has destroyed Argh's game. By the time Grabby signals intent, it is too late. Plus, false alarms out of panic: she sometimes calls me when Grabby is three rooms away and not even heading near her.
- Prevent Grabby and Argh from coming near each other by keeping Grabby close by at all times. Not working.
- let her drag Grabby away gently. Gently is not happening, and Grabby always returns if not hurt.

What should I be doing myself and how should I teach my older daughter to react?

I get hopping mad at her yet I feel for her, too. I can see that she actually tries to make my suggestions work, but she's now utterly frustrated, as am I. She has gotten better though: she is more nuanced about what stuff she is currently playing with and/or is a "special toy" only for her, and which is up for grabs. She has also listened to me about lifting Grabby under the arms rather than by her neck (!).
posted by Omnomnom to Human Relations (34 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Can you give Argh certain times to play alone without interference she she can do what she wants? If she's getting enough of that time, maybe you can explain that when Grabby and Argh are together, Grabby will want to play with Argh and thus she should choose toys that they can both play with together, or at least ones that won't get messed up by a touch or grab.

Also, 11 months is definitely old enough to start learning what "no" means. When Grabby goes near Argh's tower of blocks or whatever, you should say "Grabby, no" in a stern voice and gently but physically redirect to another toy or activity.

Teach Argh to say "No thank you, Grabby" and take her toy and move away from Grabby, instead of trying to remove Grabby from the area.

This may all still result in some tears from Grabby, but at least they won't be from physical pain and it will be a learning experience for both kids that words are better than physical force.
posted by trivia genius at 2:15 PM on October 21, 2014 [7 favorites]

I handled this with my three kids by explaining to them that everything was mine and I was allowing them to use it, period. My son (5 years older) had his things in his room that the girls left alone. The girls are 3 years apart and have always had to share everything. They argue sometimes but, for the most part, they work it out on their own because if I get called in then I take all of my toys away for awhile. At this point, it sounds like your older daughter is used to playing alone with her own things. She needs a baby free area to do this, where sister is never allowed. There should also be a play area for both of them to use, with your gentle supervision at first, with communal toys. If anyone fusses, whines, hits, or cries (including mom), everyone gets a time out.
posted by myselfasme at 2:16 PM on October 21, 2014 [21 favorites]

Do you still have a Pack and Play? Argh could play in there sometimes. Then Grabby could see her but not mess with her stuff.
posted by dawkins_7 at 2:19 PM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I believe we handled this phase by confining the littler one to a playpen or exersaucer whenever there wasn't an adult in the room to directly supervise what was going on.
posted by Andrhia at 2:19 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In my experience, this is the sort of thing that you just have to hover over and interfere on IMMEDIATELY for a while, if you're not going to physically separate the two kids like with a playpen or whatever. It sucks and is exhausting, I'm sorry. I wouldn't let them play together on the bed unless I was actively, intensively supervising. Does Argh go to preschool at all? does Grabby still nap?
posted by KathrynT at 2:24 PM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't know what your situation at home is and I'm sure there are good reasons for this, but I think a big part of the problem is leaving a 3.5-year-old alone with an 11-month-old. They simply require essentially constant policing of their interactions at that age. I realize this is miserable for mom (mine are 3 and 5 and I have only just been able to leave them alone together for long enough to shower or make dinner, and it suuuuuuucked). How possible is it to rearrange your situation so that you can at least passively "watch" them while they play together? I set myself up with a comfortable chair, a laptop, a lot of reading material, and I basically let chores go that couldn't get done during naptime. Argh should not be in a situation where she is the one responsible for physically moving or removing Grabby, or even has that option.

11-month-old can hear "no" and can probably start being physically removed to the world's briefest time-out. Set aside a couple days when you don't mind that it's going to be miserable because the 11-month-old is going to cross that line over and over and over just to see if you're really serious about "no" and removing her to time-out. (I would put the child physically in the corner, wait maybe 5 seconds while looking stern and being silent, and then say "No. Do not touch [toy]. The rule is, Do not touch [toy.]" and then a kiss and back to playing. This worked for us, I don't know if there's better phrasing, and of course it depends on the kid.)

Argh needs some alone-place and alone-time where she can play with her bigger-girl toys without a tiny helper. (Maybe she can have a baby-gated off space, like her room or even your bedroom? Maybe Grabby can go in a playpen sometimes?) But she also needs to know that during their together time, Grabby is going to be an independent person with independent wants and needs and she can't control her sister's behavior. (This is a super-common thing in preschoolers, btw. I probably spend a good 20% of my day reminding my children they cannot FORCE each other to play a certain way.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:26 PM on October 21, 2014 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Argh goes to preschool in the mornings, and spends time with grandparents / sitter three afternoons a week. Grabby only naps when Argh is not there, because Argh is THE MOST EXCITING THING since sliced bread.
I suppose I could hover the two or three afternoons a week where I have both of them alone, but I do have to cook/do laundry/use the bathroom from time to time! And it's not that I leave them alone in a room, it happens as soon as I turn my back!
Plus, they both want to be and play near me. Grabby because she is 11 months and Argh because she is away often. So I feel bad about banishing Argh to another room if she needs the baby free zone (good idea though. I'll make it work somehow.)
posted by Omnomnom at 2:33 PM on October 21, 2014

Oh man. I will just say, as the older child, getting in trouble for responding to various forms of irritation and harassment from my sister was damaging to our relationship in the long run (though it's much better now). It led to her harassing me for fun because she never got in trouble for it, and to me endlessly searching for something, anything, I could do in response that wouldn't get me in trouble. It sucked.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:36 PM on October 21, 2014 [35 favorites]

Give Arrgh her own space. I would make bedrooms off limits to each other, my brothers & mine where growing up. Grabby is not allowed into Arrghs room without asking & visa versa. This may have to be enforced with child gates or shut doors to start with. I know that Grabby is probably too young to grasp the concept but it will be important not too much later on that they have their own space so why not start now. They can have certain toys that are theirs for playing with in their rooms & communal toys in the shared play space. Any bedroom toys that get taken out to the communal space become communal toys, so if they want to keep something special for themselves they will have to keep them in their rooms.
posted by wwax at 2:38 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Please, speaking as an oldest child, be sure to give Argh time with just you as soon as you can reasonably leave Grabby with someone else (father, grandparents, sitter). I have really excellent memories of that.

I also agree that Arrgh needs her own space. My mother wasn't given it with her younger sister, and was very very careful to let me have it with mine -- I wasn't forced to play with her and my friends, etc -- and, probably partially as a result of that, we played together a lot, we slept in each others' rooms all the time, etc. (We fought a lot, too, but a normal amount for siblings, and got along much better than my mother and aunt.)
posted by jeather at 2:41 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sorry about threadsitting: Grabby currently sleeps in the parent bedroom. She doesn't have a room of her own and in a year or so the kids will have to share a room.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:41 PM on October 21, 2014

Best answer: Can I gently suggest that you try not to get angry or mad?

I have never ever ever ever ever gotten my child to do anything I direct him about when I am showing emotion like that.

Being angry usually causes my son to repeat whatever awful (sometimes dangerous) thing he was doing. Maybe for attention?


The 11 month old needs "cat herding" because if I remember just 2.5 short years ago, they don't take direction all that well, try as you might to explain things rationally.

YMMV. Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 2:43 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh man. I will just say, as the older child, getting in trouble for responding to various forms of irritation and harassment from my sister was damaging to our relationship in the long run (though it's much better now). It led to her harassing me for fun because she never got in trouble for it, and to me endlessly searching for something, anything, I could do in response that wouldn't get me in trouble. It sucked.

Having a big sister who never learned to share, also sucks. (my sister even tried to sell me her old toys.) She never let me borrow anything of hers but borrowed my stuff all the time.

I'm not a baby expert but my friend has a baby approaching the 11 month mark and there's really not much you can do with him, you can say "no" all you like, he's still going to grab that thing and put it in his mouth. The only thing you can do is keep things he's not allowed, out of his reach.

3.5 should be old enough to be taught that pushing and dragging her sister is not OK. Either teach Argh to involve her little sister in her games and share her toys or keep them separated. 3.5 is too young to effectively protect delicate toys/setup from a baby and 11 months old is too young to understand what she's doing wrong
posted by missmagenta at 2:52 PM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

Arrgh should use her words. "No, Grabby! I'm using it!" "Mom, Grabby won't stop touching it!" Mom should give Arrgh a script to follow.

Mom should then remove Grabby from the situation if Grabby persits by saying, "Arrgh is playing with that. You can have it when she's done." When Grabby goes back for the toy, remove Grabby again. Mom should make it a game so the act of trying and not reaching the toy is the fun part rather than getting the toy.

Arrgh can also play in a different room or be given a break by Grabby getting to play with different toys in the bath (or vice versa). Or Mom can get Arrgh to help with the cooking while Grabby plays with the toys.

Mom needs to keep repeating whatever works for her as much as possible. Mom should also facilitate sharing by asking Arrgh if Arrgh can bring Grabby x-toy when Arrgh is done. Grabby will likely lose interest and want the next toy Arrgh is playing with, but Arrgh is learning to share so that's at least something. Mom should remind Arrgh that Grabby is still a baby and doesn't understand. Arrgh should be praised for patience and word usage when Grabby goes after the toys as well as for sharing.

And just to warn you --- parts of this never get better. My younger one will now steal her brother's toys, hide them under a blanket, and then sit on the blanket. Her brother, to his credit, now mostly elicits a very situational, "HEEEEEY!!!!!" that me and my husband both know means intervene now before it escalates! She is 3. He is 5.
posted by zizzle at 3:05 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

The only thing I have found to be effective is to remove Grabby every time she goes near Argh's setup, tell her "no" firmly, and then move Argh to a place Grabby cannot physically go. If grabby grabs a toy from Argh then Argh yells "mom! Grabby took my toy!" and mom immediately removes toy from Grabby, says "no Grabby, Argh's toy" and moves one of the children physically out of the room or area. Grabby is not permitted to grab Argh's toys, ever, but Argh is absolutely and clearly not allowed to shove, push, or drag Grabby. If she does, immediately take toys away and time out. That is not acceptable in my house. (Of course, it still happens, and of course I'm not as consistent as I shoooould be.... But this is really the only way to do it I think.)
posted by celtalitha at 3:21 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

A playpen for Grabby when you have to go pee, or a bouncer, or a high chair with cheerios and toys. Confine her a bit. At 11 months she might not like it, but it's life, and if she's entertained a bit she'll probably deal.
posted by one more robot at 3:45 PM on October 21, 2014

Part dog-training, part "thing I remember from childhood": in addition to handling Grabby and Aargh when they're misbehaving, praise/reward them when they're being good. "Thank you for playing so nicely with your sister! You're sharing the toys very well, I'm proud of you." Cue treat (probably not literal food like a dog).

Grabby currently sleeps in the parent bedroom. She doesn't have a room of her own and in a year or so the kids will have to share a room.

If you don't have a way to change this, either by moving to a residence with more rooms or moving a child into a closet* or something, I'd suggest that ASAP you start emphasizing the room as "the kids' room" vs "Aargh's room" and gradually move Grabby into the room as much as you can: start putting her down for naps in there or something. Because in a year, the abrupt shift to "Guess what, Aargh the grown-up almost-five-year-old: you have a new, annoying little full-time roommate/intruder!" will probably go down poorly.

* (my big sister and shared a room from toddlerhood; we hated it and fought constantly. Big Sis eventually moved into a large walk-in closet / storage room to escape me. And peace resumed in the land.)
posted by nicebookrack at 3:52 PM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: zizzle: "And just to warn you --- parts of this never get better. "

To be fair, now that I'm 36 and my brother is 34, he doesn't knock over my towers unless EXTREMELY PROVOKED and I only rarely put him in a headlock for it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:57 PM on October 21, 2014 [35 favorites]

As an older kid, why should Argh have to share with Grabby? As adults we're not expected to share our stuff with others. Especially if Grabby is going to mess it all up? I totally feel for Argh.

That said, adult supervision is required.

I'd suggest that when Argh gets home, that a game is organized with Grabby. Something silly and fun that they can do together. Maybe it's dancing, or patty cake or something like that. Then, after Grabby's had a chance to soak up some of that awesome Argh energy, it can be 'alone' time. Grabby goes into a play pen, or a bouncy seat or behind a baby gate, and Argh gets to be alone with her toys. After about 20 minutes or so, recommend that Argh show Grabby what she's been doing, and see if there's something Grabby can do with her, perhaps Argh can narrate her play, or show Grabby how to color or Argh can teach Grabby something.

It won't be perfect, but having a schedule and predictability will help a TON with this. Also, be sure to tell Argh how wonderful Grabby thinks she is, and how great you think she is with her little sister.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:33 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Can you provide Argh with a table that is too high for Grabby to reach? Argh might need some kind of tall chair, maybe like those kitchen stepstool things so she can get into it by stages. Or you could even lift Argh up into the tall, glamorous, Older Sibling chair. Grabby will probably still play with Argh's shoelaces, but that seems more manageable.

Bonus points if the tabletop is transparent so Grabby still has a vantage point from underneath.

Grabby and Argh are just the most adorable child pseudonyms.
posted by feral_goldfish at 4:48 PM on October 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

what about a playpen for Argh? If you set up a pen in the living room and keep the really important or delicate toys in there (and like, building blocks and so on) Argh can choose to sit in that space when she wants to play unharrassed, and grabby will still be able to see her, which might be enough.
posted by lollusc at 4:52 PM on October 21, 2014

Best answer: Given that I'm in the same boat, I totally feel your pain. My Grabby is 16 months and my Aaargh will be three in a week, they are 20 months apart and like the same toys. Just speaking from the point of view of my kids (and yours might be different) segregating either one, either to a play pen or behind a baby gate, would in their minds be viewed as being punished. My three year old would go nuts at being locked in a pen (so would the baby) even if I explained that it was so they could play with their toys unmolested.

The big issue is that you are wanting to leave them unsupervised. And yeah, I totally get why, otherwise nothing ever gets done and the dishes pile up. There's a reason my house is chaotic! But at that age, you really can't, not for longer than a minute or two. The only way I've gotten around it is to move their toys around whatever area of the house I'm working in - in front of the kitchen, say, so they can play while cook/clean/whatever. Bob the Builder and Sesame Street are for when I need them to stay immobilised for five minutes while I hang out the washing and don't want them underfoot.

When it comes to fighting over toys, I know a daycare technique is not to focus on sharing - toddlers don't like that - but to focus on taking turns, emphasising that it's the other child's turn now but in a minute or so it will be your turn, so that they know the toy will be coming to them and they won't miss out. So taking turns works, and they learn to ask for their turn and the other child learns to give it. Note, all these things take time, especially with the baby.

It's really tempting to say, why should the older one have to share toys? But it's unrealistic when they are both close in age that this won't happen, and there will be times when the toddler wants to play with the baby's toys as well (my toddler assumes all toys are his and takes them accordingly so it's not like it's just the baby grabbing his toys, it goes both ways) It's hard enough to entertain young kids without making a whole room full of toys untouchable because they belong to the other child, and saying they are just off limits to you. So they need to learn to play nicely.

When all else fails and there is pushing and shoving, I'm a fan of the naughty corner, where the culprit sits there for a minute per year of age. When the time is up, I explain again why they were sent there and what behaviour I expect from them. They then have to hug their sibling, say I'm sorry and play resumes.
posted by Jubey at 5:19 PM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I also love Grabby and Argh. I wonder if they know my neighbor Yelly?

My sister and I are much closer in age (one year, one month and two days). We found a preternatural ability to fight about anything. ANY. THING. My dad, my uncle and the Older Siblings got to go camping in Yosemite when we were quite young and my sister and I were quite put out that we couldn't go. We even made chocolate chip cookies and we had to give the whole batch to them! What the hell!

So to pacify us, my dad presented us with two stuffed grizzly bears upon his return. One had a red collar, and the other a blue collar. We called one "Grr Grr" and the other "Brr Brr" -- I dunno, it makes sense when you're four and five.

So we played quite happily with our absolutely identical bears until one of us (probably Patty, that dreadful little girl) decided that Grr Grr with the red collar was the better bear and GODDAMN THAT WAS MY BEAR and in my memories the pitched battles are narrated solemnly by Richard Burton a la "The World at War."

So: Mom is not doing anything wrong, Argh will grow up enough to be kindly and protective towards Grabby (warning: this may not happen until after college). Grabby will also grow so she will not be easily injured by Argh. Until then, is there a way to instill in Argh that she is Grabby's special Big Girl Friend?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:21 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I taught Older to find another toy and present it to Younger when this sort of situation happened. They're two years apart. Younger usually relinquishes the toy she'd just grabbed, and starts to play with the new one. I think the key is that New Toy is coming from Older, the coolest person on the planet, and not from dorky old you. Also, I managed to get buy-in from Older by challenging him to think, "What do you think Younger might like to play with? Can you find her another car?"
posted by Liesl at 5:40 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can you appeal to Aarg's vanity? That is, you tell Aarg that she's a big girl who understands things, while Grabby is just a baby who doesn't know much yet. If Grabby knocks over Aarg's toys (or whatever), and Aarg doesn't get mad or hurt Grabby, you then praise Aarg for being such a patient, kind, mature, etc big sister ("even though Grabby is so hard to deal with since she's still so little!"). Whether this works will really depend on Aarg's personality and maturity level, but it might help in combination with some of the ideas mentioned above.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:48 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was Grabby. I remember so clearly that whatever my older sister had in her hands was the Supreme Object of Desire. She'd hand it to me and it instantly lost all its sparkle. Eventually she got tired of handing things over, and resist. I'd cry and my mom would come and punish Older Sister. Until one day she saw the whole drama play out. I think Liesl's suggestion of having Arrg hand over a different toy to Grabby is a good one. It might help for a bit.
posted by Kangaroo at 5:56 PM on October 21, 2014

I like the idea of putting Argh in the playpen with her special toys instead of Grabby. I would let her choose which toys are in the protected area. If Grabby can orbit around the playpen, I bet she will stay engaged but Argh can keep her stuff just out of reach. Hopefully, she's big enough to climb in and out whenever she needs the isolation.
posted by raisingsand at 7:50 PM on October 21, 2014

Is it possible to put Argh at a table with only one chair so that Grabby can't reach her activity? I understand Grabby will likely scream blue murder, but that is a mama problem, which is better than making Grabby Argh's problem. (I mean, I realise you are furious with Argh for physically retaliating, but I would also remind you that toddlers are basically little terrorists and are extremely provoking.)

Is it possible to work separately with Argh on 'gentle hands' perhaps with a doll?
posted by DarlingBri at 8:15 PM on October 21, 2014

We have this exact problem, with the additional consideration of safety because our Aargh now wants to play with toys small enough to fit in baby mouth, but he likes being in communal areas. We solved the problem by creating a Big Kid Zone in the living room with furniture and baby gates. Memail me an email address if you want to see photos. Our Grabby complains a bit, but it's not insurmountable. Then when Aargh complains about Grabby eating [toy] we just remind him to take it into the big kid zone. This is the option least punitive for both kids - they each get space in the same room as Mommy.

Don't leave them on the bed together, though, that's a recipe for disaster.

Also, it may help with the gentleness if you can restore a bit of peace so you aren't reacting in anger, because little people tend to imitate big people. Plus you will die of laughter when you hear Aargh saying things like "No no, sweetheart" in a perfect high pitched Grandma voice.
posted by telepanda at 8:16 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Adding: if you establish some sort of big kid zone, you then need to have a come-to-jesus talk with Aargh about hurting Grabby, because at this age she can do some damage. Explain that it's ok to be angry, and that you totally get why she's pissed, but it's not ok to hurt people. Explain that you've done [Things] to give her a place where Grabby can't get her stuff and in return you will not allow her to hurt Grabby. Walk her through the alternatives. Have her practice saying (with feeling!), "Grabby, I am MAD!" Tell her to summon an adult if Grabby needs to be physically removed. Praise her for showing self control.

This stuff all requires a metric shit-ton of repetition and role play, btw.

We've also had some success in pre-emptive diverting of white hot rage by supplying calm-down toys. For whatever reason, a little cold pack filled with gel beads has stopped a surprising number of meltdowns in their tracks. It does feel awfully good to smooth the beads around.
posted by telepanda at 8:45 PM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

The big issue is that you are wanting to leave them unsupervised. And yeah, I totally get why, otherwise nothing ever gets done and the dishes pile up. There's a reason my house is chaotic! But at that age, you really can't, not for longer than a minute or two.

This is the crux of the problem. People commenting who have never had kids in this age group should really refrain, because just remembering how they felt when they were children doesn't help here. I get why they want to--I was the youngest, I had sisters I had to share with, too-- but parents understand that the age factor is really important here.

An 11 month old who is not sleeping in her bed should not be left unsupervised, period. And leaving her with a 3.5 year-old des not count as supervision! That is more dangerous than leaving either alone, and it is unfair to blame a 3.5 year-old for acting her age. Of course you can, and should, work on teaching both children what no means and how to play together nicely, but at these ages, Argh could seriously injure Grabby without meaning to. She would feel terrible about it if that happened, but Grabby would still be hurt. Who would be at fault there--surely not Grabby, right? But do you really think Argh is to blame for acting like a toddler? You are the parent here, and it is up to you to keep them both safe.

You are very fortunate that this is only really an issue for you a few afternoons a week. Sorry, but yes, of course you need to suck it up and supervise your girls!

Get on the floor and play with them if you want, this is your excuse to have some fun yourself, even. If you have to cook, Grabby can go with you when it is feasible, and play in her high chair or in her pack-and-play, what have you, while Argh "helps" or plays nearby. Quick bathroom breaks are unavoidable, but you leaving the two of them unsupervised at this age while you do other things is a really bad practice.
posted by misha at 9:22 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

My kids are also in the middle of this, at 3.5 and 15 mos. I wear the younger one in the Ergo a lot when I'm doing things like laundry or dishes, and the big kid is doing something the baby finds appealing. If the younger one isn't being worn for some reason, I will gate off the playroom so the big kid can build elaborate pony houses without Baby Brother, Destroyer of Worlds interrupting. They also get plenty of supervised play in the same space where I actively work on, "Baby, big brother is playing with that. When he's done you can have a turn. Let's play over here," and hold him when he gets upset about it. I've also spent plenty of time telling the older one that I won't let him hurt his brother, while physically intervening. My parenting mentor calls this "being their frontal lobes."

I feel pretty strongly that it's important for each of my kids to have uninterrupted play when they can get it, and that includes not being interrupted by each other. I also feel it's important that they learn to play near each other and with each other, but I've learned the hard way that, at least right now, I have to be physically and mentally present for that.
posted by linettasky at 10:39 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wonder if some different scheduling could help here? If it's only 2-3 afternoons per week, perhaps cooking/cleaning/laundry actually doesn't need to happen during those times? Because of my work schedule, I love preparing meals ahead so that most of the components are ready to go and only need to be heated up on nights when I get home at 7pm starving. Similarly, perhaps laundry could be a "first thing in the morning" chore. Some types of cleaning could be a group effort (at least for the older child) -- I remember I had a miniature broom to "help" my mom with sweeping...although I'm sure it didn't make things cleaner, it did keep me occupied while SHE was cleaning. And, one child can come with you to the bathroom (especially the little one), or get put in a high chair/swing/playpen/etc. It might sound extreme, but if the alternative is that a baby is falling off the bed/getting dropped on her head/etc., then the supervision situation clearly needs to change. Obviously, yes, also work with your older child on non-violent responses, but ultimately you are the adult. I am assuming you are not a single parent since this wasn't mentioned in your question, so make sure your spouse is doing his part in tag teaming the supervision with you on evenings/weekends so you don't go too crazy.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:01 AM on October 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for all your suggestions. What helped most was that you made clear that At this stage I don't really have another choice except hovering or keeping them apart physically! Thinking that there was some teaching opportunity I was repeatedly missing or messing up was really frustrating and led to this mess.

So since reading your answers I haven't actually implemented any logistical solutions like playpens etc. yet. Instead, I have focussed my energy on physically stopping the grabbing/pushing, either by taking the baby away with me when she gets in the danger zone or hovering and intervening. It's added inconvenience, needless to say, but has markedly improved all our tempers which more than makes up for it.

Argh is more patient with Grabby now because she doesn't have to be patient so often. Grabby falls over by herself now about 80 percent of the time. I have stopped giving time outs and focussed on helping Argh empathise with Grabby's feelings (leading to more willing apologies by Argh.)

Interestingly, Argh has begun encroaching on Grabby's things and space more often, though.

Any way, things are more relaxed and we are happier people. Thank you!
posted by Omnomnom at 4:36 AM on November 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

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