Last week my husband was working up in the mountains again. He took (almost) half the family with him: Thing 1 and Black Dog. I stayed at home with Thing 2, Red Dog and Smelly Cat. It was blissfully quiet here. I didn't cook and whatever I cleaned, stayed CLEAN. It was actually quite magical.
When I drove up to meet them three days later, I discovered a wild-eyed and filthy Thing 1 hiding and leaping amongst the rocks on the mountainside. His hair was straw-like. He was covered from head to toe with dirt. He looked at me like he didn't recognize me with big, round eyes and his mouth forming a tiny O. I feared that three days alone with Dad on the mountain had made him feral. Like Wolf-Boy or that white captive woman from Dances With Wolves.
At home, three days passed and Thing 1 was still acting like a coyote. He was lashing out at Thing 2. Poor Thing 2 had spent as much time face down on the floor as the pledges during a fraternity hazing week. I talked with a friend who has older brothers and asked how it was for him growing up and he responded "My brothers tortured me whenever my parents weren't looking". Gah! I'm not okay with that.
I was getting really concerned and feeling helpless so I called the pediatrician to ask for advice on how to deal with the jealousy induced physical harm that my 4 year old was inflicting on my 15 month old. I know that there are lots of techniques that brilliant professionals have researched. I also know that I am ignorant about most of them. I could tell you where to put your couch in your living room and I can inform you about the color wheel, but I am fairly clueless when it comes to kids. I realize this fact. Acceptance is one of the stages of.... something, right?
The conversation went something like this (except I am a bad listener and don't remember details very well):
Me: Thing 1 is getting really aggressive with his little brother. Every time we turn our back for a moment, Thing 2 is on the floor crying and Thing 1 is standing over him looking shocked. It is concerning me. He is being deliberate and stealth about it. It is actually creeping me out.
Dr.: Speaking more as a parent, and less as a doctor I wouldn't be that concerned. It doesn't seem like he is really causing him harm.
Me: Uh? He pushed his brother's head into the floor, causing bleeding from his nose and his mouth.
Me: I know that there are many different approaches from child psychologists, from taking all the toys away to making them try and empathize with a baby. When this was happening before I was using a reward system of fruit snacks for good behavior and taking away a toy and putting it in time out for bad behavior. Is that okay or should I try something more drastic?
Dr.: I think he is too young to properly empathize and taking away all of his toys is too extreme. I think what you are doing is fine. Make sure he goes into time out as well.
Me: Oh he does. He spends approximately half his day there lately. I have watched the Super Nanny and am very familiar with the workings of Time Out. He is motivated by treats and toys, and seems to respond okay to that, I just wanted to double check and see if there was a better method.
Me: Wow, I just realized that I am bribing my child with materialistic goods and sugar and I am using parenting techniques that I learned from reality TV. I'm an awesome mom.
Dr.: *laughs* If it works, then it is fine.
Me: *Thinking I picked the best pediatrician EVER.* Okay thanks!
I'll let you all know how it goes. Until then, I am going to hang and "Home Sweet Home" sign and tie balloons and streamers into his time out corner.
If you all have any advice here, I would be interested in reading it.....