A 'mean streak' is common in 2-year-olds

Parent Q&A

November 14, 1999|By Dr. T. Berry Brazelton | Dr. T. Berry Brazelton,New York Times special features

Q. Our 2 1/2 -year-old son has been in a hitting and pushing stage for nine months.

We have tried every form of punishment, including time-outs, spanking, yelling and apologizing. We're at the point of isolating him from other children for fear he might hurt someone.

He has a 5-month-old sister about whom he seems ambivalent -- loving her most of the time, acting spiteful at other times. We fear he will become a bully. He is loving 90 percent of the time, hugging and kissing and saying "I love you." He just has this mean streak. What can we do?

A. I suspect that his sister's arrival and now her presence has had a lot to do with increasing his "normal" aggressive behavior.

For right now, I wouldn't leave the two of them alone together. When your daughter gets older, it will be easier.

Meanwhile, try not to add your troubled feelings to his. If you can figure out how to stop him before he blows up, you can pick him up to hug him and love him at such a time.

If you can't get to him before the blow-up, try to hold him quietly afterward. Tell him: "Every time you get out of control, I will have to stop you -- until you can learn to stop yourself."

Discipline means teaching -- not punishing -- and it doesn't work right away. With your help, he can learn to control himself over time. He wants to, as you can tell by his loving behavior and his "I love yous."

This "mean streak" is present in most 2 1/2 -year-olds and needn't last if you can help him calmly and consistently.

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