These last few weeks have seen our four year old Herbie’s behaviour become more and more challenging in relation to his baby brother Gus.
He will not stop deliberately hurting him, with acts of frustration such as pinching feet, hitting him on the head, ‘accidentally’ kicking him and crushing his hand.
We’ve been at our wits end telling him off and asking him not to do it, but still he continues.
So we sat down and tried to put ourselves in his shoes. His world has abruptly and completely changed, from having our sole attention to sharing it with a crying baby whose needs must be met immediately. He is constantly being told, ‘Just wait a minute while I sort Gus out,’ or being sent off to his grandparents to spend one on one time with them – which he loves -but also sees it as an opportunity for his brother to get us all to himself, something he no longer benefits from.
Things culminated this weekend in an absolute meltdown, not helped by days of being snowbound and bed bound with a stomach bug.
He opened up to us and told us that he loved Gus very much but sometimes wished he hadn’t been born as he missed all the things he used to do on his own with us. We realised how much he is mourning those past times and how angry he is feeling with Gus as a result.
It’s been particularly hard for him to spend time with me as I’m still feeding Gus, and up until now, have not had much opportunity to leave him with anyone else.
He was inconsolable for some hours, I was upset and so was my husband Rich. We felt his pain but could not help him manage his feelings.
So I sat with him that night until he fell asleep, told him that he could scream and shout as much as he wanted, and promised him some time with just him and me regularly, starting next week.
It’s hard for us as adults to understand the logic of bad behaviour in our children sometimes, because we are judging them by grown-up parameters.
But I have realised he is just trying to deal with a melting pot of new feelings, without knowing how best to ask for help.
So hopefully by allowing him to be his worst self, he can start to let go of all those difficult feelings, and the beautiful, kind soul he is will be reassured as a result.