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I am a single mother of 2 boys. My 5-year-old is very combative to my non-verbal 2-year-old. Earlier today he said he "hated" his brother. He is constantly mean to my baby! Just right after I got to work tonight I got a text from my mom saying that my son bit his younger sibling really badly because of a toy. This has happened before multiple times.

I've tried everything, talking to him, spanking - nothing works (as spanking doesn't work, I don't spank anymore). My 5-year-old was recently diagnosed with ADHD and is being medicated, but I feel like the medication isn't for him!

I need some kind of relief and advice how to approach his all over behavior. I'm stressed out and flat out worried about both of my children.

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In one part of your description, you said

he is constantly mean to my baby!

This may be reflective of something that is part of the issue. Remember that until a couple of years ago, the one who is now 5 was your baby. He has lost that position, at the very least in his mind.

Sometimes dealing with a younger sibling entering the picture can leave big brother/sister feeling as if they have lost a place in the parent's heart- and think of how difficult that would be to deal with, even as an adult. Yes, clear boundaries must be set so that he knows this behavior won't be tolerated, and the behavior needs to have consequences. Often, time outs or loss of a privilege or favorite toy are more effective in these cases than spanking, and certainly more effective than just verbal scolding.

But aside from that, here are a few things you might want to try.

  • Look for times that he is acting nice, and make sure he gets a significant "attaboy" (at very least verbal praise-- "thank you for acting so sweet. Mommy is so proud of you!") for those times you can catch him in the desired behavior.

  • Try developing a few activities that are just for you and him. I know it's hard as a single mom, but so important that he gets some individual positive attention from you. Maybe during baby's nap or after he has gone to bed, let big brother stay up an extra 20 minutes each night and have some special story time or a special big-boy snack that you prepare together. Really anything that can be an activity for just the two of you, especially if it's something the younger one isn't yet "big enough" to do. This can have the added benefit of starting him on seeing the benefits of being older.

  • On activities that you need to do together with both kids, make the older child your special helper. Give him a few simple responsibilities and make sure to let him know how much help it is when he does xyz task that you have given him.

  • Make sure and give him time/space to talk to you about his feelings without condemning him for it. It's okay to redirect, but don't scold him for how he feels. What I mean by redirect is to get him talking about how he feels about not getting the attention he wants, rather than focusing on being angry at baby brother - that kind of thing. But the main thing is to let him feel that you understand where he's coming from, not that you're angry with him for feeling that way.

Once he is feeling like he is still the apple of your eye, and that he is being heard, over time chances are his feelings about his brother will evolve into more positive ones. And there's a great article from "Psychology Today" about this.

As for the ADHD dx and medications - I strongly recommend talking to the doctor that diagnosed him about you not wanting him on meds, and if there's a different way to approach his treatment. If his doctor is unwilling to consider other options, it would be worth getting at least a second opinion. You are your child's advocate in these things and if you don't feel the treatment plan is the best one for your child then you should absolutely speak up. Sometimes our instincts about these things as parents can be off base, but most of the time we know when something like that doesn't seem right for our child. And when we are off base, our doctor or other health professionals should be willing to explain things further in a way to help us understand why they are recommending a particular treatment protocol.

Anyway, I hope this is all helpful.

  • This is a great answer. – MAA Jan 23 '18 at 21:26
  • To add to the fourth bullet: get him to see that he "hates" how people let his little brother do things he can't; or he "hates" how people are always saying the little brother is cute and ignoring him; or he's frustrated when he cries all the time or prevents you from taking them places. You don't need to get him to say he loves his little brother, or even likes him, but he needs to see he doesn't actually hate his brother, that it's other people's (or life's) unfairness he hates. – Ossum's Mom Jan 26 '18 at 18:06
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This seems like two problems creating one bigger problem.

It is normal for siblings to not get along, the older ones don't like the younger ones because they get more attention or are still allowed things they themselves are no longer allowed. While the younger ones hate the older siblings,because they can have already things the younger still doesn't get, as well as the older can take privileges against the younger simply by being stronger. That is not unusual, in fact it is so common, it is already a cliche.

The problem seems to me the fact that the older one has ADHD. Some neighbours in my childhood had a Kid with ADHD. And he permanently overdid it. HE had no feeling for when something was fun or serious, he could be very aggressive and seemed to lack empathy (the understanding of how others might feel). It was not that bad for me, since I was about 5 years older than him and could easily deal with him, but if I imagine him with younger kids, I can easily see how that could get very dangerous.

As a result, I wouldn't focus that much of them not liking each other that much, just be careful, that non of your kids may be left out. Instead you should definitely work on the ADHD treatment, if you don't like the medication, talk with a doctor about it, but don't just not give it.

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