My 3.5 year old son most of the time loves his 1 year old sister a lot. However, he can get very aggressive in playing with her, sometimes treating her more like a doll than a person. Examples include: - Sitting on her or otherwise crushing her - Pulling hard on her leg when one of us parents is holding her - Showing too much affection (kissing, hugging) than she can handle at a given time or being overly aggressive in showing affection - Throwing toys at her - Hitting her
Though these things have been more or less a problem for our daughter's entire life (except for the last two, which were pretty rare before), lately these problems have been greatly increasing in frequency (used to be at most a few times per day, now it's several times per hour). They have also been increasing in negativity. Whereas before the first three things in the list were done out of an abundance of love and an ignorance of fragility, more often now (but not all the time) these things are done with anger or frustration directed towards the baby.
Possible external stimuli for my son's actions: - Playing inside a lot more now. During the spring/early summer when outside was comfortable, the kids would play outside a lot. These problems never arose when they played outside. My kids and my son especially are very high energy and so being outside is more suited for their playing style than our small apartment. - Hot indoors. The biggest air conditioner we are able to put in to our small apartment is not big enough to handle the hottest and most humid days where we live, so inside my apartment it's usually low 80's (F) and 60% humidity, much higher than we're used to. - My baby is starting to walk and climb and so is helping herself more to playing areas my son once thought were safe from her clutches. - Related to above, my son's most common play area (our couch) is now completely accessible by our climbing baby. We have explained to him before and still explain to him that the only places completely safe from the baby are the kitchen table and his bed, but despite this he still insists on playing on the couch.
Our primary consequence for bad behavior so far has been time outs. He's been having more of those lately. Extra long time outs seem to help him behave better for a little while after the time out, otherwise the normal time outs seem to have little affect on his behavior. We've explained repeatedly that his sister is a person and is little and needs to be treated carefully, but this seems to have no effect. My wife even brainstormed a list with him recently of what our son can do with his sister but that hasn't seemed to help even when we remind him of the list.
How can we help our 3.5 year old treat his baby sister nicer, or at least more gently?