“She is not a doll, stop it! Stop hurting your sister!”

After a vent on social media I realized that a lot of moms also struggle to keep their older kids from playing rough with their babies.

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Image: Instagram @carolofori

I find myself repeatedly saying, “She is not a doll, stop it!”, “Stop hurting your sister”, “Would you like it if I did that to you?”, “Stop it already, enough!”, “Not so rough –  she is only a baby!” over and over again to my 5-year-old son. Then, I decided to have a little vent on social media and tweeted about my experience and realized this is an “older sibling” thing and that so many other moms were experiencing the same thing. One mom tweeted me back saying that her 5-year-old “torments” her twin baby girls and it drives her crazy. Then a light went off and I realized that I certainly am not alone. I will say, through this journey called parenting, most, if not all the things I have gone through other moms have tackled over and over.

ALSO SEE: Dealing with sibling rivalry

In my case, my son gets super excited around his baby sister, who is 6-months-old, and loves playing with her – which, to be honest warms my heart. I have realized, however, that all play with this little guy and his baby sister has to be supervised. I noticed that he is totally enthralled with how tiny and cute she is and, at times, it gives me the impression he thinks she’s just a little doll that can be prodded, poked and even sometimes pushed over, just to see what her reaction will be.

I do have to take ownership in some regard to this because I have a tendency of picking up my daughter and bringing her face really close to mine while I shout her name and make little enduring sounds. I do this often with her and I’m captivated by her laugh and smile in the moment. I didn’t realise that my son has been watching me all this time and waiting for the perfect moment to recreate this intimate moment I have with my daughter. THAT day soon arrived.

One day while my son and I were watching TV downstairs, I glanced over at the baby monitor and noticed my daughter had woken from her morning nap. I remarked “Oh sweet the baby is awake” and walked over to the kitchen to drop my glass in the sink in preparation to attend to the baby. Like lightening I heard my son’s voice magnified through the monitor shouting “Hello Serwie Serwie Serwie, hello, hellooooo, hello Serwie Serwie Serwie!” I looked on the monitor and found he had jumped on the bed and was yelling this in her face. This little guy had heard me say that the baby was awake and as I took a left for the kitchen, he took a right and ran straight up the stairs to where the baby was asleep.

I ran up the stairs and asked him not to do that again, even though I had actually shown him that through my own actions. It really is so true, children’s actions are a mirror of your own and that situation made this ring so true. He now has this thing that he does where he brings his forehead close to the baby’s, and often bumps it, while shouting her name out loud. At times she laughs and other times she cries. He also has a thing for pushing her over while she is sitting on the bed and the way her helpless body lands on the bed makes him laugh. We have reprimanded him so many times and every now and then he does it – just to see how she lands.

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I do realise this is part of growing up and I’m certain I did the same things to my little sister. My sister and I have the same age gap and I recall as a child getting a hiding or two because I “hurt my sister”. I know for sure all he does is not with malice – but more with curiosity and adventure. This is echoed by seeing other children under five come visit and they too poke her, tug on her tiny hand and have even pushed my poor baby over.

Kids are really cute when they play with smaller children but they must always be supervised and if the friendly play results in tears, it’s important to correct the behaviour in the moment. With such a situation – “Do as I say and not as I do” certainly doesn’t apply.

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