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4 year old becoming aggressive and bedwetting + new baby

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I know baby jealousy tends to set in around 3 months, but perhaps we were all just too enamoured with him to notice behavioral issues spiraling downward. Lately DS age 4 has taken to fighting. A normal thing for a boy yes and some of his reasonings are quite hysterical. Case and point ... I took a plastic sword from him and told him that toys go in time out when we use them as weapons (standard phrase in our home) to which he huffed and said "But MOM it IS a weapon!"

However, as of late I've caught him sucker punching his sister and even urinating in places other than the potty just "because I had to pee". Instead of going up to the bathroom he will find a spot to hide just to urinate on the wall. I seriously need to invest in a better carpet shampooer and get one for my stair way now too. We assume it has to do with baby jealousy.

He IS the middle child and with 7 year old DD being is the word we are using for her today? ... Noticeable, on a good day I know we have to fight the tendency to put him on a back burner. So I *think* this is what may be going on.

However, DD (age 7) has suddenly started to wet the bed. She's been bed trained since age 4 and never had an accident since. The first time I asked if she had a dream where she had to go potty (a common occurence for me at her age but I did not bed train until 8 years old). She did not remember dreaming at all. This is the second time this week she has wet the bed and now I'm starting to wonder if there is something more we can be doing. It seems this past week she is also whining more (if that's even a possibility).

The baby is 6 months old. Other than his addition to our lives and starting her in a brick and mortar school last year, our lives have been pretty stable next to past years.


Dear B,
I suspect you're right. A new baby is still new enough not to be much of a threat, but by the time he's six months old and obviously not leaving, older sibs often start acting out. (Many kids, as you point out, begin acting out when the baby is three months old.)

But of course these things are always confounded by developmental issues. DS is 4. Most 4 year old boys are feeling their testosterone. They need opportunities to wrestle, play superhero, etc. Not surprising that they can't resist using a plastic sword as a weapon. Or even that they want to mark their territory by urinating, LOL. And, of course, that they punch their sibs, although that obviously needs to be IMMEDIATELY confronted. I would do four things with DS:

1. Shower him with unrequested love, appreciation and attention.

2. In no uncertain terms set the limit that we NEVER hurt others.

3. Give him lots of outlets for all his aggressive energy. In other words, redirect it, rather than trying to get rid of it (or it will just go underground.) So, for instance, what is he supposed to do with a sword? Can he swordfight with his sister, or does he get too carried away and want to fight to the death? Can he use it to chop weeds in the yard? Can you help him make a cardboard "bad guy" so he can use the sword to protect his siblings from the cardboard bad guy? (When you say he can't use the sword as a weapon, I am assuming you really mean "We don't ever hurt people.") Can you make him a superhero cape so he can astound you with his courage and ability to leap tall buildings with a single bound?

4. Break his habit of urinating in the wrong places by giving him a small positive reward -- like a sticker or a jelly bean -- EVERY time he pees in the potty. He will want to save up all his pee for the toilet (more stickers!), so he'll resist peeing elsewhere, without you having to punish him. You won't have to do this for long, just a week or two until he breaks his bad habit.

As for DD, I assume you know that giving attention BEFORE the child needs it is the best way to avoid whining. (If you've ever asked your man if he loves you, you'll know what I mean. It just doesn't mean as much if you have to solicit it.) I realize that you have three kids, so the only way I know to make each feel attended to (in addition to being Supermom, which is really the only way to mother three kids) is to schedule daily time with each child that they can look forward to and depend on. So if DD knows that when the baby naps, DS also has a short rest time when she has you to herself, that might give her a lifeline. (And of course, during the baby's other nap, DS gets some time with you.)

If the extra attention doesn't curb DD's bedwetting, it might be that she is also in a developmental phase. Specifically, as kids get older -- usually around age 5, but sometimes as late as age 7 -- they sleep more deeply. The good part of that is that they usually sleep through the night without fail. The bad part is that they often begin wetting the bed again, until they train themselves to wake up to pee if necessary. The obvious first step is to curtail fluids in the hour before bed and pee "one last time" before lights out. But many parents report success using a bedwetting alarm. I confess I have not examined these lately and I am not endorsing this one in particular, but here's a url to give you an example of what I'm talking about:

The good thing about these alarms is that they work, fairly quickly, and the child stays in charge of the process, so there's no power struggle. Of course, you may want to set up a small reward chart for DD to stay dry at night, especially so she's not jealous of her brother's. As I'm sure you know, never scold about bedwetting, just be totally matter of fact and say "Soon you'll stay dry all night again. You're already doing better than I did when I was your age."

Good luck, Supermom!
Dr. Laura

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