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With three young kids in the house including a baby, we can't be everywhere at once. Our two older kids are just 4 and 2, and now that their sister is crawling, they try to do things like ride her like a horse. The vast majority of time, we are there to correct this behavior. How do we make our kids understand acceptable behavior around the baby when we have our back turned or step out of the room for a moment?
The only thing I can think of is to be incredibly consistent and firm when you see the behavior with your own eyes. If you make it unpleasant when they are caught doing this type of thing, perhaps they are less likely to even consider it when you are out of the room on the off chance that you will come back any minute. Of course, explaining why behavior can hurt their sibling is important but sometimes children just can't understand reason and consequence as much as remembering that they were NOT happy the last time they were caught rough housing. Hope other people chime in too!
The playpen became my friend when I had my third child! I put the baby in there to play when I had to do chores, cook dinner, etc. This way I knew he was protected and out of harms way!
I want to support Nurse Julie's adice about being very consistent. One of the first things that you want to do is to discuss with everyone that cares for your children what you feel is unacceptable as well as acceptable behavior and then discuss how you will approach these standards with the older children and how you will reinforce them. The second thing you want to do is to always model how to gently handle and care for baby. Then teach your older children how to safely hold, give hugs/kisses, feed (if appropriate) and tuck baby into the crib. Then you want to offer tons of positive reinforcement when the kids are following these guidelines. What I skipped over that should have been dressed first though is determining if the children are old enough to be left with your eyes off that baby if they re in the same room. Your two sound pretty young to understand the degree of fragility that a baby has. Your 4 year old may be getting close to understanding some very basic things about baby, but is still not old enough to leave with baby for long. The two year old, simply isn't old enough to be left alone with the baby. As you children grow older you can readjust baby guidelines. I hope this serves as a bit of a jump start. Do keep us posted on how things are going! Take care, Jess