How do you keep a 6 year old from constantly harassing his toddler sister? My son gets in more trouble for not being able to keep his hands off his sister than anything else, hands down. He is ALWAYS trying to pick her up, hold her, carry her places, and she gets so angry at being treated like a doll. I've patiently explained, I've yelled, I've punished, I've patiently explained some more, and he Just. Does. Not. Get it. I get that he adores her and I am so grateful for that, but he's a kid that thrives on constant touch - and he can't comprehend that she does not.
I am a big, huge fan of kids understanding that their body is their body and no one is allowed to touch it without their permission. I truly believe that teaching children that they are in charge of their bodies will help them avoid being victimized. So I love that you are working to help your son understand that he’s not just allowed to be all grabby on his sister, even if it’s “good” touch. I also love how tuned in you are with your kids’ different personalities - knowing, for instance, that he thrives on touch and she does not.
Now, even though your little man loves physical affection, I’ll bet there is some way he doesn’t like to be touched. Perhaps he’s not a fan of tickling, or he doesn’t like pressure on his feet. Maybe he dislikes belly button raspberries. I bet you can think of something, and that’s your first step here. Try to figure out where or how he does not like to be touched.
Then, at a nice relaxed time, not when you’re angry at him for squeezing the daylights out of her yet again, bring it up casually to him. “You know how you don’t like it when I rub your nose/ tickle your ear/ push your belly? Well, your little sister feels the same way about you picking her up/carrying her around/grabbing her. I know that you just love her to pieces, and that you want to show her how much you love her by snuggling her all up, but that’s not the way she wants to be loved. I’m going to talk to your sister and tell her that when she is feeling uncomfortable with you touching her, she is allowed to say “STOP” and “NO”, and I really want you to respect that. Just like I respect when you tell me to stop playing with your hair/ tickling your armpit/ poking your ribs.”
Now, of course, this is kind of contingent on your daughter’s age and ability to vocalize the whole STOP and NO thing. Work with her on that, if she’s not quite there yet. In fact, perhaps there can be a warning when she’s starting to feel smothered, instead of leaping straight to the STOP/NO. Yes, I am advocating a safe word for your toddler. It can be something completely silly and, thus, totally distracting. Make up a word.
During your talk with your son, you may want to set up some consequences. I’m an advocate of natural consequences, and the natural consequence of this seems to be that his sister will not want to be near him after long. You can certainly facilitate that by saying “If you can’t stop touching your sister, then I will bring you someplace else until you are feeling calmer about it.”
I think the key here is talking with your son outside of heat of the moment and doing it frequently, Impulse control is sketchy at 6, and he will forget again, without a constant reminder. The upside, though, is that I’m sure this is a phase that he will grow out of. In another couple years, you’ll be hearing “Mooooom, get her AWAY from me.”