What do you do when someone you care about won't discipline their kid?

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,505
My sister lives on the same road as me, about 1/4 mile away. Her son (my nephew) is 8 years old and wild. He has no respect for authority or for the wellbeing of others. My sister's child rearing plan is pretty "hands off" if you know what I mean. She cares, and she's obviously embarrassed by his behavior; very apologetic every time he acts up. She badgers him into giving begrudging and insincere apologies any time he's done something particularly egregious, but stops short of ever actually doing anything about it. She's more of a "take your medicine and go to your room (please, honey)" type person.

I generally have a "mind your own business" policy about these types of things but it becomes my business when he physically abuses my kids and her response is to try to talk him into not doing anything like again for least a couple of hours. If it was just a family friend I would have cut ties or said exactly what was on my mind years ago. But it's my sister. It's delicate. I have been biting my tongue for years but that's been getting harder and harder to do. His behavior isn't getting better with age as she has been assuring me it will; "He's only 5 years old," "he's only 6 years old," "he's only 7 years old" ... it's just not cutting it any more and she's consulted a psychiatrist who gave her a whole new bag of excuses which she clutches very tightly. If anything, his behavior is getting worse, and he's getting bigger and able to inflict more serious damage on my girls.

I can't go on like this, pushing the anger down. I've gotten vocal with him a few times in past few months and I think she smells something brewing. I know her and I know how she will react as soon as I start to open up about it. She will get defensive and stick up for her kid. But I don't think she will expect what I have to say. I don't have a problem with her kid; I have a problem with her, and the way she's raising my nephew. I love my nephew and i don't want to see him end up in the criminal justice system, which is the direction she is leading him. As a parent, I can't think of a more offensive thing to hear someone say to me. How do you say something like that diplomatically? I've sat down to write those words several times now, and have several blank pages to show for it.

How would you handle this? Move away and just let your relationship with your sibling fizzle away to nothing? Continue to be silently resentful, killing the sibling bond slowly and painfully? Or write a letter saying exactly how you feel, when you know the repercussions will be nuclear? At least with the letter I could say I tried to salvage the relationship and I tried to reason with the only person capable of helping my poor nephew but she chose to ignore me and shun me. With the other options I would only ever feel regret that I never tried. I have to try. But how? How do you broach the subject? Seems impossible from here.
 

Papabravo

Joined Feb 24, 2006
15,453
Here is what I would do:
  1. Limit his access to your girls. When he comes to visit, they need to be someplace else
  2. No unannounced visits
  3. You can visit your sister and nephew at their house, but your girls may not
  4. Take your girls to self-defense class.
  5. Don't offer explanations until you are asked. Then state the policy in a matter of fact way.
I had the exact same problem with my business partner and his autistic son. At 16, the son had in fact become a real threat to my daughters.
 

Ian Rogers

Joined Dec 12, 2012
836
The reason the kid is "off the rails" is because there is no interaction at home.... Slowly interact more and more with your nephew gain his trust and you will soon see his behaviour around you will be a lot better...

My grand niece ( now 7 ) was doing the same... Her mother ( my niece ) hasn't given the little girl tuppence worth of time.. My son now sits and talks with her as she was bullying his son... What a change... Will do anything my son says now....

They feel rejected so the behaviour shown is natural...
 

Reloadron

Joined Jan 15, 2015
5,875
Generally I avoid this sort of stuff like a plague and child psychology was never a forte of mine. I figure Dr. Benjamin Spock lived about 94 years too long and never subscribed to any of his theories. Just my opinion.

I would not be writing a letter to my sister and would be confronting her with the situation. This is one of those damned if you do and damned if you don't type things as you try to avoid a rift in the family. How does the kid fare in school, is he a disciplinary problem? How are his social skills with his peer groups? You can't be walking on eggs but you also can't ignore what is growing in front of you.

I have to try. But how? How do you broach the subject? Seems impossible from here.
You broach it gently with some authority but gently. You make no mention of a father figure so I assume there is no father figure in the kid's life? That would place all the child rearing responsibility on your sister. Single mothers tend to be more lenient when punishment needs meted out. Any admission their child has problems they see as going back to them so yeah, they become very defensive. I would approach your sister gently and discuss the problems you see always keeping in mind this is your sister. Show concern for her views but be firm on your views. You really don't want to create a family rift as they get ugly and seldom end well.

Now if I were really good at this stuff I would have done it to put beanies and weenies on the table so all you get is my totally unprofessional view. The kid is 8 years old so there is some time for things to change, some kids do and some don't.

Ron
 

DickCappels

Joined Aug 21, 2008
7,147
A friend of mine had a similar problem with his grandson, whom he did not really know because he lived far from from the boy and his mother. The boy was in his early teens and much as you describe your nephew. My friend mentioned this lack of discipline to his daughter on a visit to their country and his daughter asked that he correct the boy the next time he stepped out of line. At a family reunion the kid was monkeying with a piece of equipment he had no business monkeying with and was told to stop it. When he continued my friend stepped up an flicked the kid's ear with his finger. The kid was in shock and did not repeat the behavior during the rest of my friend's visit.

After returning home he found his daughter to be very incommunicative. When they finally made contact he found out that he was a bad guy in the eyes of his daughter and the boy for disciplining the kid. Things between his daughter and him were never "ok" and he will be remembered as "mean old grandpa".
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
12,673
If you're the only adult present and observe bad behavior, I'd discipline them (verbally) and not bother worrying about what the parent(s) might say.

I had a situation where a child was terrorizing several other children, who were older and unwilling to discipline him. I saw it and spoke to the child and explained that what he was doing wasn't acceptable. Turns out he was wanting someone who cared enough to talk to him about his behavior and he started following me around like a little puppy. Whenever he lost track of me, he'd ask some other adult where I was.
 

Papabravo

Joined Feb 24, 2006
15,453
The reason the kid is "off the rails" is because there is no interaction at home.... Slowly interact more and more with your nephew gain his trust and you will soon see his behaviour around you will be a lot better...

My grand niece ( now 7 ) was doing the same... Her mother ( my niece ) hasn't given the little girl tuppence worth of time.. My son now sits and talks with her as she was bullying his son... What a change... Will do anything my son says now....

They feel rejected so the behaviour shown is natural...
Tried this with my granddaughters for their entire lives only to be dismissed as irrelevant. I look at that as their problem -- not mine
 

justtrying

Joined Mar 9, 2011
432
As already said by few, thr origin is usually home environment. I have a cousin with 2 kids. I seldom see them. In her presence they are a nightmare to deal with. Everyone screams at each other, they all fight. When she is gone, the kids are great. They play by themselves, the dynamic is totally different. So what is missing in the boy's life that makes him act out?

As you are responsible to your daughters, you need to make sure he behaves respectfully when he is around them. If the parent does nothing, then you should correct that behaviour for the sake of your daughters. I fully believe that is your parental responsibility.

As far as talking to your sister, people do not take those kinds of discussions kindly and it will likely do more harm than good.
 

killivolt

Joined Jan 10, 2010
796
Writing a letter will definitely make you feel better, but sending it won't. I worked at a Youth Correction Facility, Graduated the Academy missing only 1 question on the Test, I understand Deviant behavior. My wife has been working in a Childcare Facility since 1976. What has the psychiatrist said? is his attacks sporadic? Chances are he is mentally incapable of controlling his temper or feelings. If he is able to grow out of it, it's a cousin thing, example: we are a mixed family different culture, hispanic and white. In their culture the boys are ruff and tumble not knowing some boundaries, but when all the cousins are together if one boy is out of line the rest of the girls and boys will protect each other, a strong show of socially un-acceptable, young boys learn eventually this is not the way to behave, often times it gets out of control because they're the only one having any fun at that age, they just want to continue high energy games.

Your situation is not like that, he sounds like a little bully but, you can't stop the behavior unless you have taken the time to build a relationship with him, so my wife said it doesn't take more than an hour at a time, take one of your girls and him at a time then switch, go to the hardware store if they have work shops for children, get an Ice cream cone, get those kits and build circuits, fishing, hikes, if you have animals have him feed them etc. you get the picture. Now you have a working relationship with him taking an interest in him allows you to talk with him when he can't control his behavior for what ever reason, then he risks being able to be part of the group and will have to correct it or not participate.

Mainly it's time spent, time that is worth it in the end. Since he's only 1/4 mile down the road should be much easier to plan things, your sister also needs time away from his behavior once in a while, he needs to learn to take responsibility for his actions, he might be able to see his own disfunction when he learns that is the reason people don't want to be around him when he acts out. He's a little old for this but within reason, any older like Teenager is a whole different thing.

kv
 
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djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
7,549
I haven’t faced this situation, but through my hobbies have had a lot of experience dealing with “obstinate” children from 5-7 year olds through High School.

Interaction is the key. You don’t have to be a disciliparian, but honestly and direct the child about his behavior. I’ve found that by not being a “meanie” but by letting the child know they’re behavior is unacceptable and that you’re aware of it and expect differently (be very specific in this last), respect builds. And, in my experience the child behaved appropriately in my presence. As part of acknowledging their behavior, you can affirm their internal beliefs while suggesting alternative actions.

It doesn’t always work. But it worked for me more often than not. I have had success in some extreme cases.

Good luck
 

spinnaker

Joined Oct 29, 2009
7,835
Sounds like it is LONG past time for a good old fashioned crack on the butt from the mom. Of course that is not for you to say. The "try to talk him into not doing anything like again" speaks volumes.

You did not mention a father. Is the father in the picture? If not, (and I realize how difficult this is considering the history) perhaps you can act as a father surrogate? Every boy needs a father figure in his life. Some women can do an unbelievable job at raising boys alone but few women have the strength and talent to raise a boy alone.

But whatever you do, under no circumstances is he to be alone with your daughter. That is going to be a difficult task considering the proximity. You daughter needs to be fully concerned of her safetyt regading the boy.
 

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,505
The father is in the picture. He works a lot but he lives in the home and is home every night. He is a good role model and I can tell that if left to his own devices, would set more boundaries and be more firm. I can tell that he doesn't agree with my sister's methods but she is protective and enabling of his behavior and this disagreement is probably a problem in their marriage.

His behavior does improve when he is not around his mother. When he comes down to my house alone he is a different kid. Or at least he used to be. When we first moved in and he would come down here, it was night and day difference. He would be respectful and well behaved at my house, until his mother would show up and then he would turn into a demon. Now that he's more comfortable around us and figured out that, as his uncle and not his parent, I can't punish him, the difference brought on by his mother's absence is less pronounced. But he still is noticeably better when she's not around.

I have written a lengthy letter to her. It did make me feel better to write it. I have not sent it and I'm not sure if I'm going to. I sent it to my father to get his input. He is aware of the problem. He said I was too critical and it wouldn't be well received as it came off like a personal attack. I trust his judgment so I will not send it, at least not in its present form. Maybe with the sharp edges filed off...
 

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,505
What has the psychiatrist said? is his attacks sporadic? Chances are he is mentally incapable of controlling his temper or feelings.
Psychiatrist says he has low self esteem, ADHD, depression, et. al. Says he needs to be on medication. Says traditional discipline (esp. spanking) will only make things worse. Basically everything she wanted to hear.
 

Reloadron

Joined Jan 15, 2015
5,875
Since he has a father and he has a mother the only message I would be sending the kid is his crap would not fly in my house. My house, my rules. What he does beyond the bounds of your property I would not concern myself with. He is his parents problem and not yours. He only becomes your problem if and when he interferes with your family such as your daughters. While writing your sister a letter may serve to make you feel better it will likely only serve to create a riff which I doubt you really want. I would like to think if one of my siblings had an issue with myself or years ago one of my children they would have confronted me face to face. A letter seems peculiar among siblings. Your sisters child and your sister's problem. Don't let this bother you and you are obviously upset.

Ron
 

killivolt

Joined Jan 10, 2010
796
Psychiatrist says he has low self esteem, ADHD, depression, et. al. Says he needs to be on medication. Says traditional discipline (esp. spanking) will only make things worse. Basically everything she wanted to hear.
Makes sense.

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is a medical condition. A person with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control.
I would have been diagnose with both of these, attention deficit, hyperactivity. However, I didn't display low self esteem, I would look into diet and exercise. To much eat out not enough veggies or enough whole foods through out the day, not sugar coated, die infused, soft drinks etc. Also a look into food allergies or allergies in general, I'm allergic to Mold and Pet Dander.

Strong spikes of simple sugar or processed sugar, honey bonafide honey which some of the commercially produced honey, is infused with Highly Modified corn syrup, which might be even worse, but Pure Honey is a complex sugar, lasts much longer providing necessary energy without throwing the body into increase insulin production. Low blood sugar or even Hypoglycemia can also explain some depressive mood disorders.

My Father was the belt type prone to violence to resolve my behavior issues, however it made me violent. Children don't understand at a young age, most men don't fully develop until age 25 to 30, all depending on their level of Maturity. ADHD has always been around, they just gave it a name, depression existed across all cultures, self esteem is all together different. Overall Health and Exercise will aid in brain development and self esteem, might even help with the depression.

kv

Edit: I think taking medication is the quick fix, but she might want that, which in my humble opinion will not be the quick fix, "Practicing" Physiologist turn to drugs to quickly, often much of it is our exposure to the wrong diet and not enough exercise.
 
Last edited:

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
26,398
My sister lives on the same road as me, about 1/4 mile away. Her son (my nephew) is 8 years old and wild. He has no respect for authority or for the wellbeing of others. My sister's child rearing plan is pretty "hands off" if you know what I mean. She cares, and she's obviously embarrassed by his behavior; very apologetic every time he acts up. She badgers him into giving begrudging and insincere apologies any time he's done something particularly egregious, but stops short of ever actually doing anything about it. She's more of a "take your medicine and go to your room (please, honey)" type person.

I generally have a "mind your own business" policy about these types of things but it becomes my business when he physically abuses my kids and her response is to try to talk him into not doing anything like again for least a couple of hours. If it was just a family friend I would have cut ties or said exactly what was on my mind years ago. But it's my sister. It's delicate. I have been biting my tongue for years but that's been getting harder and harder to do. His behavior isn't getting better with age as she has been assuring me it will; "He's only 5 years old," "he's only 6 years old," "he's only 7 years old" ... it's just not cutting it any more and she's consulted a psychiatrist who gave her a whole new bag of excuses which she clutches very tightly. If anything, his behavior is getting worse, and he's getting bigger and able to inflict more serious damage on my girls.

I can't go on like this, pushing the anger down. I've gotten vocal with him a few times in past few months and I think she smells something brewing. I know her and I know how she will react as soon as I start to open up about it. She will get defensive and stick up for her kid. But I don't think she will expect what I have to say. I don't have a problem with her kid; I have a problem with her, and the way she's raising my nephew. I love my nephew and i don't want to see him end up in the criminal justice system, which is the direction she is leading him. As a parent, I can't think of a more offensive thing to hear someone say to me. How do you say something like that diplomatically? I've sat down to write those words several times now, and have several blank pages to show for it.

How would you handle this? Move away and just let your relationship with your sibling fizzle away to nothing? Continue to be silently resentful, killing the sibling bond slowly and painfully? Or write a letter saying exactly how you feel, when you know the repercussions will be nuclear? At least with the letter I could say I tried to salvage the relationship and I tried to reason with the only person capable of helping my poor nephew but she chose to ignore me and shun me. With the other options I would only ever feel regret that I never tried. I have to try. But how? How do you broach the subject? Seems impossible from here.
I'm not going to get into guessing what the root problem is -- some kids simply can't be controlled no matter how the parents try and other kids only need a little bit of firm parenting to become dream kids. So I won't even attempt to go there.

YOU have a primary responsibility to YOUR daughters. That trumps any relationship you have or want to have with your sister or nephew. If it were me, I would tell my sister (although it sounds like perhaps telling your brother-in-law first might be a better option) exactly that. Something like, "Sis, I love you and I love your son, but your son's behavior has gotten beyond the point where he represents a threat to my daughters that, as their father, I cannot tolerate or allow to continue. You may feel that it is acceptable for him to treat his cousins this way, but NO ONE treats my daughters like this. Therefore, he is not welcome to be in their presence until such time that he has convinced me that he can behave properly at ALL times. If we have to, we will move away from here in order to enforce it. I know that's not what you want to hear, but that's the way it is and those are the ground rules for our relationship going forward. If that means that we can't have a relationship, then that would be a shame; but it is a consequence that, as a responsible parent to my daughters, I am willing to accept."
 

spinnaker

Joined Oct 29, 2009
7,835
Psychiatrist says he has low self esteem, ADHD, depression, et. al. Says he needs to be on medication. Says traditional discipline (esp. spanking) will only make things worse. Basically everything she wanted to hear.

That solves the problem. But them on drugs. Then look what it gets you.
 

Glenn Holland

Joined Dec 26, 2014
705
The kid's just another spoiled brat bully and he will get his dues some day.

The "Touch A Hot Stove" experience will fix his behavior in a jiffy. However it's going to be like matter meeting with antimatter: Some stranger with uncontrollable temper (and a steaming hatred for people who don't bother to control their bratty kids) will fly off the handle and bop him big time.

This kid needs to get a reality check before he graduates into bullying other kids in school ............. and another student with a loaded gun gives him a dose of street justice. The schools in low income neighborhoods are already a breeding ground for "Tit for Tat" violent reprisals and if you Google the phrase "School shootings" you will get over a million results of the possible outcome of this particular case.

In fact, the public schools (and a lot of workplaces) are already turning into the "Wild West" and there's the risk that some one is "packing heat". There's an old saying "An armed society is a polite society" so people need be extra cautious ........... and very courteous. o_O

Also see my post about "What Pushes Your Rage Button".
 
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tranzz4md

Joined Apr 10, 2015
310
Like Glenn H I used to feel that "somebody will give them a sharp, hard adjustment" but you can't count on that at all. I think you could have a straightforward talk with the kid and leave him realizing that you won't tolerate it, and it'll cost him with others too. I'd say you DO need to talk to your sister. No mincing of words. Think out your summary of the immediate problems, the bigger picture, and her responsibility. If she reacts or defends her handling of him, don't attempt to tell her "the right way". If its very clear that she was raised differently and is somehow acting out some overcompensation, you might deal with that at another time. Of course you know that any remedy/correction will be a fairly drawn-out process, as prescious time has passed.
 
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