Bailey1's picture

Conflict with Uncle and Aunt over discipline

Someone please help me with this issue! My husband and I have been very close to my brother and sister in law for many years. They have a 2 year old and we have a 2.5 year old. Recently, my brother brought up a concern with us that our son has been displaying aggressive, seemingly malicious behavior towards their son. He and his wife stated that they have seen it "hundreds of times" and that it's been going on for "many months". My husband and I were dumbfounded. At most, we've seen a little roughhousing that we considered normal, but when we saw it go too far, we corrected our son's behavior. My brother stated that they "didn't feel like they could discipline" our son. They are very angry at us, but we feel like we are the ones that have the right to be angry. Isn't it the responsibility of the adult who is supervising children to step in and handle discipline issues. We accepted responsibility for not being aware of the behavior and even apologized to them. However; we feel they were irresponsible in two ways: they saw an inappropriate behavior out of a child (their nephew!) and didn't do anything about it. Then they let it continue for months and saw it "hundreds of times" but NEVER said a word to us. I have been full of anxiety and emotional distress over this thinking I'M the bad parent, when I believe they have been negligent to both children and to us. Do we have a right to be angry? Has anyone had a similar conflict? Someone please help me make some sense out of this. I need unbiased opinions. My brother has stated he wants to boys to "take a break" from each other for awhile, but my husband and I are so angry and feel we can't trust them and are feeling like we can't even have a relationship with them now.

pokey's picture

You said your brother stated that they "didn't feel like they could discipline" your son. Is that because you and your brother never discussed and came to any agreement about disciplining each other's child when the child's parents are not present?

Because if you haven't, maybe he had a point in not doing so, because what often happens is that other parents resent someone else reprimanding their child, or they don't agree with the method of discipline.

Your brother's anger is probably actually the stress and distress he is feeling over this. Most likely he is feeling torn over his loyalties to his wife and child one one side, and you, his own sister, who he has always been close with on the other side.

If you have always been close, talk it out. Forgive each other. Yes, your brother should have told you before the misbehaviors happened "hundreds of times", but maybe he kept hoping it was just a passing phase and he didn't want to have to give you unpleasant words about your son. Parenting is a learning process--We can't predict and know how to handle everything ahead of time when it comes to our children. I think you and your brother both are probably good, caring parents and people, that's why you are both feeling so upset.

When you have a talk, discuss each other's expectations for your kids' behavior, and the consequences for misbehaviors. Come to an agreement that the other has permission to discipline the other's child when left in the other's care. Or if not comfortable with that, agree to stay and supervise your child so you can discpline any misbehavior yourself.

If you have this heart to heart talk, I think in time it will all work itself out.

I hope this helps.

dlong62's picture

For starts, you are not a bad parent, if you are looking for help on the issue to help correct the problem you're a good parent to do whats best for your son. A bad parent would over look the problem and blow it off as 'just a stage' that boys go through & let the behavior continue out of control, even to an older age when it can't be corrected as easily.You should be very proud of your selves for trying to correct the problem now that you know about it. And the fact that you didn't catch it before is not your fault, you did correct his behavior when you knew about it, & thats good. Not to put blame on anyone for the behavior continuing out for so long, but if the person caring for the child sees a problem & doesn't try to correct the problem either by disipline or reporting it to the parent ASAP & they have allowed it to happen/continue for a long period then you could almost say they have almost encouraged it to happen/continue. And in my opinion I would not allow it to continue by means of not leaving my child in that persons care, because they have demonstrated to me they dont have my sons best interest in mind in teaching him to be kind to others &/or to behave. And if my child is acting up that much in their care & nothing like that at home then I would be questioning whats happening over there thats upsetting him and not here at home. How fortunate you are to be able to correct this "problem behavior" at such a young age with your son. Young children usually act aggressively when they are frustrated or stressed out about something, maybe something new happening in their little world of constants, or someone not treating them the way they used to, like being diciplined in a new way,or maybe a playmate or someone was being mean to him in a playgroup & non of the adults caught it or maybe another child at the playground was mean to him, little kids are very sensitive to someones feelings & actions towards them. He's probably been acting out his frustrations on cousin cause hes the common (most comfortable/ most familiar)playmate he has to express his new feelings out onto that won't retaliate like being disiplined by mom,& dad, or someone/something,(dog/cat/baby/ect), new coming in to take some of the attention away that they have had all along,etc. And beings that he is just starting at this age to express himself in more new ways & is only just begining the era in his young life to understand that words, & body have a profound power to motivate others into doing what pleases him, mom, dad, & anyone in his circle of importance, its easy to see if/& when something is not quite right in his little world & upset him, but with the lack still to communicate it verbally it can be very hard for you or even him to identify what it is exactly that is wrong.
Keep in good relations with your family, don't put blame on anyone (even where it may belong) & yes maybe it would be a good time to find a new babysitter for your son.
One thing I would suggest is to sit down with your brother & sister-in-law, & talk to them about what is maybe causing the disruptive behavior, ask about when they first started noticing the misbehavior, & to try to remember if there was anything new happening around the time the misbehavior started, did someone have an arguement in front of him & it maybe sent him into an agressive stress release movement, anything could do it, I know its hard to remember everything that happens during the daily life of a child but beings that children are so sensitive & attentive to everything in there environment, it is, in my opinion, worth the trouble to find out what may be distressing your son & who knows, you may learn what is bugging him & be able to help him to be able to learn to express himself in more appropriate ways. Not that that should be the only reason to teach him this very valuable lesson of proper expression but it could help out more in the future with the bigger problems as well.
I'm not a pro., but, beings I have six kids(13yr old girl, 13yr old boy, 6yr old boy 5yr old girl, 19month girl, & 2month old boy), of my own, I know that I have had some experience in the field of "behavior problems" & how they sometimes rear up in the oldest, to even in the youngest ones. I've found that the youngest are the most sensitive & it is only a little less sensitive for the oldest ones & in noteing that, they are not all the same at every stage some more sensitive than others at different times so its hard to pin point all the time in everything what they are going through exactly when etc.
I usually try my best to find the disturbance in their life & do my best to help them to cope with the situation & their feelings, help them to express themselves in an appropriate manner, & possibly fix the problem if it can be done, & if it can't be fixed I try to teach them new ways to be able to be simpathetic to the situation & how best to learn to live with it. Anyway I know I'm probably not much help in my ramblings on but would like to hope I maybe helped a little, if not, sorry, but thanks for listening anyways.

concerned mom's picture
concerned mom

I understand your conflict as I've been faced w/ similar situations. You need to have a discussion w/ your family/friends when it comes to disciplining your child. In my opinion, if you are there w/ your child, you shld be the one to discipline him. If another parent is in charge, it's their responsibility to step in. It sounds like your brother and SIL feel uncomfortable disciplining your child, maybe b/c you never gave them the ok to do so. You shld discuss your method of discipline that works best for your child. For instance, no one shld be spanking your child if you disagree w/ that form of discipline. On the other hand, you're right. You shld be alerted immediately to the fact that your child is misbehaving, so you have the opportunity to correct the behavior at home. If your son is acting up during play dates, maybe the play date shld be cut short for that day. It sounds to me like a matter of miscommunication. It's unfortunate that this situation has affected your relationship w/ your brother and SIL. I really believe that if you all discuss this and get on the same page as to what each of you expects, things will be fine. It's normal for kids to have different personalities, behaviors and conflicts. It's all in how the parents choose to handle it that will determine the success of the situation. Good luck, and I hope things work out w/ you and your family.