Dear Annie: Our oldest son, “Adam,” lives two hours away with his wife, “Eve,” and their three children. One child, “Hayden,” is Eve’s from a prior relationship. She married Adam when the boy was 3. The biological father is irresponsible and alcoholic but loves Hayden and sees him when he can.
Hayden is now 13 and a good student, and he works hard to please his parents. We love and cherish him and consider him our own grandson. But we are heartsick that Adam and Eve seem to single him out for unkind treatment. They take him to task constantly for minor infractions. They fling insults and belittling comments at him. He is scolded for the tone of his voice, his posture, mannerisms and nearly everything he says. His parents sometimes make him stand in a corner. It’s humiliating for him. His siblings are not treated this way.
Hayden is basically a good and decent boy, and his parents seem to resent him. We are worried sick that if this treatment continues, he will rebel, and we won’t like the consequences. Hayden deserves better. Is there anything we can do to help without offending my son? We once brought this up, and they resented our intrusion. We hesitate to take that road again. What can we do? – Worried Grandparents
Dear Grandparents: Belittling, insulting and humiliating one’s child – at any age – is angry, inappropriate parenting. Since your son and his wife do not want your input, we suggest you offer to take Hayden for weekends or over the summer for a couple of weeks (or more) if you can manage it. He and his parents could use a break from one another. It isn’t a substitute for better parenting, but it will help. You also can suggest to Hayden that he speak to you, his school counselor or favorite teacher whenever he needs to talk.