Carolyn: I’m having trouble dealing with my violent niece and nephew, 5 and 7. I have two children of my own a little older. We are a tight family that (mostly, despite this big issue) enjoys hanging out together quite often. It’s common for the 5-year-old to hold my 7-year-old down and just swing punches.
The boy was kicked out of day care at 2 for his violent tendencies. In an effort to not tear the family apart, we’ve tried to deal with it by telling ourselves that in time it will go away. Things aren’t better, except that he is wiser now and waits for when he thinks we’re not watching to hit our kids. At a recent birthday, the two hit or kicked every kid at least once.
I am as nonconfrontational as it gets, and as a result I think my kids have learned that being hit by them is OK. In a world of bullies, I need to send the message that it is most definitely not OK, even with family.
I just don’t know how to open the parents’ eyes. They don’t express any concern or impose any real discipline and leave everyone else to deal with them. The children don’t take our discipline seriously as a result of a lifelong use of empty threats by the parents.
I love them and want them in our lives, but I’m worried about causing a rift in our family. As of now, we just make up excuses for why we can’t hang out. – L.
If your plan is to wait on the sidelines until you’re sure you can “open the parents’ eyes,” then you’re in for a bad case of bleacher-butt.
As you sit there, you’re also abdicating other important responsibilities, ones that are actually within your control where other people’s eyelids are not.
You’ve identified the most immediate one yourself: You have a duty to protect your kids, both from their cousins’ haymakers and, far more dangerous, from the mindset that it’s better to take abuse quietly than risk a disruption. You can project that into other areas of their lives, can’t you? When they’re in their 20s and an intimate partner is hitting them, but they don’t speak up for fear of ruining Christmas?
There are many ways to teach the life skill of setting personal limits, from telling your kids to let you know whenever their cousins hit them, to supervising the kids and stepping in when it gets ugly, to saying openly that if the kids keep hitting then you will ask them to leave, to enrolling your kids in martial arts.
Two other major responsibilities you have are to your niece and nephew, and to society. You do none of them any favors by being the adult who was in a position to flag this problem early but chickened out.
If you don’t think intervening with troubled kids and teaching your kids to stand up for themselves are worth a family rift, then please keep thinking. Avoiding a rift is primarily about your comfort. As a priority, it doesn’t stand up to a moment’s scrutiny.
It’s also a goal you’re not even accomplishing. You aren’t comfortable, you’re upset; you aren’t keeping peace with the family, you’re hiding from them. When you stand to lose something of value to you, that’s when you most need solid principles. This problem might cost you a sibling, and that would be terrible, but that would also be the fault of parents who won’t do their jobs. If this problem costs you yourself or your kids their confidence or health, then that will be on you.
Political geeks may surpass even baseball nerds in their love of numbers. The American political system probably aids and abets this through a complicated set of rules, districts and qualifiers ...
A GRIP ON SPORTS • A weekend in late July. It’s more than 90 degrees outside. Is this the proverbial “dog days of summer?” Read on.
I scratched another back yard honey-do off my list this weekend already by finishing another one of those projects that had been on the waiting list for years. It involved ...
Today marks my 25th anniversary with The Spokesman-Review. Though things have changed quite a bit since I joined the newspaper as its Idaho editor in 1991, we’re still in the ...
sponsored According to two 2015 surveys, 62 percent of Americans do not have enough savings to handle an unexpected emergency, much less any long-term plans.