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Giving advice to family, do it or not?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
We just had my brother, SIL and their 3 yo DD (and SIL parents) at our house for 4 days and wow, I was appalled at the 3 yo'd behavior, and how she is parented. Here's the background: they just got married, they met over the internet, she's moved halfway across the world to be with my bro. She previously worked full time while a nanny and her parents took care of her DD. My bro has never had experience with kids and instantly was a dad to a 3 yo.

Here is some of what went on. There was no planned 'play time' outside for DD, no time to just run around, be wild. They had no clue that she needs this everyday.

She has bad associations with going to the bathroom(they are trying to potty train her)-she threw tantrums not just for going poop (she is always constipated and holds her poop in for days, more on that later) but I also heard her throw a tantrum in the morning when she had to go pee, I don't know where she wanted to go pee. Her tantrums sound like a baby crying-she sounds like my 1 YO.

They beg her to eat at meals, following her around with food and spoon feeding her, I never saw her use a utensil and put food in her mouth on her own. At the end of a meal when she had refused to eat, they would offer her noodles or rice, which she would usually eat. She eats a ton of rice (I pointed out that rice can cause constipation and she is always constipated) and they constantly offer her food all day long. Her grandma was offering her food as she was going to sleep! They are worried that she is in the 3rd percentile for height and that's why they try to feed her constantly, I pointed out that she should be compared to people of her ethnicity, not americans, and that she is a normal weight.

Did I mention that she throws tantrums all day long? When she wakes from a nap. When she wakes up in the morning. When she has to go to the bathroom. When she doesn't get her way. And DB and SIL are really embarrassed by it and try to shush her and get her to quiet down, there is a big fuss. They don't just let her have the tantrum.

It is so easy for me to judge, right? DH and I 'gave' them advice while they were here, and I know we shouldn't have. They said, 'well, she was doing so well until her grandparents came to town, and then she regressed.' On one hand I feel badly for my niece, her needs are not being met: she has no idea what to expect from each day, no daily schedule, she has no idea what her 'boundaries' are, they treat her like a baby in some ways but do not allow her to 'be a kid'. They dragged her around 3 days in a row, doing adult sightseeing, plus a long car trip here.

My 14 mo DD bit her today and I felt badly that I was not watching them closely enough (I was cooking and cleaning)to prevent it from happening. But after it happened I was with them constantly and my niece grabbed and took away every toy that DD picked up and she was teasing DD, goading her on to see if DD would bite again. IMO, DD bit her because that was the only way she could communicate that this girl was being a complete beast to her!

So, can I suggest any parenting books to DB and SIL? I think they are trying to discipline her, but they have no natural instincts and not many friends with kids. They don't have any good examples of parenting, or examples of how a normal 3 yo acts.
post #2 of 24
Others may have different advice, but in my opinion there's no way you can offer advice in this situation and come off smelling like a rose. It'll seem judgmental, no matter what you actually intend.

I think your best option is to lead by example, be compassionate to their situation. If you're asked, you can tell what you do.
post #3 of 24
I have to say I agree. If they are asking for advice ("How do you get your DD to behave so well?" or "I wish we knew how to potty train her.") then I'd give some input but from the sounds of your post, they aren't asking. Also you have to remember that this was an out-of-the-ordinary couple of days for their DD. If she's not regularly spending time at your house etc. then it could be that her routine was really disrupted & they were just doing their best to keep her somewhat on track. I know I'll do things differently on vacation or overnight visits to family because it's just hard to have everything thrown off from the normal routines so I might try to get DS to eat more or forget to take him outside to play because I got sidetracked with visiting or nursing or whatever...

My general rules are: 1) give everyone the benefit of the doubt & 2) if your opinion/advice is not asked, don't give it (unless you are all sharing parenting stories/advice or something)... I'd be really hurt if you criticized my parenting after seeing us for a couple of days & not at our best... (But I totally understand because I'm also always resisting the urge to give advice etc. to my SIL!)
post #4 of 24
You should also probably consider the culture that your SIL comes from. In some cultures it's completely normal for the kid to be a tyrant and be constantly doted on and done for. Although it's clearly hard for her, she may not think there's anything wrong with her kid's behavior. The fact that the daughter started acting "worse" when the grandparents are around also makes me think this could be part of the issue.
post #5 of 24
When dd gets constipated she gets v. irritable. Although her constipation seems much better now she still has a lot of tantrums possibly from it having become a habit. Don't know. Also, I've never had any fixed time for her to go out and play as we don't have a backyard or enough space on the curb to play. We have nowhere to go for a walk near the apt either. Also, dd was a colicky, fussy baby right from the start. I get exhausted with her fussiness sometimes but I do believe it is in some way a part of her personality.
post #6 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jayray View Post
You should also probably consider the culture that your SIL comes from. In some cultures it's completely normal for the kid to be a tyrant and be constantly doted on and done for. Although it's clearly hard for her, she may not think there's anything wrong with her kid's behavior. The fact that the daughter started acting "worse" when the grandparents are around also makes me think this could be part of the issue.
This is something I did not consider. I was completely coming at it from an American perspective. And my brother talked to me several times before theycame here about what a tyrant she is and how they were going to be changing that. But, perhaps there is abreakdown in their communication as parents as to what they really want.
post #7 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Neera View Post
When dd gets constipated she gets v. irritable. Although her constipation seems much better now she still has a lot of tantrums possibly from it having become a habit. Don't know. Also, I've never had any fixed time for her to go out and play as we don't have a backyard or enough space on the curb to play. We have nowhere to go for a walk near the apt either. Also, dd was a colicky, fussy baby right from the start. I get exhausted with her fussiness sometimes but I do believe it is in some way a part of her personality.
Do you have any parks nearby? Any childrens play structures? I am a firm believer that kids need fresh air and physical activity everyday. I know both my kids sleep a lot better when they physically exert themselves. Running around helps with constipation too. I feel better physically too when I get regular exercise. I remember when my first child was about a year old another mom telling me that her kids needed to run around everyday in order to not go stir crazy inside. I guess it was unsolicited advice from her but I am r thankful she told me.
post #8 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Punchy Kaby View Post
Did I mention that she throws tantrums all day long? When she wakes from a nap. When she wakes up in the morning. When she has to go to the bathroom. When she doesn't get her way.
You just described my 2.5yo Waldorf raised, AP-ed, (mostly) traditional foods fed DD.

Perhaps she was used to the food of her own culture? Rice and noodles are staples in other parts of the world.

Travel, a huge move, and new surroundings can take a huge toll on a kid. I think you should give them a bit of a break.
post #9 of 24
I agree with the PP's, unless they are directly asking for advice I wouldn't give it. Maybe offer some about the food/constipation issues, but not the behavior issues. Most of her behavior is very typical of a 3 year old, regardless of how they are parented. I agree she could probably benefit from a structure/routine to her day, especially considering she is in a brand new culture, around people speaking a different language, and sharing her Mama with a new person.
post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by WindyCityMom View Post
You just described my 2.5yo Waldorf raised, AP-ed, (mostly) traditional foods fed DD.

Perhaps she was used to the food of her own culture? Rice and noodles are staples in other parts of the world.

Travel, a huge move, and new surroundings can take a huge toll on a kid. I think you should give them a bit of a break.
Part of my point that I was trying to make is that they don't cater to her needs as a toddler: she needs time to goof off, be a kid but they drag her around in public areas all day long, taking tours, visiting museums, sightseeing, eating in sit down restaurants-all adult things. For days in a row. They expect her to nap in her stroller and then wake up in front of a crowd of strangers, in a public place she has never been before and be in a good mood. They are setting her up to fail. My DB has never been around kids, he has seen his neices and nephews a few times(in their whole lives, not a few times a year).
post #11 of 24
Sorry if this has been mentioned . . . but, let's not forget that the child has just had a huge change in that she suddenly has a new father. Even if they did all of these things you suggest, it might not have any immediate impact. So, if you do decide to share some information, I'd also offer up that caveat. Until this child feels secure in her new surroundings/family, I would guess that they are likely to see a lot of this behavior.
post #12 of 24
I completely understand your feelings. I have some strong feelings about how a child in my extended family is being treated/raised. I shared those feelings privately with my mother (this child is in my husband's extended family, not mine) and she also totally understood, because she bonded with her nephew's son and had to watch him be abandoned by his mother, then his father, then raised by her sister and BIL who are ... not model parents. So she understood too. All she could do was be a presence in the boy's life and validate him often. Since she moved to his state, she sometimes has him over for the weekend. When her sister scapegoats him or whatever, she comes to his defense. But that's all she can do.

And even she started telling me I should give DH's family member advice (after hearing my emotions about watching this all). But you can't give people advice. *I* don't want advice and I consider myself a fairly open person. Unwanted advice is worse than nothing, IMHO.

It's painful, but I will personally be following my mother's lead. Also, DH and I just sort of scoop up this little boy and take him out to the backyard and literally run with him (tag, hide and seek, whatever) and get some of his energy out. If we're at a restaurant I will scoop him up and ask if it's ok if I just took him outside just for a few minutes just for fun (fortunately the answer is always "sure"), and give him either some way to get his energy out OR to calm down, whatever i think he needs. I would never dream of actually interfering with any parenting, but DH and I also have intervened indirectly on this boy's behalf by saying OUR DD needs to go or whatever - and offering to take the boy along. We try hard to make it not at all obvious, and we hope that if anything it looks like we're just giving them a break rather than judging the parenting.
post #13 of 24
I would not judge anyone's behavior or parenting on a four day vacation with strangers. This is a child with a new father and mother (if the grandparents were raising her), parents with a new partner and new to parenting, and all three year olds have their moments. Is your one year old your only? Normal three year old behavior looks kinda beastly when you haven't had one yet.

If anyone ASKS you for advice, keep it short and sweet or recommend a book.
post #14 of 24
Wow - that kid sounds like she's in a really tough situation. I agree about not giving advice. As the mother of a child who got a stepfather at the age of 4 and step-extended family, I know that him getting advice (that totally didn't recognize the situation my daughter was in or what she might be going through) made him feel more pressure to "manage" the situation and get my daughter to "behave" - which only made things worse.

However, I do think there's a way you can help in this situation. I would ask your brother how he feels about this big change in his life and having a new kid. I would validate his feelings and give him a chance to honestly share the frustrations and fears he might have. In the process, you can assure him that he doesn't need to be "instant dad" and perfect and show the world that he can control this new daughter of his. You can encourage him to build a relationship with her and not worry about what anyone else thinks because they don't know his family's situation. Just not having that pressure to be a good parent (which in our culture so often means being able to control your child or having a "well behaved" child) can actually give him the space to be a better parent.

For ex., maybe they carted her around to adult activities because they didn't want to impose on family by asking them to adjust their schedule. I know that happens to me on family vacations - it can be hard to advocate for free time when there's a whole agenda. Knowing that he's supported and you guys are there to get to know your new relative and to be there for him and his wife can be what they need. It sounds like they will need to learn to be parents together, but whatever you can do to relieve the pressure of what that means will likely do more than any advice could. I think advice could backfire by adding to the pressure.
post #15 of 24
I agree with the idea PP mentioned about trying to start a discussion with your brother about how he's adjusting and parenting in general. If you do anything, I think an indirect approach like that is probably best.

I've been on both sides of the advice giving. A few months ago, I received a "surprise" from a relative...a parenting book with some anti-AP tactics suggested that I was pretty much horrified at. Not cool. But I know they thought they were being helpful.

On the other side of things, I've had to learn to bite my tongue a LOT. A friend and her family visited a few weeks ago, and after witnessing a few of their parenting moments, I dearly wanted to recommend a few books to them!
post #16 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Punchy Kaby View Post
Do you have any parks nearby? Any childrens play structures? I am a firm believer that kids need fresh air and physical activity everyday. I know both my kids sleep a lot better when they physically exert themselves. Running around helps with constipation too. I feel better physically too when I get regular exercise. I remember when my first child was about a year old another mom telling me that her kids needed to run around everyday in order to not go stir crazy inside. I guess it was unsolicited advice from her but I am r thankful she told me.
I did want to elaborate on that as it was veering off the topic. It makes me unhappy to see her not get enough exercise. The only time we can go out regularly is in summer. She gets wheezing easily in colder weather. Yes, a combo of her tantrums and clinginess and nowhere for her to burn off that energy has been driving me insane. I decided to try part time daycare this year. We began in April, changed to another and the daycare scene just completely threw her off. She didn't want to do anything there and while other kids played in the daycare's backyard she just watched. (About 3 months or so later, I have taken her out of the daycare.) When she has been out with me in the parks, I got the same behavior - observing other kids, just wanting to sit on a bench... and on one occasion she begged to go the sprinkler park and then did nothing there no matter how much I tried, I think she didn't even wet her feet. FRUSTRATING! The only solution I can think of is moving . And that is going to take a while. She certainly feels overweight.

Your niece sounds so much like dd. And yes dd's worse around grandparents too. It must be just harder for ur niece as she is in a new situation with such a lot to absorb.
post #17 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Punchy Kaby View Post
Part of my point that I was trying to make is that they don't cater to her needs as a toddler: she needs time to goof off, be a kid but they drag her around in public areas all day long, taking tours, visiting museums, sightseeing, eating in sit down restaurants-all adult things. For days in a row. They expect her to nap in her stroller and then wake up in front of a crowd of strangers, in a public place she has never been before and be in a good mood. They are setting her up to fail. My DB has never been around kids, he has seen his neices and nephews a few times(in their whole lives, not a few times a year).
Have you ever seen how she behaves other than on vacation because, honestly, the activities that you describe sound very similar to a vacation we may have taken when our kids were little. Her world has changed dramatically and she was on vacation with her new family - I wouldn't base too much on what you saw and would mind my own business for now.
post #18 of 24
I agree -- in this situation it's really hard to know how things are on a regular day-to-day basis. If you're not asked for advice giving some may make the situation worse.

Don't forget how powerful modelling is, both for children and adults. I've noticed friends that change some of their parenting techniques based on watching what works for me and my family. If you model your kind of parenting and they see a happy child and family resulting from it they may come to you for advice -- and then they'll be much more receptive to what you say.

Nobody likes feeling judged. If you give them advice now they may feel judged and purposely stay away from what you recommend. If they feel like a you're a friend who they trust, however, they may end up asking for help or just quietly following your lead.
post #19 of 24
Thread Starter 
Bronxmom had a very good suggestion to open a dialogue. DB did ask some questions while he was here, like 'is ------ behavior normal?' maybe DH will have some luck because of the 'dude' factor.
post #20 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jayray View Post
You should also probably consider the culture that your SIL comes from. In some cultures it's completely normal for the kid to be a tyrant and be constantly doted on and done for. Although it's clearly hard for her, she may not think there's anything wrong with her kid's behavior. The fact that the daughter started acting "worse" when the grandparents are around also makes me think this could be part of the issue.
this. this sounds a whole lot like how I was raised, and how I grew up seeing other SA kids raised-- the whole family becomes very child centered. I still don't understand why everyone is so obsessed with feeding kids in my family though.

However, that being said, if I felt something was wrong in my brothers family, I would probably speak up, in private, because we have a very good relationship. I would totally expect to be told that I was being judgmental, and to mind my own business too, though.
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