OP these are your own words. Quoted back to you. Listen you what YOU are saying. If this wasn't your family what would you say to this person??? HONESTLY.
Honestly, if you've got ideas on how to handle this that are based on reality, then spell them out. Be precise. Once again, this man hasn't broken the law. I can't have him arrested because he yells in his kids' faces or threw a hat at one. Or because he dunked his kid. It doesn't matter that he did it when he was frustrated. It doesn't matter that his kid came up sputtering and crying. He dunked his kid. That isn't against the law - anywhere. No one cares if I thought he looked scary or close to being out of control. They care if he hurt his kid. Period. To all of our knowlege, he never has.
So that's out. The kids stay with him. He stays married. He is the kids' dad. All of the righteous indignation you can muster in the whole world isn't going to be able to change that.
That being the case, what ideas might you have about ways that we can bring about a change in him or his family situation that will positively affect the kids? Spell them out. Be precise. I'd like to hear some ideas.
Haven't you been modeling gentle parenting for years? If it hasn't worked yet why do you think it will suddenly start working..
BIL and SIL have really been quite isolated from our side of the family. That's why this family reunion is so important, and why it is so critical that it go well.
This is the first time dh and I have met the two youngest boys. The family lives several states away, in the same small town as BIL's family. As I've said above, this family is extremely harsh on it's children. They are a 'children be seen and not heard' type group, who believe strongly in harsh punishments. Very religious. Very conservative. Very bigoted.
BIL stands out among his brothers for being less severe of a parent, less conservative, etc. For instance, I mentioned that they have essentially chosen not to spank, which is unheard of in his family.
I think the more BIL can be influenced by other people and ideas, the better parent he will be. Right now his wife sort of stands alone as this crazy soft hearted mother who gives her kids too much of a break. When he sees dh and I, and the other IL couple being gentle, tolerant, kind with our kids, that is normalizing that behavior in his mind.
This is so so awful! That is extremely abusive. If the dad feels comfortable treating his BABY like that in someone else's house then what does he do at his own???
My uncle was this "drill sergeant" type of parent, but I never saw him cross the line into pure rage. There is a difference and you know it when you see it. I think that's what your BIL doesn't get, the distinction between strictness (which I don't agree with, but isn't abusive) and pure control freak abusiveness. Knowing how he is viewed by other parents who are his peers might help him realize it's not okay, but it might also enrage him further... if this is all he knows because of the way he was raised, what really has to click is "I don't want my kids feeling the way about me that I feel about my father". Nothing's going to be fixed overnight. Maybe SIL who wants to protect the kids needs to be empowered to draw the line and I guess just talking with her and supporting her would be a start.
I do have a lot of experience with CPS, as a foster parent and a former social worker. Any social worker worth a flip (and I'll be the first to admit that there are some who are not worth a flip) will consider that abuse and will do something about it.
Frankly, Blessed, after "knowing" you from your posts in the foster and adoptive parenting forum, I'm fairly baffled at your take on this whole situation.
So, you asked for what you should do. IMO, you really really should call CPS. But you have made it clear you aren't going to do that -- although, did you consider a pp's suggestion of calling in and describing the situation, without giving names? If it is not something that they will investigate, they can tell you that. If you do have a change of heart and decide to report, please talk to the other witnesses first and make sure they will back you up.
Next, I agree that a group intervention with BIL would probably just put him on the defensive. But how about w/ SIL? This family reunion is her family, right? And she is obviously a loving, caring mom? So talk to her. Let her know that many many people consider the type of "discipline" doled out by her dh to be abusive and reportable, and you don't want to see her end up losing her kids b/c of his behavior. Ask her what you can do to help.
Exchanging glances is not doing a damned thing to help her or the kids. Is she being abused as well? Is keeping her isolated from her family, and surrounded only by his abusive family part of his abuse pattern?
What if he held one of the other kids underwater as a punishment? One of the other "out of control" nephews? Or your dd? What would you do then? Please do the same for these little boys.
Wife of a Coastie, Mom to Rylin, Alden, Carden and Thumper coming OctoberHelping my mom fight breast cancer.
Blessed-once again what do you want us to say??? What would you say if you were reading your posts?? There is nothing left to say other than what has been said....everyone, including you, fears for these childrens safety, no one has truely stepped in and tried to help among the family (man to man as suggested), you don't want CPS involved, you want this reunion to go well so everyone is basically ignoring what is happening, and you now are downplaying what happened and getting mad at us who are responding to you. We aren't there...you are...what do you think is best for this family?
Unsubscribing to this, blessed, because it is frustrating to see you post here for "advice" and then snarkily discount everyone as histrionic.
Never let your schooling interfere with your education. ~Mark Twain~
Unsubscribing to this, blessed, because it is frustrating to see you post here for "advice" and then snarkily discount everyone as histrionic.
This is real life. This is my life. I love these people and will continue to have relationships with them. And I want what is best for them.
Getting excited and confrontational makes for good stories, but not for good familes. These children adore their father. For me to align myself against him is to align myself against them. There are other ways.
I'm sorry if that doesn't make sense to you.
I have read this entire thread, and I'm honestly not trying to sound harsh, but blessed: If you do not do something to stop him from treating his children this way (which IS abusive from what you described) than YOU are enabling your BIL to continue ABUSING his children.
Tell me how.
I know from personal experience on this board that: It's so much easier for the outsiders looking in at a post to automatically know what to do do--to chastise others for not complying with what they think is acceptable. It happens all too often around here--not just to me or you...but a lot.
YOU know this situation far more than anyone reading your posts. People reading your posts can only form an opinion based on what you've posted--they don't know the full shabang, like YOU do. Follow YOUR heart and make the right decision. Don't let others make you feel rotten for not doing what they find acceptable. FWIW, I know how it feels and it's not nice
Sometimes there is no way to get the kids from an immediate abusive situation. For all those that think there's some magic way, well, good on you, but it's not always so. especially if the parents fit a privledged race/religion/social/economic category...or better yet, more than one category. And if that's the case, then you walk a very fine line of pushing too far, getting no help, and getting yourself cut totally from the kids' lives.
Maybe the dad will see the error of his ways, maybe he won't. If you can't really intervene, then the most you can do is make yourself a safe person for the kids who's allowed to have a continuing close relationship with them. I'm sure that means you have to suck up a lot of crap on occasion.
But it's not an all or nothing proposition. Sometimes those safe people can be a lifeline. A kid who grows up with emotional abuse and/or physical threats is going to have to be tough to survive, but it's really nice if they can have someone they can be tender with. So I wouldn't discount being able to be that person in the future, even if you can't run in and wave your magic wand and make everything better now.
handled it the best way possible at the time. Perhaps in a calm moment you can introduce the concept of child development? Because truly, a child at one is capable--physically, mentally, and emotionally-- of less than a child at 2, and a two year old doesn't really have the capacity to act maliciously, and so forth...
The 2 yo is quite large for his age, and also very verbal. He's larger than my 4.5 yo dd, for instance. It's very easy to assume that he has the capability to be quiet, sit still, help out, not get upset, etc, like an older child could. But of course he cannot. He's two.
I've brought this up repeatedly in front of BIL, talking about how the boy is acting just like dd did when she was two, and how he is just like his cousin who is also two. And talking about how tough it is with 2 yo's, how emotionally labile they are, how unreasonable. I noticed that when the child had a tantrum later on BIL was much more understanding, and commented that the child was simply tired.
I know I learned a tremendous amount from being here on MDC. I'm just so thankful that I stumbled on this site, I'm so much the better parent for it. Just seeing other mamas being patient, understanding, tolerant, forgiving, made such a difference in my own ability to parent well. I can't help but think that showing other parents these ways of thinking can help them too.
Do you honestly see no way to approach this problem aside from imploding the structure of this entire family? Quite frankly, this just seems like a very juvenile and immature thought process to me. Something that would seem sensible only to a person who was very young, very rash, and prone to make major mistakes with their life.
An intervention has the very high likelihood of leading to the boys and/or their mother being beaten when they're home. A call to CPS *could* lead to that as well, but it also could lead to a case against the father and the children being protected. The chances of that happening with an intervention are slim.
You need to educate yourself on the psychology of domestic abuse because as someone who's survived it, what you're saying doesn't make any sense at all. In reality, you'll probably do nothing regardless of any suggestions. I don't say that because I know you personally but because I know how abuse situations work. People cringe and wring their hands, but in the end few do anything about it. They go on about their lives and maybe say "poor kids" sometimes, but that's all. As a pp said, abusers rely on a culture of silence surrounding abuse. For adults to have seen the water-dunking incident and not said anything proves that point. Either my husband or I - and we generally are the most pacifist people you meet - would have stopped that with force if necessary. I couldn't look my husband in the eyes if he watched a child being held under water by an irate adult and stood by letting it happen. You're condoning abuse and adding to the terror these boys live with every single day.
You are doing it.
- Speak up *every time* BIL's behavior is abusive or unacceptable. The way you handled the incident in your original post was great - gentle, but straightforward.
- Get everyone else in the family on the same page. Exchanging glances is not enough. Get everyone to agree that whenever they witness BIL's actions cross the line, they will speak up and intervene.
- Make sure your nephews know that they can come to you anytime and that you WILL protect them. They're little now, but as they get older, they should know they can call you or another family member. Let them know that you will NOT betray their confidences.
- Stop diminishing what BIL does and stop thinking that it'd be OK in the "mainstream". I'm more mainstream than 90% of the people on this board, and I'm disgusted by his behavior. He didn't "dunk" his son in fun - he *held him underwater as a punishment*, after terrifying the child into coming to him. He didn't raise his voice at the baby - he screamed at him and *threw things at him*. Tell the truth to yourself and for your nephews.
I hope that's specific enough.
and yet 90% more mainstream than the rest of MDC
In your shoes, I would talk directly to him. Or nominate a male family member to do so. Responsibility for his own behavior needs to be put at his feet.
It might be helpful to start by acknowleging how much he has already overcome, what parts of his own upbringing he has already wrestled with and rejected. Its nothing to sneeze at.
I think you did a great job intervening when he was yelling at his son. One thing that stands out to me though, is that it should be okay to feel anger in your house -- just NOT okay to have an outburst like that, kwim? So in going back to process the incident again, I might try to empathize with the feelings he has rather than disallowing anger, but make it very clear that he is still responsible to behave in a right way toward his children regardless of what he feels.
I'm sorry that you have to deal with this at all. Its really unfair and unfortunate. I think that remaining a positive and supportive influence in the life of their family is an important role for the rest of you to play -- the modeling you do makes a real difference. As you say -- you are normalizing gentler methods.
I think a good response would be to get the 2 year old away from Dad and give dad some space to cool off on his own, distract him, talk sports, whatever, give the guy a break and protect the 2 year old and keep them separate most of the rest of the day/evening.
Then, I think it's a matter of someone having a private one on one with Dad to ask him -- what's going on? To see what he's feeling and listen to where he's at emotionally with the 2 year old and life in general. I think it would be good to see if Dad can express his emotions and give him a safe place to get out whatever might be bugging him. I wouldn't lecture or anything at that point, just listen and see what he has to say about it all and his outlook on life, etc. It sounds like he has several frustrations and maybe just having someone listen to him would be a good start.
Lastly, then I'd leave it to the DH and wife to figure out. I think the Dad should get some counseling, maybe, or maybe he just needs that break and opportunity to vent out some of his feelings to get back on track.
How did it go?
ETA: I also think having a private conversation with your SIL to find out what she thinks about this is a must. Just giving her support and showing concern for her and the kids and then seeing what she says will be informative and possibly give you a better picture of the situation so you may be better prepared to help.
I, too, do not understand what you're looking for. I feel like your posts are back-peddling from your original post and it's really confusing to me.
Army wife - Mama to Liam (9/07), Laine (5/09), and Eliza (7/11)
The admirable work of modeling different, gentle behavior is best done when the abused members of the family are safe. It's entirely possible that the children or wife will "pay" later for BIL feeling embarrased, put on the spot, what have you. It's why couple's counseling is ill advised in frankly abusive relationships. The person being abused is not safe and the threat becomes greater. My hope would be that someone in your group has the wherewithall to call the police if one of the kids is getting hurt and get BIL taken out of the scene. Enough already with hearing about him and how devoted a family man he is--he HURTS children. Try to bring the focus back to the ones who need it-the kids. The healing of the family unit can only be done when all members are safe, and obviously the children are in immediate danger.
As for real life suggestions-you assume too much knowledge when you say CPS wouldn't take the case. If they have been investigated before a second report will be that much more serious. But you're not doing that, so to move on. You could talk w/your SIL and offer support around domestic violence counseling. #'s are in the phone book, shelter's are available, information about restraining orders could be given. You might not think it would come to that, but you never know. Acknowledging abuse and getting out can be a long painful process, but sometimes what a woman can't do for herself, she can do for her child. You might encourage the mom to talk to the kids pedi for help and support, or a nurse practitioner. Major hospitals often have domestic violence trained personel. Offer to go with her, offer to help get resources, offer the gas $$$ if she needs it, just offer whatever she needs. She might not take you up on it now, but in 6 mos. she may. Be very careful with your discussions however-abusers are controlling and vigilent.
And, I say this with kindness blessed....I think you need some support as well. It must be awful to witness this. Trauma can be split a lot of ways and it is traumatic to see children be hurt. Our mind's natural reaction can be to shut down and not accept or downplay what we've seen. It can lead to fear, indecisiveness, you name it. Your inaction may be having the unintended consequence of keeping the cycle of violence subdued for the moment, but your gentleness won't stop it. Do you have someone to work this through with, IRL? Can you hand the knowledge to someone who is a bit more removed and can capably assess the danger to the kids--I am thinking colleague, mentor, friend? Just a thought.
It sickens me more to think of family members witnessing this and being bothered but then justifying it. There is never a good excuse to yell at a baby, period. Or holding a terrified 5 year old underwater.
When exactly to you plan on calling CPS? When the kids have bruises? You need to call them NOW. That's what they are there for.
CPST & mom
Where, in all this, is your dh? This is HIS sister, right? He is male... thus the abuser is more likely going to take anything he says as more valid than anything you say. Also, siblings can get away with saying more to their own siblings than an IL would. Has your dh taken his sister aside and told her up-front that he's concerned and worried about her and the kids?
Have you talked to any of the other ILs about this? What is their take? You are assuming they don't think there's abuse because they haven't said anything... but YOU haven't said anything to them, either. They may be privately spinning their wheels trying to figure out what to do, too. Better yet, get your dh to privately talk to his mom, dad, and siblings about the situation. You need to convince him to step up to the plate. He obviously can see the problem if he told you about the pool incident.
Your SIL has been surrounded by her dh's abusive/controlling family. She hasn't had a chance to see things happen more normally in a long while. So, being around her family may be the start of a wake-up call. ESPECIALLY if they say right out "I don't like how your dh is treating you and the kids. I'm worried about you all."
Helping your SIL with damage control... removing the kids from their father's presence, distracting the dad, intervening in situations before dad has a chance to blow up... may help prevent some problems at the moment while they are with you, but will do absolutely nothing long-term, once they are back in their normal (ie, toxic) environment. It is sooo easy to slip back into old patterns. And, really, which behavior do you think is more normal for them, what you witnessed in the first night/day they arrived, or the "covering" behavior you've seen since, once BIL knew everyone disapproved?
SIL needs to know in no uncertain terms that her family views BIL's behavior as inappropriate (even if they don't think it's abusive), and that they are willing to support her in any way. I would even consider giving her "hide-away" money that BIL knows nothing about, and she can save for an emergency.
Something that hasn't been addressed by pps in regards to the suggestion to call CPS... I've been a mandated reporter, and I'm usually in favor of calling when in doubt. But, I think the situation is made pretty sticky by the fact that SIL and the kids live in a different state. From what I've heard in our state, CPS reactions vary from county to county (let alone state to state), and there isn't a very cohesive system of following up. I've heard of abusers simply moving to a different county to avoid CPS. So... if she called her local CPS, I don't even know if the report would follow them back to their state to add to the "evidence" against him. So, would she need to call the state the family lives in? Can anyone who works in the system comment on that?
Blessed, you haven't addressed any of the suggestions to call CPS without giving identifying details to find out what they recommend, or see what services they could direct you to. You just flare up at the mere mention of CPS... I think you should call to ask them to direct you to some resources. Ask them what to look for. Ask them how they would handle a case like this. Ask them how things would be coordinated with CPS in another state. That is not acting "histrionically," it's just gathering more information on which to base a decision.
Maybe if you can show some concrete evidence to dh and his family that BIL is showing classic signs of abuse patterns, then they will be more willing to act. They should also be able to give you some references to resources in your SIL's area that you can give to her privately. I'm sure there must be a pamphlet somewhere that describes the warning signs of abuse and gives a list of things that family and friends can do to help protect children in cases of suspected abuse. Find it and show it to your ILs so you can all work together on this.
I called our county CPS investigator and talked to their screener. I said that dad was rough with the kids - spanking, yelling, threatening - but no one had seen hitting that would leave marks or that extended beyone open handed swats on the bottom.
I said that I had seen dad dunk the 5 yo as punishment. Frighteningly, dad tried to do this again last night. I yelled across the pool 'No! Do NOT dunk him!' So he stopped and instead ordered him out of the pool for punishment.
I described to the screener how he had commanded the child to come to him. The child was shaking and crying with fear. When he got there dad pushed him under the water for a few seconds, and the boy was choking and crying when he came up. I told her that I had seen him do this on more than one occasion.
She had lots of questions about mom - how she reacted, was she protective, how did she discipline. Ultimately, she said that there wasn't grounds for an investigation. She said that as a general rule they were aggressive about investigating situations in which a protective parent was not in the home. So if mom wasn't in the picture, this might or might not warrant an investigation, based on other contributing factors (signs of neglect etc, none of which exist here). She said this appeared to be a case of well cared for children who were not abused, but who simply had one of two parents who lacked good parenting skills.
She recommended parenting classes, family discussions etc as primary intervention.
I'm glad you called to get some info. I agree that reporting them wouldn't do diddly.
I do think that both you and your dh and any other concerned family members need to be vocal about this. You all need to make it crystal clear that dad's behavior is in NO way appropriate or acceptable. Especially make sure that sil hears this.
Good luck. Family situations can be so difficult.