when tattling becomes bullying

(6 Posts)
humblepie01 Mon 20-Jan-14 03:04:09

I have a real conundrum in relation to some really nasty tattling going on in my extended family that i am trying to find a way to deal with.
Here is the background;
My DH has a brother, who as a child consistently resorted to tattling on all of his siblings, in particular my DH. According to DH, this brother was always anxious and afraid of bad things happening, and pretty much couldn't cope with him having fun, as little boys like to do, so he would tattle. In return, his parents rewarded him with praise for this. As they went into teenage years, this turned into something more ugly. If DH went out with friends and wanted to get up to some mischief, as teenage boys tend do, he would find out what was done and blackmail DH with it in order to manipulate him, and make himself out to be the golden boy to win his parents favor. As an adult, nothing has changed. The moment he finds out that one of his siblings is doing something 'not proper' or 'un-conventional' he is the first to run to mum and dad disapprovingly, complaining about how the sibling is either wasting their money, or their life, or some other judgement he has formed.

The situation;
BIL now has a primary school aged son , and is encouraging the same behavior in him when he is playing with my children. The children are in the same age group 4-8.
His son will immediately tattle if one of my children doesn't give him what he wants, be it a shot at a game, or a toy the moment he asks for it. This happens virtually every time they get together. Beyond annoying! But... The BIL , doesn't stop the behavior and try to explain to his son that he needs to negotiate, or to point out the difference between tattling and dobbing. Instead, he quite clearly uses the tattling behavior to scold my children into submission, so that his son gets what he wants. He seems to have a misplaced sense of vicitmisation; as though his son will miss out on something. If my children speak up, he shouts them down. I feel sick to my stomach when i see it in action,(and i have to hold my inner mama bear right back) and in order to keep the peace, i draw my children away, comfort them and explain to them that they are not wrong and that we have to be careful in this totally abnormal situation. If i try to defend my children, he jumps down my throat; 'but she didn't let him have the toy, everyone should have it'. And with that, my child is selfish and i have no leg to stand on, he has won the argument!! OMG!!!

To further compound the situation, the grandparents take his son's side. My children hate it, and they no longer get excited about playing with their cousin, as little children mostly do. To be fair to the grandparents, they do love my children, but it seems that when faced with having to take a side they go with the BIL's son. Why?!?!?! So upsetting.....

DH and i have discussed this quite a bit, and it seems that there is nothing we can do to stop this behavior. All we can do is not socialize with this BIL, and when it is unavoidable, then just be a civil as possible and get out as fast we we got in.

The more i think about it, it seems that my BIL has a developed a keen trick in getting what he wants by manipulating others and is now passing this on to his son. To me, it seems as though he is so afraid of not getting what he wants, or he thinks others are out to put him down or take something from him that he gets so defensive and this tattling is a mechanism which he and his son now use to control and manipulate those around them. It is, in a completely messed up way, a form of bullying. And it really hurts because i never imagined this situation for my children and their cousin.

I have read about work place tattlers that engage in this behavior to get what they want. It is rampant in p school, and i have taught my children the difference between getting someone into trouble or helping them out of trouble. But this situation is so akward, bc which ever way i flip it, i can't find a way to settle it without compromising my family's dignity and self respect.. I consistently have to assure my children that they are ok, and that this behavior is not the norm. We can't deny the apprehension we feel when the children do get together, the fear in not being able to defend our children because it could end up in a huge argument where we get verbally abused, and rubbished on by the extended family. It is damaging.

Has any one else encountered this conundrum?? Help!

headinhands Mon 20-Jan-14 09:20:15

Can't you chide in with 'maybe you can have a turn when dc has finished'? Who would argue with that? If he does explain that you are teaching your children about taking turns. In nurseries and schools they often use sand timers for these sorts of toy disputes. 'When the timer runs out it's xyz's turn'.

funnyossity Mon 20-Jan-14 09:30:37

It's always tricky when people have different expectations of children and I ended up spending time with friends who had the same style as myself. Clearly family needs a lot more compromise.

Taking turns is the way forward and a timer is a good idea.

What to you is tattling and dobbing? I don't use the terms. (Although "dobbing s.o. in" did get picked up in my school from Aussie soap operas!)

humblepie01 Mon 20-Jan-14 22:24:10

Thanks! I will give it a go, and you can't argue with something as straight forward and reasonable as the 'timer' concept!

Dobbing/grassing to me, and this is how i have explained it to my children, is something that you do, a call you have to make, when you see that someone is being hurt, or is in danger. The classic example is with bullying.
They can't be complacent and ignore that.

Tattling, to me, is when a child/adult 'tells' on someone for some petty doing to an authority figure because their aim is to get that person into trouble in order to ingratiate themselves.

I know that little children go through the phase where their lives are very 'regulation' driven. For a while they will tell on anyone they see doing something that they know that they cannot do, or say because they want that act to stop. Then at one point they figure out how to negotiate the situation and they realise the difference between telling on everyone and picking their moment.

I think, its fair to say that it is a cultural and social given that we all learn that 'telling/tattling' is just as bad as failing to 'grass up' the more serious wrong doing we know is happening. That in itself is a whole different issue, which is why i am making the differentiation.

What irks me about this situation, is that the tattling seems to be very self serving, and more so, it is being encouraged by the parents. I ask myself, why should my child walk away from a play feeling that s/he is 'mean' because she didn't automatically give up her toy and give it to her cousin? If she had told him to get lost, or called him a name, shoved him, deliberately teased him, then i would definitely want to know about it and i would deal with it. But none of that kind of behavior comes up when the cousin comes in with the tattle.

I suppose, children, like adults develop a positive response when someone asks nicely and does not expect to be given something, in this case a toy; they are happy to share and be inclusive. But, the moment they here, 'i want to play, i want to have a go' in the tone of 'you have to give me a go or else' followed by 'i am telling on you' there is a negativity that is built up; no one likes to feel controlled and judged.

MillyMollyMama Mon 20-Jan-14 23:30:43

If I am very honest, I would drastically cut down seeing them. It is not reasonable and your children deserve a better time. Go out and do things with people you do get on with. My relatives live miles away so cousins hardly see each other. It is no bad thing and it is not vital to be with relatives all the time. Find some other friends, do something else with your children, get a separate life. Relatives never actually go away, but you can drop them off your schedule if they are so annoying - and yours are!

My children refused to play with a child who blamed them unfairly and we dropped the family for a while. The child who was a pain eventually realised she had to stop whinging and, equally as important, the parents realised no-one from school wanted to play with her either. Gradually they stopped believing her stories of unfair play/victimisation and realised that it was she who had the problem. After tantrums etc when they became tougher, she is now absolutely fine and they all get along. Just back off until your family realise the problem needs correcting. Hopefully they will, eventually.

Jan616 Wed 26-Mar-14 16:50:27

Humblepie01, I really admire how you've behaved in this situation. You are clearly a very reasonable and considerate person. However, if I were you I'd have a stern chat with BIL about his behaviour. It's one thing to encourage the tattling behaviour in his own child, but to actually shout at and bully someone else's children is completely unacceptable!! I feel for you because I know you don't want to make things awkward with the extended family and you want your children to have 'normal' cousin relationships. However, no one can blame you for putting the emotional well-being of your children first. Your BIL's behaviour has clearly been enabled for too long and I feel so sorry for his poor son, who is going to struggle to make friends if he keeps on tattling. If you don't want to confront him about it, then I agree with MillyMollyMama's advice to avoid seeing him and his son.

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