How do you deal with competitive parenting within your family?

(7 Posts)
matana Thu 05-Sep-13 12:32:32

I mean both competitive and different parenting styles?

I've really begun to struggle recently with not allowing myself to get dragged into tit for tat with regard to my bil and Dniece (4yo). Every time we see him he makes comments on our parenting choices and response to our DS's (2.9 yo) behaviour. From eating to education, he has an opinion which never fails to belittle us and our DS. I am completely and utterly comfortable with the choices we make, our DS is developing wonderfully, is happy and extremely bright etc. But I do find myself getting defensive more and more often and feel it's only a matter of time before i respond to him with something extremely childish about my DNiece's behaviour.

They are typical cousins - best of friends, worst of enemies etc but my bil seems to forget that DS is a fair bit younger and can be pretty mean sometimes, like tending to turn a blind eye to my niece's behaviour, while coming down on DS like a ton of bricks if he gets aggressive in retaliation.

Another example: he came back from a meeting with their chosen primary school the other night while we looked after both DC. We were in one of those soft play areas that also serve alcohol (a family pub essentially). We were sat inside the soft play area so we could supervise the DC as they're going through a stage of fighting a lot. Also, my DS thinks he can run with the older children but can still get into trouble and need our help if he tries to do something he's not capable of. So bil arrives, refuses to enter the area and says "We can see the DC from outside through the glass - i'm going to sit here and have a drink instead. Let Dnephew just get on with it," implying that we are over-protective.

He later proceeds to 'test' DS on his vocabulary by holding up different items and asking him to name them (which DS did without fault, bless him) presumably thinking/ hoping he'd 'fail'.

I am increasingly thinking i should limit my DS's (and mine!) exposure to my bil, but i don't want to do that because his relationship with his cousin will suffer. I just feel pent up, defensive and irritated every time we're all together. I really don't want this to turn into "Well, i don't agree with your parenting choices either" but don't want a wedge driven between myself and my sister by limiting our contact.

Any similar experience/ advice?

ellesabe Thu 05-Sep-13 13:39:07

Could you speak to your sister about it? You haven't really said what her involvement is in all this...

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 05-Sep-13 13:55:26

As far as criticism actual or perceived goes, you are parents, BIL's a parent, big whoop. Unless you ask for advice or help, what he contributes is hot air. Shrug or laugh or look puzzled, "If you say so" or, "Well we'll just have to disagree on that one". End of.

If you feel he oversteps the mark by singling out DS for reprimands or comes down more harshly, tell BIL to back off or ease up. It takes a village to raise a child but uncle doesn't get to be teacher + dictator with or without you or DP present.

When it's family or close friend in apparent competition you have two choices: engage or dismiss. Rivalry between cousins can be part of a tradition stretching back generations even fostered and encouraged by grandparents. Or was BIL already a competitive bullish individual. You don't refer to DN's mother is she just as much an "expert" or more live and let live?

At their age the gap between DS and DD is pretty substantial. And starting school sooner by dint of age will be a leap forward. So better get that armour of Indifference buckled on.

You could just blank any remarks or respond neutrally because unless it's in front of an audience does it really matter if BIL pontificates? Be affectionate and natural with DN maybe BIL will eventually follow suit.

matana Thu 05-Sep-13 14:20:38

Thanks. He's always been competitive and bullish. And my sister tends to hunker down and say nothing, unless particularly riled or drunk. This is actually something that happens generally in their relationship - he calls the shots, on most things, she follows suit, offering little of her own opinion in front of other people or tentatively backing him up. But perhaps she says more behind the scenes. Can't really be sure....

He may be worse than usual at the moment because he has a lot on his plate. He can be lovely (i know it doesn't sound like it), but suffers from huge lows and the way he deals with those lows about himself is to belittle other people.

The other big divide is that she's a SAHM, he earns the money. Both my DH and i work FT. I have no problems with whether women choose to stay at home or go to work, but i do sometimes feel that his strong opinions (and he does have strong opinions) about men working to support their families and women raising the children flavour much of his perception of our 'success' or otherwise as parents.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 05-Sep-13 14:40:07

That explains it I feel sorry for your sister. Please don't limit contact between you and her family. He is pushing his luck now trying to dominate through their child. Not as much a parenting issue more of a sibling one if BIL is a negative influence all round.

artemisandaphrodite Thu 05-Sep-13 15:59:00

So sorry, it doesn't sound nice at all, but as far as the vocabulary testing goes, I found that pretty funny and would be inclined just to burst out laughing! It so obviously betrays some deep insecurity about his own ability or that of your DN to feel the need to "test" a 2yo like that. It's pretty pathetic, really.

Chottie Fri 06-Sep-13 05:55:39

He sounds a real saddo to me! Why does he need to compare all the time? Children get there at their own pace in their own time. I would pick him up on the behaviour that really annoyed me. IMO he sounds insecure in his role as a parent.

His relationship with your DS is their business. I would not get involved at all.

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