More Christmas in-law dilemmas: violent nephew causes Christmas stress(110 Posts)
Merry Christmas, Mumsnetters. I hope you can help me with this one.
My DH and I have no children, but we are very close to my two nieces, aged 9 and 11. For the last 5 years, we have held a pre-Christmas Day at our house for my parents, my brother and my two lovely nieces. We make turkey, open presents, and generally have a fun time. The following day, we spend with my in-laws. For many years, we used to visit my MIL and FIL on Christmas Day, but since being widowed, my MIL now goes to my BIL for the Christmas period. The problem is my 5 year old nephew. He is rude and violent. The last times we saw him, he kicked and hit our dog, so we no longer invite them to our house. He has been routinely excluded from nursery. My DH has a difficult relationship with his brother which, he says, he is only maintaining for the sake of his widowed mother.
On Christmas Day, we drive 3 hours to my BIL, spend 3 hours with my BIL SIL, nephew and MIL, and then drive 3 hours home. Their house is too small for us to stay over. My SIL is lovely and spends hours cooking a Christmas lunch for everyone. Over the last two Christmases, my nephew's behaviour has got worse. This Christmas, he threw a book at me and kicked me - that hurt! He also likes shouting at me and sticking his tongue out at me. His parents say "Oh don't do that again", which he ignores. He routinely thumps his mother and pulls her hair. My BIL will not admit there is anything wrong with his behaviour.
My dilemma is this - should I continue making the three hour trek with DH? I expect him to cater for my family at Christmas and we generally see much more of my family, as they live locally. Or should we both apologise and say that the 6 hour round trip on Christmas Day is too long, and that we will do it every other year from now on? Would my MIL get upset?
Your suggestions are very, very welcome. I'm very aware that, not having children ourselves, we may be having unreasonable expectations.
I don't think you have unreasonable expectations. A 6 hour round trip in one day is quite a lot (even without the child aspect) so yadnbu.
It is not unreasonable to expect the parents to actually parent their child, as in stop him from physically assaulting guests.
There may be an underlying cause for his behaviour but that does not make his kicking you alright!
I have 3 children and 3 nieces. None of them have ever behaved like this. They have all been naughty at times, all kids are, but most kids can be disciplined, it just takes time to find a system that works. Your bil and sil should be working with nursery/health visitor/gp to figure out the cause. It could be that they need to find a better way to deal with bad behaviour or it could be that there's some other issue like SEN. Either way it's difficult but ignoring it all means nothing will get better. If they won't deal it won't improve. This seems like the kind of situation where they would chuck "you don't understand you don't have kids" at you so I imagine there's nothing you can do.
It's not unreasonable to say the trip is too long for one day. Keep your early Christmas and don't worry so much. They will survive.
Thanks, PurpleMinionMummy. My DH does all the driving (probably because he feels bad expecting me to go), so he is really tired when we arrive back home in the evening!
Thanks also, Francis. His parents are really not coping well with him: he is highly controlling and very energetic. He needs firm boundaries and lots of positive encouragement when he does something right: instead his parents just stick him in front of the TV or laugh it off. He had no friends at nursery and doesn't appear to have any at his reception class.
I can't expect my in-laws to start parenting in a different way just for a few hours each year when we turn up. For example, my nephew decided that we should finish our Christmas dinner early so he could open his presents. So he cleared away all the plates and cutlery before we had finished eating. Instead of telling him off, his parents just said "Oh dear" and put all the plates and cutlery back. I think they are a bit scared of him, which is worrying as he is only 5 years old!
Lots of people will doubtless chip in and say 'But this little boy is obviously very troubled' and start suggesting reasons for his behaviour. And of course he might indeed have problems - but the point is that those problems are for his parents, not everyone else, to deal with. I, personally, wouldn't be spending the day with someone else's child who kicked me and threw things at me at five years old, regardless of what the cause of his behaviour was. It shouldn't have to be your problem.
A child of 5 who has been excluded from nursery, has issues. I would put good money on the parents being told this, plus being encouraged to look for further information diagnosis, and just because they havdnt told you doesnt mean they hanent done it.
It may also be that at the moment, it is just too scary and painful to face that your child may have a life long condition which will profoundly affect him. It is a grief, a journey. Annoying though it may be to you, they will be going through far worse.
I know this isn't the point but I think it's totally unreasonable for you to drive 6 hours on Christmas Day. That's just crazy.
Thanks for your suggestion, Random McRandomer. We do think that his parents are not coping. A social worker was assigned to the family following my nephew being badly burned last year. Apparently he accidentally kicked over a hot cup of tea, but the burn was so bad he spend 48 hours in a special burns unit. The family was assigned a social worker afterwards. We never hear exactly what happened as my BIL only talks about how wonderful he and his family are!
I'm more worried about how to break it to my DH that I don't want to go any more. I feel bad expecting him to go on his own. He isn't bothered about his brother, more about his mother who likes seeing us all together on Christmas Day.
Doesn't sound like a fun christmas lunch.
I'd make other plans next year.
if he had been excluded from nursery, there is a good chance he does have SN. Exclusions don't happen easily esp not when children are that young.
EXactly. And yet here he is being backed away from, by his own family
Thanks Catwoman and Planetary Magic: as you say, he does appear to have issues, but we can never tell exactly what is going on. My SIL will occasionally let slip that, for example, he was asked to leave his swimming club because his behaviour was so bad, but then my BIL will say that he really enjoys swimming and has been going every week. I suppose that I'm also annoyed with them because they don't seem to be doing the basics: every year we have bought him books, but they never read to him. They never play with him, but expect him to go on his ipad for hours on end. He tends to rip up books if he gets near them anyway.
I asked what he is learning at Reception, but they appeared to have no idea. My BIL just shows off about how he already knows his letters through watching Youtube videos on the ipad. My SIL made a sarky comment this year about how the books we bought him will come in useful when the Ipad runs out of battery. I suspect that they find us to be patronising and annoying! In which case, I just need to figure out how to tell my DH.
Tbh reading title I presumed you were talking about an adult. Whole your nephew may have issues, it may also be that his parents are not dealing particularly well with it over Xmas, in trying to have nice Xmas. Given that ur dh doesn't get on with his db then possibly his being there also makes db feel on edge and less likely to deal with things there and then.
Also what was the inclusion of the description of your two lovely nieces to so with your post, other than to portray ur dn as horrific.
Clearly you want to stop going so stop. Maybe talk to ur sil about dn in helpful way.
I find the idea that u don't invite them to ur house cos he kicked the dog frankly bizarre. Surely all you have to do is keep dog away from him for visits, hardly that difficult.
Planetary Magic - you make a really good point. We are his only family in the UK apart from my MIL. We live 3 hours drive away and we only see him twice a year. He probably wonders who these strange people are, who drop in at Christmas, stay for 3 hours, and then disappear again until his birthday next year. That might explain why he acts up when we are around. We feel bad about leaving him - and them - to their own devices at Christmas.
We don't provide support for his parents, as we live so far away: if we did, then maybe they would have had an outlet, and would be more welcoming when we do visit. Though, to be honest, my brother's family live in Europe and seeing them involves flights, hotels, and days taken off work.
Children with some additional needs, and im talking along the lines of ADHD/sensory/autism, will very often have a limited ability to self regulate. So what you think are the "basics" simply dont apply.
And so what if BIL isnt discussing things with you. It isnt your business and by the sounds of it, they have a lot on their plate.
What did you want from this thread? A hive mind vote for "what a little shit, his parents are obviously awful"?
PlanetaryMagic and Saorise - I wasn't expecting a hivemind vote at all. That is the wonderful nature of the Internet!
My BIL and SIL don't have to discuss his behaviour with us, but if they did, it would help us understand why he behaves in a certain way. It would also explain how we could help. As you say, our major experience with children has been with my nieces: their behaviour was always affectionate and their parents are very involved, which makes it easy for us to spend time with then.
As you suggest, my brother's family is where I've got my ideas of what is "normal" behaviour for children and parents. In terms of my original question, I suspect that you would agree that a 3-hour, maximum stress visit at Christmas isn't worth it for a number of counts. Particularly if I will forever be unfairly comparing our nephew's behaviour to that of our nieces.
Are you the parent of an ADHD/sensory/autism child? What would you recommend in terms of how their wider family should support them?
It's possible that SN are involved somewhere, but tbh, this kid doesn't sound very well supported at home in the first place, if his parents can't be bothered to read to him/interact , and leave him to his own devices a lot of the time. This in itself could lead to antisocial behaviour of the type you have described, OP. Would you be able to visit more often and provide any interactive support? Maybe he hasn't been taught how to interact sociably.
Agree with PP about just keeping the dog out of his way if visiting. On that occasion, how did you deal with the kicking incident? From what you have said his parents sound very ineffectual. He probably needs much stronger boundaries enforcing.
ohfourfoxache (best user name ever!) - My nephew generally ignores my MIL and occasionally throws things at her. My MIL does find his behaviour difficult as she was a primary school teacher in the days of, erm, firm discipline!, and has previously said that she thinks he needs stronger boundaries. But she is 86 now and not very stable on her feet. My MIL and nephew keep a wary distance from each other! She does love him very much, though, and always buys him lots of presents at Christmas.
I find myself wondering how, if they live 3 hours away and you're not close, you know so much about your nephew or your in-laws' parenting style. You say, for example, that they never read to him. How do you know this?
There are loads of things in your description of the situation that require really detailed knowledge. I don't think I would ever have known how many friends any of my nephews and nieces had at primary school, for example.
Do your SIL & BIL ring up and confide in you and your DH? I'm confused as to how much you know, because if they're telling you all this it would be a perfect opportunity to talk about your nephew's issues. Am I missing something?
Similar issue here. 7 yr old nephew is very challenging, has told my toddler son that he hates him and has made punching gestures at his head. His behaviour has been terrible at every family gathering for years, several christmases ruined by his awful behaviour and his parents do little to address the issues.
The upshot is that my husband refuses to have our son around him and that's fine by me. We don't enjoy their company and every time we see them is stressful.
By comparing with your neices, you are comparing apples and pomegranites!
To support your SIL&BIL i think it would be helpful to read as much as you can, and be as accepting as much as you can. I have two neurodivergent children in my brood and the rules that apply to the others simply dont fit for them. They are lovely but very different. The key is framing their behaviour in terms of their needs, not general good/bad behaviour. One of my kids is very sensiry seeking and on christmas day took his uncle's coat and put it on and ran around the garden. It was in his mind, really snuggly and heavy, and made him happy. Luckily his uncle gets it, and discreetly removed the valuables and let him get on with it. He is nearly 8 and should know not to take other people's clothes, but that wasnt his need at that moment.
Sorry, but you do sound really judgemental about your ILs and there is definitely a touch of everyone knows how to be a perfect parent until they actually have kids going on here.
If he does have additional needs then it's not going to be a matter of reading to him more and being stricter and that will magically make them go away. It sounds like they're struggling a bit a treading a difficult path. For example you're saying that they're dealing with the plates all wrong, but it's quite possible they were dealing with it that way to head off an even bigger meltdown. It's not really surprising that they don't read to him if he rips up any book that gets near him. And, yes, children do learn and read on iPads these days.
YANBU if you want to reduce down to every other year. YABU to be so judge of his parents who sound like they have a lot on their plates.
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