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AIBU for wanting to say something?

(28 Posts)
PTFswife Mon 02-Jan-17 21:56:30

I have just spent a week staying with good friends of ours and was horrified at how the dad constantly criticises his 13 year old son. We've seen this before but it seems to have gotten a lot worse. Their son is a slightly odd child (very bright but zero social skills and does lots of things that aren't very sensible). But the dad criticises him non stop. From the minute the kid gets up till when he goes to bed. The poor boy looks like a dog that has been repeatedly kicked and is just waiting for the next round of criticism.

In contrast, their younger son can do no wrong (even though he is exceptionally manipulative e.g. Pretending his brother is hurting him just to see him get yelled at).

You can see how toxic it is - the older boy hates his brother and it's starting to become a self fulfilling prophecy - the dad says he's useless and a bully and so he is starting to become that. He does do mean things to his younger brother but I'm not surprised! Mostly he just seems so sad. I did not see him smile once during the week I was there. I tried to engage him in conversation but got mono syllabic answers. He genuinely comes across as one of those kids who'll end up taking his own life or getting into serious drugs - that's how unhappy he seemed.

I had a very gentle chat to the wife who doesn't do what the dad does but doesn't stop him doing it. Our sons are close in age and so we talked about puberty and the challenges of teens etc and I suggested some of the things that work for us - like trying to find the positive and praising that instead of focusing on the negative.

She said that she'd mention that to her husband as she felt he criticised their son a lot. But beyond that I don't see what I could do. I don't want to be an intefering busybody and could seriously jeopardise our friendship if I raised it, but I feel awful watching that poor boy having his self esteem ripped apart.

Some of their other friends who see them more often were also talking about it and how bad it was, yet no-one seemed willing to say something to the dad. Is it better to butt out or to say something to help the child?

LauderSyme Mon 02-Jan-17 22:16:12

It would definitely be better if you could help the child. Poor lad.
But that could a very big IF...
So many people are unable to take constructive criticism well, particularly about something as personal as their parenting.
But he sounds like a wanker who is emotionally abusing his vulnerable son, so I do think that you and other friends of the family have to at least try.

Footinmouthasusual Mon 02-Jan-17 22:19:43

I would have to say something to him. It's emotional abuse and I couldn't stand by and watch.

ApproachingATunnel Mon 02-Jan-17 22:20:21

Im no expert but from that boy's perspective it can hardly get worse- he gets ripped apart on daily basis.
Perhaps someone needs to say something.
That family sounds rather toxic- dad is a bully, one son is a golden child whilst another a scapegoat with mother who is unable/unwilling to challenge her husband... I feel sorry for that boysad

PTFswife Mon 02-Jan-17 22:28:29

I feel sorry for him too. They don't live near us and there simply wasn't an opportunity to talk to the dad while there. He's my husband's friend from years ago and my dh feels the same way I do and was willing to try talk to him, but due to multiple guests there was never an opportunity. Now we've left and it feels weird to raise it from afar but I can't help thinking about that poor boy. If that's what the dad is like in front of people, what's he like when they're alone? Or perhaps he isn't as bad and does the criticising ad a show for people as a way to cover his embarrassment that his son isn't perfect confused

LauderSyme Mon 02-Jan-17 22:28:55

Just to add, reading about the family dynamics you describe, and their toxic effects makes me feel really sad.
It's great that you are caring and empathetic and I do hope you will find a way to intervene to help this boy.
It will be a difficult subject to broach with the father, but I think you should try. He may not even be aware of his own behaviour as it's likely to be deeply ingrained, but he should be forced to face the damaging effect it is having on his son.
If you do speak to the father and he is not receptive, could you find a way to involve the son more in your own family life?

PTFswife Mon 02-Jan-17 22:34:49

I don't see how as we live a long way from them and as he has so few social skills it is hard trying to create some kind of relationship. I tried really hard to praise and encourage him while there but frankly I don't think it would have made a difference. I don't think he has aspergers but there is something not 100% right - no eye contact, no smiling, very gifted academically, no common sense, addicted to computer games to the point of bursting into tears when taken off them. sad

LauderSyme Mon 02-Jan-17 22:34:49

Sorry, cross post. I see that long distance will make that last suggestion impossible. If your dh, good on him, does it soon, then I don't think it's necessarily weird to raise it from afar.

LauderSyme Mon 02-Jan-17 22:46:14

I am sure the father does not behave any better when they're alone sad
You and your dh sound lovely. Could you perhaps involve some of the other friends you mention to stage some sort of intervention?!
I wish I could be surer that it would have the desired effect though.

TheresABluebirdOnMyShoulder Mon 02-Jan-17 22:53:01

This is really tough. I know a family almost exactly like this. One very bright and lovely older child who is constantly berated and told off for breathing more or less. Then a younger sibling who is actually a complete pain in the arse but is treated like a king. I don't know what to do either. I feel awful not stepping in but I can just guess how it would be received and at least as it stands I am part of that child's life and hopefully someone they can trust and who loves them. If I raise the issue my fear is that nothing will improve but we will have a falling out with the parents, leaving the child with one less person to care about them. It's so sad.

I hope someone can offer you some advice OP. I'd be interested to hear it too.

Cherrysoup Mon 02-Jan-17 22:53:53

I sorry,it you can't 'stage an intervention', that's laughable. You live far away and it's none of your business. The NSPCC aren't going to get SS to remove the child of he's fed, clothed, warm. I feel your pain, OP, just been through similar with a family member, lovely natured child, but being spoiled rotten, called a derogatory name by her df, very whiny and is given zero boundaries. It made me sad to see how awful the relationship was, but how can you/I possibly help?

DJBaggySmalls Mon 02-Jan-17 22:55:39

I grew up like that, I am NC with my parents. Maybe you can be there for him when he leaves home? I had to leave at a very young age, got no support to get through college or A levels. Its affected my adult life very badly.

stitchglitched Mon 02-Jan-17 22:59:47

I would have said something at the time but I'm a bit hotheaded. At the very least I would be turning down any future invitations to get together and telling the Dad exactly why he is so unpleasant to be around.

foxyloxy78 Mon 02-Jan-17 23:12:59

How about inviting them over to stay at your house at the next holidays. The dad can witness how a loving and functional family work, how your kids are treated etc. He may be open to a conversation with your husband too as they are friends. Perhaps will go down better if your husband talks to him.

Verbena37 Mon 02-Jan-17 23:32:17

I think your idea about the dad showing off and perhaps it not being as bad at home could be spot on.
However, perhaps next time you see them, if the Dad is still doing it, you could say something to the child like "blimey you're dad is a bit harsh....is he always like that?"

LauderSyme Mon 02-Jan-17 23:38:59

Cherry I meant intervention in the way it is sometimes used by Americans; a group of concerned, caring people providing feedback to someone about the negative effects of their behaviour.
I'm glad that the OP thinks a child being treated badly is her business.

northernmonkey1010 Tue 03-Jan-17 01:28:04

Report the bully to NSPCC even if they can't do anything the letter may scare him into been a better dad.

OopsDearyMe Tue 03-Jan-17 03:14:08

I don't think talking to the Dad would do anything but maybe make it worse, he may take the embarrassment out on the boy. You could speak with his teacher about your concerns if you know who that is, explain that you have spoken to Mum, but are still worried. The teacher can then maybe talk to the boy and see what's going on. I am sure his behaviour will be reflecting what's going on at home and he or she is then in a better place to talk with the parents.

OopsDearyMe Tue 03-Jan-17 03:18:42

My ex husbands step father behaved the same way before his son was diagnosed autistic, he blamed all the unusual behaviours on bad behaviour and was old school a real corporal punishment father. Once the boy was diagnosed he was a different person with him.
Maybe you could talk about the boys oddities rather than Dads treatment of the child and ask how mum feels you could approach him better. It opens communication and she may well then start to discuss the dad too.

SparkyStar84 Tue 03-Jan-17 03:29:09

Maybe I'm a wicked witch, but I wouldn't think twice about calling social services and explaining it to them, so hopefully they'll contact school and do a welfare check.

I know a friend who when you get had trouble with her brothers, but that was a cultural thing too. She always said she wished someone had to guts to speak up and get her out of there. This was a different era though.

In light of recent tragedies they take things more seriously, I've reported a family before now, as I think of what my friend went through, feeling so helpless.

Possibly speak to mutual friends and see if they'd support such an intervention.

The other thing is, kids learn from how they are treated, they either do the opposite, or copy the behaviour they went through.

I'm sure he'd be grateful to have someone independent ask how he is, as maybe he sees you as his Dad's friend any any negative stuff will get back causing more trouble. I wish you luck.

You could really make a difference.

Mummyoflittledragon Tue 03-Jan-17 04:09:09

- invite the child over by himself next holiday perhaps? You could meet half way for handover.
- call his father's behaviour out by taking to the boy. Saying similar to suggestion by Verbena37 "blimey you're dad is a bit harsh....is he always like that?"
- get your dh to talk to the father.

What an immature arse. I had toxic parenting. It's extremely damaging. I have had a lot of counselling.

WiltingTulip Tue 03-Jan-17 05:21:09

Could your dh ring the dad for a chat and say something like:
I just wanted to talk to you after our stay. We noticed how angry you are towards x, is everything ok?

lovelearning Tue 03-Jan-17 05:34:03

You can see how toxic it is - the older boy hates his brother and it's starting to become a self fulfilling prophecy - the dad says he's useless and a bully and so he is starting to become that. He does do mean things to his younger brother but I'm not surprised! Mostly he just seems so sad. I did not see him smile once during the week I was there. I tried to engage him in conversation but got mono syllabic answers. He genuinely comes across as one of those kids who'll end up taking his own life or getting into serious drugs - that's how unhappy he seemed.

PTFswife

Write to the father

Tell him the truth

PTFswife Tue 03-Jan-17 06:52:50

Thanks all. Had to go to sleep hence slow reply. I did actually make comments several times while we were there in the child's defence. For example the younger brother was pretending that his brother was pushing his chair over (he wasn't). The dad immediately started telling off the older boy. I explained in front of them all that actually it wasn't the older boy's fault at all. The dad's response was 'sure' as though he'd heard that before but wasn't buying it.

There were several other similar examples. I made a point of praising the boy in front of his dad by way of example but what I should have said was 'hey, be nice.' My DH even tried to come to the kid's defence once and the two men almost got into a row. The kids had been on a long walk and came back and wanted to veg out in front of the tv - which the dad had been doing all day as younger child refused to walk and was of course pampered and told fine whereas older boy would never have been allowed the same. So when we got back and the kids said they wanted screens the dad told them no. So my DH said: well actually they have been for a walk and I give my children permission to go on screens. The dad made a comment about how if we wanted to pander to our kids fine, but his son wouldn't be going on a screen. It got really uncomfortable.

Even my own kids (who aren't angels) came to the boys defence during the stay and were horrified by how he was treated.

It would be easy to say: well he's an arse so stop being friends but in all other aspects we are good friends it's just his parenting that is a problem. I know how long it takes to build self esteem in an adult and I can see him fundamentally changing
this boy's future yet feel helpless to do anything.

I might just stay in touch with the mum and gently ask if things are improving based on the chat we had.

BabySnores Tue 03-Jan-17 07:28:43

I think you need to be a bit tougher op. It sounds like the mum doesn't want to see it or doesn't care too. An honest phone call followed by an honest email from you and dh may be better. To see someone from outside commenting might make them think or at least talk to others who mat feel able to be honest with the prompt.

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