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Niece's behaviour ruining relationship with SIL - your advice please

(36 Posts)
CrushedRaspberryDungarees Tue 29-Jul-08 20:19:23

I have a lovely 3 year old niece. Me and my 3 dc (7, 5 and 2) spend time with her and my SIL quite often. The problem is that the way we discipline our children is so different that it is starting to ruin our time together.

Basically I am of the belief that ultimately what I say goes and my SIL lets DN do/have whatever she wants to keep the peace.

Today's example (almost comedy in retrospect):

DN and SIL were at our house. DN spies a packet of biscuits on the kitchen shelf and starts climbing up on a chair to get them. SIL says she needs to ask if she wants a biscuit. DN makes a grab for the biscuits. I move the biscuits and ask DN if she would like one. DN fixes me with a stare and does not answer. My own 3 dc come and ask nicely for a biscuit. I give them one and they all say thankyou. SIL asks me to just to give DN a biscuit. I take one out for her and SIL tells her to say thankyou. She says nothing and tries to take the biscuit out of my hand. There follows a comedy scene of me holding onto the biscuit and DN managing to get little bits off me and eat them. Everyone was staring at me and I was trying to decide whether to let go or not. I used to hold onto things with my dc until they said thankyou, because I want it to become automatic for them to say it, which it is now. DN did NOT in the end say thankyou - she managed to prise the bloody biscuit off me and ran off. SIL did nothing.

My SIL is lovely but will do anything to avoid confrontation. Her daughter must not cry under any circumstances. Everything is "No", then "Oh, OK then" as soon as DN starts to whinge a bit.

When DN is with me and SIL is not there, she does what I ask and is a pleasure to be with. When her mum is there she becomes a whiney manipulative little monster!

What I want to know is, should I have interfered and held onto the biscuit or not? I know I can't give SIL advice without her asking for it, but if my own dc are witnessing me treating DN differently what message does that give them? I also feel myself getting wound up by it and think it's only going to get worse as time goes on.

Pixiefish Tue 29-Jul-08 20:22:56

THis is a hard one as it's up o your SiL how she disciplines your DN BUT as you say your kids need to see you being consistent.

Perhaps in todays eg you should give the biscuit to her mother and let her deal with it, that way your dc's don't see you being inconsistent.

LazyLinePainterJane Tue 29-Jul-08 20:23:19

How can this be ruining your relationship? I would have thought hat after 3 children you would have cottoned on to the fact that people discipline their children in different ways and you might not always agree.

Seems that you are simply annoyed that she doesn't do things the way you want her to do things.

As for the biscuits, you knew it would be an issue, I would have passed the packet to SIL and let her deal with handing them out if you didn't want to make waves.

LazyLinePainterJane Tue 29-Jul-08 20:25:30

I would say that as your SIL said to just give her a biscuit, that is what you should have done. It seems that if she wanted her to say thanks you or no biscuit, she would have specified this.

As for consistency and your children, they will soon learn that not all children have the same rules and all that matters is the ones you make for them.

Hecate Tue 29-Jul-08 20:28:51

the way to get round that one is to give your SIL the biscuit. It is then her problem.

However, she is going to raise a total brat if she is not careful. Again, not your problem.

CrushedRaspberryDungarees Tue 29-Jul-08 20:29:01

In the biscuit situation I had to think very quickly. SIL was holding her baby ds (should have mentioned that) and was only half-paying attention. I felt it was up to me to deal with it.

It does annoy me, but it's not only that. Whenever we try to do anything we ending up revolving everything around DN because SIL won't have her upset.

Hecate Tue 29-Jul-08 20:31:23

Well, why do you go along with it? Don't if you don't want to. Say "Well, my kids want to do X, so that is what we are going to do, we can see you later." she can hardly say that she wants you to prioritise her child above yours, can she?

deanychip Tue 29-Jul-08 20:32:24

This is a huge issue for me as well but with my sister.
She is of the opinion that i am like your sil with discipline.
She tells me that my son has no boundries and that i allow him to do what ever he wants.
Unlike you though, she actively dislikes my son and lets me and him know this.

so my opinion is from you sils pov.
Please please bear in mind that she probably knows that discipline is an issue. she probably feels totally shit about this, feels inadequate and guilty BUT cannot deal with scenes.
She will not need your opinion confirming to her that she is doing a shit job of disciplining her daughter.
Just let it be, let her do her thing and you do things your way.

This issue has almost caused me to fall apart at the seams, litterally it has caused my mental health to deteriorate through her forcing her opinions on me.
Please dont make your sil feel this way too.

From your pov, i can see why this frustrates you, you are lucky that you have been blessed with 3 children who maybe dont present you with such challenges OR that you have been able to cope and deal with such challenges, we are not all so "together" with this subject.

MsDemeanor Tue 29-Jul-08 20:34:36

I know you think you are right and she is wrong, but you know what? I'd wager hard cash than when all the kids are 20 you will not be able to tell which kids said thank you for the biscuit and which didn't.
I think it is really wrong of you to take it upon yourself to decide what your neice should or shouldn't say. If your SIL says 'give her a biscuit' give her the sodding biscuit. We are all different. It is a ridiculous thing to fall out with your SIL over.

beanieb Tue 29-Jul-08 20:45:10

I think you should continue to raise your children in the way you think is right and let your SIL raise hers as she thinks is right. I always knew I had to behave differently at other people's houses and it seems like your Neice is happy enough to play by your rules if she is just with you or in your home but should be allowed to behave as her mother lets her when in her own home. If that makes sense.

CrushedRaspberryDungarees Tue 29-Jul-08 20:46:19

I have never, ever said anything to my SIL about this. We have a very good relationship which is why I feel sad that I'm not enjoying my time with her as much as I used to.

I am also not planning to say anything direct - I KNOW it's up to her. I would not force my opinions on her. She has occasionally asked for my opinion and I have tried to be helpful. She seemed to genuinely appreciate the advice and said she agreed with me, but does not put any of it into practice.

Just for the record, my dc present me with constant challenges, and I don't always cope with them, obviously. They are very strong-willed. I don't think DN is a particularly challenging child, she only manipulates her mum and dad, no one else.

deanychip Tue 29-Jul-08 20:50:06

Yes, actually i agree with you and my sis says that my boy is a different child with other people so i think that you are right.

All i am saying is that in my opinion, just carry on bieng the lovely person that you are with her. It sounds like she loves your company and is appreciative of your advice and input.

I know what it is that you are saying though. smile

MadamePlatypus Tue 29-Jul-08 20:53:53

I think your house your rules. I don't think your SIL should have asked you to give her child a biscuit if it was obvious that you were trying to make a point about saying please/thank you.

I wouldn't have withheld food in order to get a thank you (its not my way of doing things) but I do think that at some point children have to learn that different people have different rules (and your SIL should be aware of this too). It would have been out of order for you to put her daughter 'on the naughty step' for instance, but with things like please and thank you, I think your SIL should respect your rules. Equally you should respect her way of doing things when you are a guest at her house.

CrushedRaspberryDungarees Tue 29-Jul-08 20:56:38

Thanks, beanychip and madameplatypus.

I was actually a little surprise at some of the earlier replies. I must be more of a tyrant than I thought.

beanieb Tue 29-Jul-08 21:02:49

I think it's great you do talk about this and you don't force opinions on eachother. You actually sound like you have a good relationship. Maybe sometimes she needs to be a bit more authoritarian and maybe you need to sometimes loosen up - let your Neice see teh wicked side occassionally grin

All your children will grow up learning how different people do things different ways but it's not the be all and end all of a person's personality. It can only be a good thing.

deanychip Tue 29-Jul-08 21:03:27

Thats ok but then you do get colourful answers from different people when you ask for an opinion.

I can just see it with clarity as i am still a bit raw from my recent awful situation that i had with my sister.
Dont realy think that i will ever get over the whole thing.
Its like you think that you are crap and that you are doing a crap job, and having some one tell you to your face, well actually yes, you are crap and you are doing a crap job. The guilt to start with is crippling, after that its like bieng permanently kicked in the guts.

Tricky situation, but you sound lovely and like you have something special with the child and her mum so you know what to do x

Tortington Tue 29-Jul-08 21:03:34

it hink in retrospect a standof wasn't the best idea - i thik you shouldhave removed the biscuits out o sight

then when the kid tanted - say no.

funn this becuase i think i am a tyrant bu BIL won't let his kid far out of place one minute then laughs at the most inappropriate stuff the next. V. trying in your own house.

we love to talk and eat at mealtimes - its one of the few times we get together asa family and ienjoy it.

BIL SIL won let anyonetalk at the meal table.

this drives me NUTS! "more eatin', less talkin'," they say!

so i devilshly told kid to lick the egg mayo bowl clean - some things kids just SHOULD do!

CrushedRaspberryDungarees Tue 29-Jul-08 21:13:03

Sorry to go but have been thinkin about the "standoff" (thanks, custardo!)

I think the reason I stood my ground was because SIL actually told DN to say thankyou. In the moment I felt I was doing what she wanted, although in the same situation she would not have held out.

My poor dc obviously know it's not worth holding out, although they give it a good try at times.grin

MrsSylar Tue 29-Jul-08 21:13:30

I don't think you should have made an issue of it in front of your sil. If the child didn't want to say thankyou, then fine, it's not your job to instill discipline in other children when their mother is present. That only makes the mother feel small and inadequate.

My 5 yo old would never say please and thnkyou when he was 3 yo, despite me trying my hardest - in the end I gave up as I couldn't face the conflict all the time.He was, and still is very headstrong, wilful and independant. He has matured quite a bit since then, and is now a really polite child. Your dn could go the same way.

CrushedRaspberryDungarees Tue 29-Jul-08 21:14:31

Sorry to go ON, I meant to type.

deanychip I'm sorry your SIL is making you feel so bad. It is good to get things from the other perspective.

CrushedRaspberryDungarees Tue 29-Jul-08 21:17:50

The thing is, MrsSylar, when she's with me she's all spontaneous please and thank you because she knows that's what we expect, so I don't think it's just about being strong-willed. She's a bright wee thing though to have worked all this out already!

MsDemeanor Tue 29-Jul-08 21:50:18

I come at from the standpoint of a child with Aspergers and I bloody hate it when people make a big show of please, thank you and saying hello etc with kids. mY Son will never win that particular competition. Actually I know a lot of three year olds, from all sorts of backgrounds, and none of them are reliable with the pleases and thank yous.

CrushedRaspberryDungarees Tue 29-Jul-08 22:07:04

The please and thank you thing was just an example to illustrate how my DN behaves differently when SIL is there. She KNOWS her mum will give up quickly. It's starting to affect everything we try to do together and it's not fair on my dcs. Like, I tell them no chocolate until after lunch then DN appears smugly eating chocolate which my dc have to watch. And that she deliberately destroyed my ds' amazing sandcastle just after she had been told to leave it and SIL just sighed. (I said "That wasn't very nice" - fair enough surely?) Poor ds was in tears for ages.

MrsSylar Tue 29-Jul-08 22:17:59

I get the sandcastle thing if you are saying she did it deliberately to upset your ds - however , aged 3 , do you think she was just over exuberant and unthinking, as opposed to intentionally malicious?

As for the chocolate thing, as someone said earlier, children have to learn that other kids live by different rules. I have a friend who is paranoid about safety and won't let her dss climb trees. My dss are always up the bloody things, while their friends have to stand and watch. It's not particularly fair or nice, but that's how it is .

Carmenere Tue 29-Jul-08 22:18:05

I think iiwy I would just say to sil and dn, 'sorry but my house, my rules, I can't be inconsistent with my dc's' and I think that is perfectly fair. Dn(and sil) can behave how she wants in her own home.

I was in Ikea today and some little fecker was putting all the things from one display basket into a different one and mixing them all up and dd started to join in and I yelled at her. It was really naughty imo as some poor wage slave would have to sort them out. So dd naturally says 'but hes doing it' and i reply 'yes but you are not to' (his mum was pretending not to notice). they have to learn that people have different rules.

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