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WWYD? My DH niece is not parenting well.

(16 Posts)
Chocolateporridge Wed 26-Dec-12 08:45:14

My DH has a niece in her early twenties who has had a rough time, lots of difficult family things happening to her since she was about 10 and she now suffers from depression and is in medication. Wether this is a result of her depression I don't know but she is very self-centred, ungrateful and lazy. My DH says she has always been like this. She us married and has an 8 month old DD and for the first time in many years they came to stay with us for 3 days. They live hundreds and hundreds of miles away so this is only the 2nd time that we've met her dd.

That is just a very brief background so you can kind of get a picture, but while she was here both my husband and I noticed quite a few things about the way she parents that really worried us. Taken individually they're not so bad but as a list it looks bad to us. I'm no parenting expert and have pretty much muddled our way through with books and advice for our dd but these are some of the things they did (their dd is 8 months):

took her to pub with my dh and whilst there they both gave her alcohol, not even just a dab on the finger but a drink from a pint glass. My DH told them off!

Put her to bed each night in their bed on her own under a big thick duvet even though she is very wiggly and there was a perfectly good cot in their room

Proudly told us about the many, many times when they've dropped her on her head, left on bed and she's fallen off etc etc only taking her to A&E once

Only feeding her yoghurt in addition to formula although whilst here I've being showing niece how to wean

Laughing about how they've been giving her honey and low fat food until the HV told them last week not to

NEVER interacting with dd, just plonking her on the floor and ignoring her. Niece says she usually leaves her on floor in one room and gets on with things in other rooms. Says dd only cries for a few mins then looks after herself.

Dd very rarely gets a nappy change

I know that some of you might think I'm worrying about nothing but there just seems to be no love there, no kindness. The baby is extremely quiet, I hardly heard her cry and yet niece shouts at her a lot, especially when they were in a different room to us. They only have his family nearby and from what I can make out they don't offer any support. DH niece has no friends and her own family do not keep in any kind of regular contact. She came to visit us even though she thinks we don't like her and we made such an effort to disprove this, so hopefully she'll keep in touch but they really are too far away for us to make much of a difference. I really feel they need support and some basic education in childcare. I've sent them a couple of books but I don't think they even read them. My DH is really upset by the whole thing and would have kept baby here if given the chance! Like I said, we're no experts so do you think we're overreacting?

louschmoo Wed 26-Dec-12 09:28:29

Hi, it doesn't sound great TBH, especially the lack of interaction and casual attitude to the baby's health. Problem is if they live hundreds of miles away there is very little you can realistically do. It sounds like at the least they need support and maybe parenting classes. Maybe you could google what kind of services they have in their area and try and let them know? Or call their health visitor team? Sorry, I don't think you are overreacting but it's difficult to know what to suggest when they are so far away from you.

HDee Wed 26-Dec-12 09:57:35

So they've been giving her honey and low fat food, but also only feeding yogurt? Not sure how both of these statements can be right tbh.

Personally I wouldn't interfere. Baby is clean, fed and healthy. They obviously have contact with their HV and baby doesn't sound in any immediate danger.

Tolly81 Wed 26-Dec-12 10:15:09

I think it's probably just lack of education about parenting and child development. She may be putting on the casual front to hide her fears of her own failure. Why don't you google courses in her area. I think baby sensory are really good and would give her loads of ideas for ways of stimulating her dd's development. You could buy her a course as a present to her and dd perhaps? Think they'll be 30-40 pounds per course if there's one nearby. If not there might be something similar. Also you could suggest a toddler group/rhyme time similar to members of family who are nearby. Just send her an e-mail and say lovely to meet your dd couldn't resist sending you these classes I bet she'll love them. I think if you suggest her parenting is bad she'll just withdraw and stop contact with you.

Chocolateporridge Wed 26-Dec-12 13:05:09

Thanks lousch and tolly, I feel like phoning her HV but googling local classes and activities is a great idea and doing it as a gift is so tactful, I hadn't thought of that. Hdee they give her low fat yogurt and they told me that they give her honey, or used to, so I'm only repeating what they said. The baby is not particularly well dressed, not enough clothes and not very clean and she has a rattle on her chest although I think DH niece has mentioned that to her doc. I agree, she probably is feeling inadequate and is putting on a show of not caring. I'm not trying to be interfering, I'd just like to help, which is what I'd do if they lived nearby.

Fairylea Wed 26-Dec-12 13:23:06

The baby is in danger. Placing an 8 month old in an adult bed, alone, with a heavy duvet on top is dangerous.

The baby is being neglected and shouted at.

Maybe I'm quite harsh but I'd ring ss anonymously and report them. If she's shouting at the baby anyone of the neighbours could have reported her.

Then whatever happens you've done your best.

Chocolateporridge Thu 27-Dec-12 22:55:41

Thanks fairy, I think we're going to do a combination of both, ring SS or HV plus point her in the direction of some parenting classes, but my gut feeling is the same as yours.

waterrat Sat 29-Dec-12 13:09:12

OP I think you need to take a bit of a step back and think carefully here - social services are not there to police 'poor parenting' at the low level you describe. She is young, a new parent - we all make mistakes - if you want to discuss these with her kindly, then you can be supportive rather than judgemental.

She didn't know the weaning guidelines - that is not a crime! And if she is laughing about her mistakes - good, better than getting in a state. She may be embarrased and laughing to cover it up - I think it's very harsh to judge her for that.

And re. co sleeping - I really, really think you are overreacting - it's clear from the way you talk that you are anti- co sleeping generally - 'even though there was a cot and the baby is wriggly' - that is not a reason for someone not to co sleep!

When I travel with my own 8 month old - to see friends/ relatives - I co sleep even when there is a cot. It's easier than settling him in a strange house - and I feel self conscious of his crying etc, so prefer him to be right next to me.

I keep the duvet half way over him - as his mother, I am the one who knows if he is safe - you aren't in the room with them and don't know how they are sleeping so it is totally ridiculous to say the baby is in danger - it's not a newborn, it's a large baby who can turn, push, roll - nothing you describe makes it sound dangerous.

If you want to offer guidance and help then do so - but reporting your concerns seems an exctreme step in this circumstances.

Fairylea Sat 29-Dec-12 13:11:16

I don't mean to be picky but it's not co sleeping if the baby is left on their own in bed though is it? Which is what the op said happened, with the duvet on. That is not co sleeping. That is dangerous.

hostelgirl74 Sat 29-Dec-12 21:54:15

I cosleep with my baby in a bed and have done since he was only 3 months old. He normally kicks his duvet off anyway. I dont think the honey/yoghurt thing is the end of the world.
I think the most concerning stuff is about her being left alone in rooms to cry and dropping her etc. Its hard to know what to do for the best.

I think setting a good example is the best thing to do. If she sees the way you interact with the baby then maybe this will rub off. I have worked in Nurseries and one thing i know is good practice promotes good practice and the opposite is true. By watching your positive interactions and encouraging small changes then perhaps you can make a difference. Obviously this advice is regarding things you mention so far. If you truly think the child is in danger then go to social services. Not worth the risk for a childs life.

loveroflife Sat 29-Dec-12 22:28:45

Call ss as soon as she returns home. She will presume a neighbour has done it, it is essential you act now. Proudly recalling the times they have dropped their daughter on her head and shouting at an 8 month old made my blood run cold. Please do something, for the future and safety of this child. You were meant to see this situation, you need to do something. I'm appalled at some of the posters saying do bugger all - you would never ever forgive yourself if something happened. You have a duty of care for this child. Please act and don't think twice about it.

Boardiegirl Sat 29-Dec-12 23:00:49

Agree with pp, ring anonymously giving some detail that anyone could have seen. Child protection is everyones responsibility. If someone else had told u they had seen this, wotvwud u tell them to do?...exactly. And wots the worst that cud happen from u reporting? Prob a NFA from Childrens Services but at least it wud be logged as a concern. Your neice may even have been crying out for help and bragging about accidents etc was a way if asking.
Keep in touch with the neice and continue to invite her down, as pp say u can lead by example.

ZZZenAgain Sat 29-Dec-12 23:08:43

I can understand why your dh is very upset. It is difficult since they are family but I would have to do something. Where are the baby's maternal grandparents? Are they involved - your dh's family?

CoolaYuleA Sat 29-Dec-12 23:46:18

Babies who are routinely ignored tend to be quiet... In addition to the other things you have mentioned there are some serious red flags.

I would ring SS. They are the ones who are qualified to assess the situation and will put the needs of the child first. They are also able to access services to help support your DN and her DP.

If SS were brought into more cases of poor parenting earlier there would be less cases of severe neglect. It is better to get help in asap, than to wait until it goes any further.

I don't see this as "lowlevel" - there are more than a couple of significant indicators of neglect.

Chocolateporridge Sun 30-Dec-12 22:03:59

waterrat I know what you're saying about taking a step back and I am making allowances for newbie mistakes but my gut tells me its more than that. As for co-sleeping my post probably wasn't clear enough. They don't co-sleep, they just put her in their bed on her own under an adult duvet until they went to bed themselves, much later, at which point they transferred her to the cot. I've never indicated that I'm against co-sleeping!

It's difficult to lead by example because we rarely ever see them although its not for the want of trying. Her parents are not in her life and involvement from grandparents is minimal for various reasons.

I'm going to try to get hold of her HV somehow and mention my concerns as well as parenting class suggestion, but any other suggestions are welcome.

MrsSham Sun 30-Dec-12 22:15:25

Waterway social services are not their to police parenting, seriously? They are there to respond to concerns and ensure appropriate support is in place. So yes they very much do get involved with as you say low level poor parenting such as OP describes.

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