Whats the line between supporting and interfering?(7 Posts)
My DB and I have a good relationship. Live fairly close by, kids similar in age, enjoy hanging out together with the kids (roughly once a month) and have each other’s DC over to play, for sleepovers etc. Our parents are not in a position to offer much support so we try to do it for each other.
I also really like my SIL, think my DB is lucky to have her, am grateful for the supporting and sounding board she game me when I had DC (they had kids first) – she seems more comfortable giving support that either asking for or accepting it.
Recently, I’ve got worried about some stuff going on between my DB and their older child (7). My DN is on my mind a lot, and I am torn between wondering if I could / should do more for them (though don’t know what) vs staying out of it as interfering family members are inappropriate (and as I have interfering in laws I know how that feels).
There have been a few incidents when we’ve been spending time together when I have been shocked / concerned by my DBs parenting and treatment especially of older DN.
From the outside, what I see is my DB is on a short fuse, and has unrealistic expectations of what a 7 year old can / should do. So he is taking what are normal, small issues (e.g. finding it hard to wait for a turn, not wanting to say goodbye) and turning them into massive disputes, generating meltdowns from the 7 year old, which he then punishes hard.
A couple of these weigh on my mind, in terms of the level of anger he showed, tipping towards violence (dragging DN down the road) and his unfairness / unreasonableness in the circumstances (one of the them DN had missed out, it was unfair, and it was understandable they were upset about it).
Both DB and SIL have been saying for months they are finding DN’s behaviour difficult. I think they can be too open about this at the wrong time (saying it more than once in DN’s earshot, which must hurt DN) but not discussing it at other times when the kids aren't around.
There’s also lots of other stuff going on which may contribute. They have recently moved house and renovated. We’ve done this too, so I know how hard this is and how it can impact on family life. Everyone is unsettled and it’s hard to have the resources to be a patient parent when you are tired and stressed for months on end.
It’s also possible elder DN may have some SEN. If so that isn’t at all obvious, but I know from reading on here that high functioning children can mask this completely except with immediate family, so that is a possibility. DB said recently they would go for an initial assessment for DN. Have heard since that this hasn’t happened, but I’m not sure why. My impression is perhaps that SIL would rather not, again, I don’t know why.
My SIL and I have had some discussions about my DB’s parenting, she has shared that she has her worries about his approach too.
Usually I take the view that other people's parenting styles are not my business.
But recently I sent DB an article on parenting I’d found looking for some suggestion for our own DC – I’d sent it to my DH so thought I’d try out sending to DB too, which I wouldn’t normally do. He responded positively so I said a bit more, hoping to get him to consider that maybe a different, less aggressive / authoritarian approach may help.
We’ve not seen them in a while, longer than usual. Perhaps just diary clashes all busy families have, though I also have the impression they are distancing themselves a bit at the moment. I’ve made suggestions recently to meet up with kids which haven’t worked out, and offered support of the ‘I’m here if you want to chat’ to both DB and SIL (separately) when DB said they may get DN assessed, which have been ignored.
So for now I am giving some space, and leaving it. Noone likes to feel their parenting is being criticised etc. On the other hand, they do seem a family under stress, and the treatment of my elder DN especially play on my mind. I wonder if I should be doing more for them.
Interested in outside views and perspectives.
Is there anything more I could / should do? Even what I have done has felt a bit like interfering. On the other hand, if something is going wrong, what support or protection could I or should I offer DN, who at times is on the receiving end of a frightening level aggression from my DB?
OP I can understand your concern. I know we are all different and have different ways of bringing up our children. There is a fine line between being stricter than most and being a danger to the child. People do not seem to understand the damage that words can do. The frightening level of aggression from DB is a phrase you have used. You are an adult who does not live with DB but DN lives full time with someone you stated can show a frightening level of aggression and do that with other adults around. I think that is the sentence in you OP that stands out the most for me
ok but then what to do?
say something more to DB?
Whatever is or isn't going on with DN, my honest view is that DB is unrealistic in his expectations, and his current parenting approach is at best making things worse, and worst case is damaging to DN.
Should i step well over the usual boundaries of respecting / accepting different parenting approaches and interfering, and tell him that's what i see?
If so how to put it? bluntly or build on the softly softly of so far?
Hi OP, I have to act very carefully therefore I would suggest the softly softly approach. I can see that you are upset by this and you have said that you have not seen the family for a longer time than usual. This is the classic withholding access to family members because what has been said it not to their liking.
I don't know how you and DB react to each other. Would you feel safe yourself if you spoke to your DB using the term above "frightening levels of aggression"to emphasize to him that he is out of order. Do you think that DB would turn on you, hit you shout at you or walk away and not come back for a longer time? Do you think SIL is being subjected to the same "frightening levels or aggression"? Do you think DB would take his anger out on you, SIL or the child? I think it is all about knowing the measure of just how far he would go with the aggression.
Think very carefully about what you can do before you actually do anything because whatever you do it could explode in all sorts of direction.
It is so hard when we are seeing things happen to little children we love in our family.
I think he'd be angry short term, tell me to mind my own business, that I was being patronising or whatever.
Don't know how long that would last.
In the past we've had our own issues (in our family I was the emotional crutch for everyone else. Parents and siblings all brought their issues to me for support and counselling, and I got nothing in return. My mum is an emotional vampire who (still) makes any problems I'm having all about her. My dad is very emotionally closed but would turn to me when desperate. But would clam up and say he couldn't cope if I needed support from him.
DB would turn to me often, but would dismiss or belittle me if I asked for his support.
Not surprisingly I had therapy about 10 years ago to work through all this and I have redrawn my relationship and reshape ,y boundaries with each of them.
Parents aren't able to offer more but I have much better boundaries in sweat I share and look for from them.
DB and I had a massive row about 10 years ago. He was shocked to see me so angry but initially denied (think honestly couldn't see) how unbalanced our relationship was. So I cut him off for a while. Not long after he had a major crisis and I think he realised is first instinct was to call me for support and he couldn't.
A while later he came to me and admitted he was wrong, had reflected on why (didn't know how to help / fix) took on board that I was asking for answers just kindness and encouragement while I found my own answers. He promised to do better. And he has ever since.
I had a crisis in my relationship a few years ago and he was v supportive and constructive.
One of the things I love and appreciate about him is that in the end he did reflect, hear me, admit he'd made mistakes, and then changed.
I'm also not afraid to be in the dog house / bad books for a while or even permanently.
One of the things holding me back is I offered to my SIL to say something to him - to be the bad cop in effect. She didn't take me up on it. So I've held back as I feel it's something between them, and more her call than mine whether and how to discuss his parenting with him.
It could be that SIL is too afraid to take you up on your offer. DB could be frightening her too. Is it possible for you to be alone with SIL and discuss this. You may need to re-assure her that what she says to you is strictly between the two of you.
How badly do you think DN is taking all this shouting and frightening attitudes? I think I read somewhere that we are all responsible for the safety of children. Do you think DN needs some safeguarding.
Does DN go to the same school as your DCs? Perhaps you could talk to someone at the school or if you ever pick up DN at school.
Is DN displaying anything worrying i.e. taken to bedwetting or having tics or habits? Does DN jump at loud noises? Any signs of nervous behaviour? I presume you are not alone with DN at the present time. If you are alone you could gently enquire if all is well with DN and at home.
It could be an idea to discuss this with NSPCC or other similar agency to judge their view on it.
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