Sticky family situation

Jeeze, sometimes I feel like I post here more about my sister's kids than about my own...

Anyway, my 5-year-old nephew has been having A LOT of behavioral problems lately. More than typical of a boy his age. He's been sent home from preschool several times in the past few months, sometimes several times a week. The director of the school told my sister that if they couldn't get the problems under control, then he wouldn't be allowed to attend camp this summer. The problems he's having are mostly violent, such as trying to choke a teacher once and hitting members of the family. He also knows what to say to hurt people's feelings and will say those things when he's mad... such as telling my BIL "I'm not your son" (my BIL is not his biological father, but they are in the process of adoption). They've been working on having him evaluated for various conditions; they believe he has sensory issues, and they're not sure what else... my sister suspects he might be bipolar. A lot of the problems got bad after his little brother was born, so we believe for sure a lot of it is a cry for attention, whether or not there is also something else going on.

Anyway, Solomon looks up to his cousin and loves playing with him. It's getting very difficult whenever we go for family dinners on Sundays because my nephew will usually have "an episode", and then my sister/BIL often handle it much differently than we would. And they don't always agree about how to handle things, and have gotten in arguments about it in front of the family. AWKWARD. Anyway, we know it's every parent's right to discipline their children as they see fit (as long as they're not being abusive), but we really worry about the influence it will have on Solomon. So far he hasn't copied any of our nephew's behaviors or asked about why he was disciplined a certain way, but we're worried about the routine exposure.

My husband really wants to stop going to the Sunday dinners for a while, or at least not every week. On one hand, I have no problem with that. But on the other hand, I feel like family should stick by each other, and if we were having a problem with one of our kids I would hope that our family members wouldn't avoid us because of it. That said, if one of our kids was having a "bad day", we wouldn't go to dinner and potentially ruin everyone else's night.
Faith, 3Aish redhead
Mama to two wild superheroes and a curly-headed baby boy
Duh, I left out a big part of it... nephew is kind of mean to Solomon when they play too, and it's become so common that my sister/BIL don't even always discipline him for it anymore. He steals toys from Solomon, he hits/tackles him, etc. Some of it is definitely normal kid behavior (Solomon's always stealing toys from Abram too) but it's more than what's normal. My husband and BIL often watch the older boys outside while we're inside or sitting with the babies, and my husband said that BIL will often say "Don't take that from Solomon" but he won't actually do anything about it. Luckily Sol rolls with the punches pretty well, but we want to be fair to him too. My husband and I have pretty much agreed that we'll give them a chance to discipline him themselves, but if they don't do so within a reasonable amount of time then he/we will step in ourselves.
Faith, 3Aish redhead
Mama to two wild superheroes and a curly-headed baby boy
I don't think a once-a-week visit with his cousin will unduly influence an otherwise-well-behaved child. I have found, with my younger kids anyway, that exposure to their bratty cousin actually makes them behave better. It gives them the understanding behind the behaviors that they might not otherwise be privy to. They do not like his behavior sometimes and they will tell him so, which is good for the cousin (peer pressure). Also, it prompts many conversations later with us about behavior, responsibility, and consequences, and I think it has led them to make better decisions in their own lives.

Behavior issues are what led me to homeschooling. I was having a lot of behavior problems with my second son in school. He wasn't so much directly violent, but he was very inappropriate...drawing pictures with blood and murders to upset his teachers, pushing and fighting with other boys, bringing a (tiny pocket)knife to school (although not using or threatening with it), saying sexually inappropriate things for shock value. It started in kindergarten and just got worse year after year, and he was "labeled" as a bad boy by the teachers. I switched him to a charter school, and that helped, but the charter school closed after only 2 years and he had to go back to public school. Eventually, the school assessed him and wanted to diagnose him, something called "conduct disorder" (these are the kids who become mass murderers). I thought they were wrong, and that his "reputation" among the teachers was hurting him worse than anything (they treated him as if he were incorrigible and punished him pretty severely), so I took him out of school completely in 4th grade.

Several years of homeschooling cured him. During those years, I put him in acting programs, swimming, and fencing...things he couldn't really"fail" at, and he spent a lot of time learning that he had worth. He was lonely for academic peers though. By 8th grade, he asked to go back to school. I let him, because I had seen such a change in him. I told him that if he misbehaved, even once, I would pull him back out of school, forever. I never had to follow through on that threat, because he never had another problem. He just graduated high school last week, where he was captain of the swim team, on the track and cross-country teams, on the debate team, acted in every theater production, and he is going to college in the fall for criminal justice, where he will be on the swim team. He has tons of friends. He does not have a conduct disorder. He had a bad-reputation problem and he overcame it. I'm very proud of him, because, while I gave him the freedom to become his real self in a safe setting, he did the real work of reforming his behavior.

I hope your sister figures things out for your nephew. Maybe he's just not ready for school? Maybe he really doesn't like his step-dad, or his new brother, and needs help getting through those adjustments? There are many reasons why kids act badly that don't necessarily mean they require a psychiatric diagnosis. Sometimes they just need different/better/more-appropriate parenting.
We had somewhat similar issues with BIL and SIL's kids. They are also older than ours and Ben really looked up to his cousin. It wasn't the violent stuff but whining, bad table manners, etc. We often discussed with Ben beforehand that different families have different rules, and that he would have to follow our rules no matter what other kids were doing. Worked pretty well. Thankfully BIL and SIL ihave gotten better about it and the kids have matured. If your sis and her dh are disciplining in a way you find really inappropriate, or having an argument, it might be a good time to take Sol into another room to either distract him from it or to discuss what is going on.
I also think it is fine to discipline your nephews a bit. Not as in admonishing but fine to intervene and help them find a solution. Like in the toy stealing, if BIL doesn't do anything Ben can step in and say "it' Sol's turn now but you can have a turn in 3 minutes" and make a big deal out of timing it, and similar things.
I wouldn't preemptively avoid the dinners if Sol is behaving ok. Just use it as opportunities to discuss behavior and choices and your expectations for him .
To Trenell, MizKerri and geeky:
I pray none of you ever has to live in a communist state.

Geeky is my hero. She's the true badass. The badass who doesn't even need to be a badass. There aren't enough O's in cool to describe her.
I hope your sister figures things out for your nephew. Maybe he's just not ready for school? Maybe he really doesn't like his step-dad, or his new brother, and needs help getting through those adjustments? There are many reasons why kids act badly that don't necessarily mean they require a psychiatric diagnosis. Sometimes they just need different/better/more-appropriate parenting.
Originally Posted by RedCatWaves
We (my husband and I) have also wondered if maybe he's just not ready for school. My sister is very mainstream-y and thinks homeschooling is "weird" (and we're considering it, though we have a few years to decide, so that will be an interesting conversation) so even if she pulled him out of preschool and didn't do camp for the summer, I know she'll be sending him to kindergarten in the fall. He's been in daycare since he was a baby and had similar problems a year or so ago at his old center, which was when they switched him to his current preschool, thinking it would help with his problems. It did help for a while, but obviously they came back.

Also, now my sister is staying at home with the baby, decided not to go back to work (may try to go very PT if they end up needing the money) and I think my nephew is jealous. He's actually told his teachers that his mom is home with his brother and he wants to be home too, and that when his daddy travels he's supposed to be the man of the house and protect them. My sister did tell him that if he ever wants to come home, he can call her and tell her so instead of misbehaving so he gets sent home. I think that was a good idea on her part, and he's taken her up on it a few times. Actually, more than she wanted him to, so she's starting to offer him incentives to behave well and stay at school all day.

As far as not liking my BIL... He's the only dad that my nephew has ever known. He and my sister started dating when he was 1 and his bio-dad has never been in the picture. They do butt heads a lot because my BIL can be overly strict, IMO, and is willing to fight with the kid about EVERYTHING. My husband and I feel he doesn't do a good job about picking his battles, and then when it's something really serious the kid doesn't take them seriously.

As to the bolded, that's how we feel. I think my sister is so quick to hope for a "label" so that it can be the fault of some outside influence beyond her control. Then again, I'm certainly not an expert so maybe there really is something going on.

You make a really good point about using the cousin's misbehavior as an opportunity to teach your own children. I never thought of it that way.

Thanks for the reply.
Faith, 3Aish redhead
Mama to two wild superheroes and a curly-headed baby boy
We had somewhat similar issues with BIL and SIL's kids. They are also older than ours and Ben really looked up to his cousin. It wasn't the violent stuff but whining, bad table manners, etc. We often discussed with Ben beforehand that different families have different rules, and that he would have to follow our rules no matter what other kids were doing. Worked pretty well. Thankfully BIL and SIL ihave gotten better about it and the kids have matured. If your sis and her dh are disciplining in a way you find really inappropriate, or having an argument, it might be a good time to take Sol into another room to either distract him from it or to discuss what is going on.
I also think it is fine to discipline your nephews a bit. Not as in admonishing but fine to intervene and help them find a solution. Like in the toy stealing, if BIL doesn't do anything Ben can step in and say "it' Sol's turn now but you can have a turn in 3 minutes" and make a big deal out of timing it, and similar things.
I wouldn't preemptively avoid the dinners if Sol is behaving ok. Just use it as opportunities to discuss behavior and choices and your expectations for him .
Originally Posted by geeky
Thanks for sharing your experience. We definitely do take Sol into another room to read/play/whatever if there's a situation that's inappropriate for him. And we pretty much decided to do what you suggested about stepping in to "discipline" my nephew when BIL/sister aren't on the ball with it. It's so different with us because we're ALWAYS on the ball with disciplining our kids (well, just Sol at this point), because we would NOT want anyone else to do so. And if we weren't on the ball, it would be their right to step in.

It's already gotten hard with the different families / different rules thing. At the dinner table for example, they're very strict that nephew has to eat what everyone else is eating, has to have a certain number of bites before he can eat dessert, etc. We're VERY lax about mealtimes; Sol pretty much eats what he wants whenever he's hungry (from a selection of mostly healthy options) so if he doesn't eat much at dinner we don't really care. I realize they probably think our approach is all wrong. Anyway, it's tough when they want their son to eat the grownup food and we're letting Sol have cheese and crackers or whatever.
Faith, 3Aish redhead
Mama to two wild superheroes and a curly-headed baby boy
I have no idea for advice because my kids aren't really 'school age' yet, so I don't have a lot of experience in this.

I could give my personal opinions though. I think most kids go into school too early. I personally feel that kids are supposed to be spending the early years, close to their parents, and I think it creates problems like this if they're not. They aren't developing the confidence they're going to need when they're actual school age.

I don't allow other kids to be mean to my child, just as much as I wouldn't allow my kids to be mean to someone else. If I would speak to my kids in a situation, I have no problem speaking to someone elses child if their parents will not.

And I'm too defensive of my kids, so if someone was repeating bad behavior, or treating my kids badly, I wouldn't want to expose my children to them anymore.

That's all I got.


oh, p.s. - if I know there is going to be a situation, we involve little pep talks. Pep talks before to talk about what kind of behavior I expect, and pep talks after to explain that just because little johnny said, or did those things does not make it right, and we don't do that stuff in our family.
Do you think your sis or BIL is telling him he needs to be the man of the house and protect the family when dad travels? That vould really stress him out. Little kids take this kind of thing very seriously.
To Trenell, MizKerri and geeky:
I pray none of you ever has to live in a communist state.

Geeky is my hero. She's the true badass. The badass who doesn't even need to be a badass. There aren't enough O's in cool to describe her.
Do you think your sis or BIL is telling him he needs to be the man of the house and protect the family when dad travels? That vould really stress him out. Little kids take this kind of thing very seriously.
Originally Posted by geeky
I do think they tell him that. So I think that really worries him, plus I think he's VERY jealous that he's been in daycare all his life and now that the baby is here his mom is staying home.
Faith, 3Aish redhead
Mama to two wild superheroes and a curly-headed baby boy
I don't really understand while she doesn't keep him home with her at least until kindergarten starts. I guess that's not the real issue you are having but that kind of bugs be either way.

Like you said (on your second hand), family should stick together. Your nephew's behavior is a problem that should concern (genuinely concern...not inconvenience) the entire family.

It could have been your child...or you...who the family is trying to avoid.

I don't know what the issues are, but I guess there are some (absentee father, remarriage, blended family, sibling rivalry, possible medical problems, etc.). Why not put your heads together and try to come up w/ solutions?

I don't think it should be so much of the "them vs. us" thing. But rather, let "us" make it easier for this little member of our family to grow up to be the best he can be...ask around for suggestions, read the literature, take turns redirecting him or whatever.

I'm just more of an "it takes a village" thinker, esp when it comes to family.
3b (with 3c tendencies) on modified CG

I don't really understand while she doesn't keep him home with her at least until kindergarten starts. I guess that's not the real issue you are having but that kind of bugs be either way.
Originally Posted by Delma


I don't understand either. Sis is staying home and the kid is having trouble, why put him "camp" just so he can have more trouble? They're setting him up for failure. It ruins kids' self-esteem to constantly be in trouble. Let him have a break from school and be with mom for the summer.

And I wholeheartedly agree with iroc...kids have way-too-much school, way-too-early. Many 5 year olds still need to be with their moms for most of the day, if at all possible.

My younger two kids didn't go to official school, at all, til they were 6 and 8 years old, and they are all-the-better for that extra time with me.
And I wholeheartedly agree with iroc....
Originally Posted by RedCatWaves


Sorry, I just wanted to see that in print again.



I think it's okay for other family members to tell the kid to cut it out. Maybe the kid doesn't take his parents seriously, so it might be more effective to have your dad or Ben tell him to cut it out with an intimidating, stern voice. My husband works swing shift so hardly ever goes over to relatives' houses. Sometimes my 5 year old gets a little crazy and a good, stern male voice usually does the trick.

But don't start skipping dinner with the family. We go to the MIL's every Tuesday and there are 6 kids there total, and I come home every week with a headache. And we all jump in and tell the kids to knock it off. In fact, my little 3 year old neice is quite the diva. Nobody will tell her no, except me. They're glad to have me there to do it too, I think.

I also think she should have him home for the summer.
I too think she should just keep him home, at least until kindergarten in the fall. I forgot to mention before that they have at least reduced him to 3 days a week though. On the days when he's home, when I've spoken to her, she sounds EXTREMELY overwhelmed having the 2 kids at home. I honestly think the reason she's not pulling him out altogether is because she doesn't think she can handle two on a full-time basis. She's got some depression/mental health/other issues of her own that she's also continuously working on.

And you all make a good point about stepping in when needed. My parents already do that a lot. It's a weird situation because my sister was a single mom at first and she and he lived with my parents until he was 3+, so they had a lot of influence. Sometimes I think it's actually detrimental because there are too many cooks in the kitchen, if you know what I mean. Like at the dinner table, he'll have BIL, sister, and both of my parents trying to convince him to eat, sometimes saying conflicting things. My dad DEFINITELY steps in a lot with the discipline stuff when we're over there. Anyway, as I said I would be pissed if one of them tried to discipline my kid so we don't step in with theirs until we've given them a chance to do it themselves.
Faith, 3Aish redhead
Mama to two wild superheroes and a curly-headed baby boy
You mentioned how the older boy was always in preschool, and the baby is home with the mom. That absolutely sends a crazy message to a kid.

I used to work in daycare - I just never understood the parents who would drop their kids off when it was their day off, they were on vacation, or whatever.

They'd come right out and tell me they didn't want their kid in the way while they were running errands, or trying to clean the house.

And I'll stop right there before I burn out my keyboard over that one.
I completely agree with you, iroc. To be fair, I think my sister really looks at it as "school" and not as daycare, so pulling him out of it is different in her mind. (I'm not saying it's not school, he certainly learns a lot there).
Faith, 3Aish redhead
Mama to two wild superheroes and a curly-headed baby boy
I completely agree with you, iroc. To be fair, I think my sister really looks at it as "school" and not as daycare, so pulling him out of it is different in her mind. (I'm not saying it's not school, he certainly learns a lot there).
Originally Posted by PixieCurl

That's a whole 'nother thread.



Really, though, at 5 there's no point in pulling him out. At that point he IS in preschool, and he's of the right age for it. If that's the reason for his outbursts, the damage is already done. She would just have to focus on finding ways to make him feel important now. What she should, or shouldn't have done in the previous 5 years can't be changed. I realize that.

Last edited by iroc; 06-22-2010 at 10:51 AM.
I too think she should just keep him home, at least until kindergarten in the fall. I forgot to mention before that they have at least reduced him to 3 days a week though. On the days when he's home, when I've spoken to her, she sounds EXTREMELY overwhelmed having the 2 kids at home. I honestly think the reason she's not pulling him out altogether is because she doesn't think she can handle two on a full-time basis. She's got some depression/mental health/other issues of her own that she's also continuously working on.

And you all make a good point about stepping in when needed. My parents already do that a lot. It's a weird situation because my sister was a single mom at first and she and he lived with my parents until he was 3+, so they had a lot of influence. Sometimes I think it's actually detrimental because there are too many cooks in the kitchen, if you know what I mean. Like at the dinner table, he'll have BIL, sister, and both of my parents trying to convince him to eat, sometimes saying conflicting things. My dad DEFINITELY steps in a lot with the discipline stuff when we're over there. Anyway, as I said I would be pissed if one of them tried to discipline my kid so we don't step in with theirs until we've given them a chance to do it themselves.
Originally Posted by PixieCurl
Can all the adult have a little powwow about what the discipline should be like beforehand, and then everyone do their part?

My older one went thru a bad behavior phase that really had me stumped (and frustrated). I don't have any family around, but if I did, and if they were well-meaning, I would have welcomed any insight or help w/ open arms.

Maybe your sister would, too, if it was framed in the right way?
3b (with 3c tendencies) on modified CG

Can all the adult have a little powwow about what the discipline should be like beforehand, and then everyone do their part?

My older one went thru a bad behavior phase that really had me stumped (and frustrated). I don't have any family around, but if I did, and if they were well-meaning, I would have welcomed any insight or help w/ open arms.

Maybe your sister would, too, if it was framed in the right way?
Originally Posted by spiderlashes5000
It's really tricky with me and my sister. Our parenting styles are very different and it's been a source of contention. We got in a pretty big fight a year or so ago about something, and she said some really hurtful things about my parenting. And while I've never directly criticized her parenting, I think she thinks I think I'm better than her, if that makes any sense. So pretty much, because I want her to keep her nose out of my parenting, I keep my nose out of hers. Sometimes I'll sneak in little tidbits of advice really non-confrontationally - like one time I said "Even though my kids are younger than yours so who knows if I know what I'm talking about... sometimes I find that if I give Sol some positive attention BEFORE he asks for it, it will prevent him from acting poorly to get my attention... it can be so hard because when Abram goes down for a nap it's tempting to get other stuff done, but I really find spending some one-on-one time with Sol first really helps prevent a meltdown."

Anyway, any time that DH or I step in it's because no one else has stepped in first. And our discipline style is gentler than theirs, so even if they don't believe it will be effective I can't imagine they'd think it's harmful.



And iroc, about the daycare/preschool thing... I really don't have a problem with her calling it school. I guess for me, it's whatever the establishment calls itself. When he used to go to an actual day care center and she called it school, I found it annoying. But now he's at an actual preschool. I even have friends who sent 2-year-olds to preschool (a few hours, a few days a week) and I had no problem with them calling it school either. I just would never think of preschool as mandatory like "regular" school (and even then you can homeschool) so to me it would be a no-brainer to keep him home in this situation, and definitely a no-brainer to skip camp for the summer.
Faith, 3Aish redhead
Mama to two wild superheroes and a curly-headed baby boy

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