Is my 10-year-old nephew full of it?

Posted by David Beard, Globe Staff  January 1, 2009 07:05 AM

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The following question came in a Boston.com readers' Q&A on Monday with Child Caring writer Barbara Meltz

Question: My sister (my nephew's other aunt) can be very mean to our nephew. He lives with her and our parents. I have heard her say things to him like he is "full of ___." I know that I need to have a talk with her and remind her that he is only a 10-year-old CHILD, but any advice on how to phrase this? I am really worried that she is going to affect his self esteem, etc. There are really no other kids in the family, and I think people forget that he is just a CHILD, but it is really out of line. Thanks so much!!!
CONCERNED AUNT


Barbara Meltz
: Concerned aunt, Whoa! That's more than an issue of self-esteem; in my book, that's abusive. One suggestion is to remind her of the Golden Rule. If she doesn't want to hear those words coming out of his mouth (spoken to her, no less), she has to stop using them with him.

Of course, it's possible that if she's using this language, she doesn't have problems hearing it, either, so that might not work. At the heart of this is a hard question: How much does she care about this boy? If you think she does, then you can appeal to her sense of what's good for him.

It may be that she simply doesn't know. Would she be open to reading a book about parenting? Or attending a workshop? For you to lecture her probably just comes across as you being self-righteous. What's needed here is to find a way for her to gain some solid information; hopefully, she cares enough to do that.

Do you agree with Barbara here? Have some advice of your own? Let us know in our comments section, and check out these previous Child Caring posts:

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16 comments so far...
  1. Sounds like there are other problems going on here if this child is w/aunt & grandma and not his parents. Who has custody of him, grandma or aunt? If not aunt, what is her role and why is she living w/her mother? I assume she's an adult?

    Posted by Jane January 2, 09 10:39 AM
  1. Sounds like the other aunt is the family bully if the sister writing in can't even stand up for a 10-yr-old. She's an accomplice to this nonsense by not simply saying "Do not talk to him like that - he's 10." or a simple "Hey, watch your mouth". Why do adults need a sit-down talk when the problem needs to addressed right then and there? The poor kid knows no one is sticking up for him when everyone stays mute - he obviously thinks this is acceptable behavior from adults in his family.

    Posted by kmira January 2, 09 10:41 AM
  1. Interesting case for two reasons:
    1) aside from living in the same house as Nephew, it's not really clear what the role of Sister is. Does she see herself as a caregiver? Is she an adult?? It's possible that a simple pushback when Concerned Aunt sees the behavior might be appropriate: "hey, lay off the kid!" "Sis, that's MEAN!", etc. We can expect people who share a house to show respect, but can we appeal to a custodial responsibility of some type?
    2) It feels to me like Sister's tone or attitude may be more important than the words she uses. The language is crude, but it's ok in some circles....

    Posted by E January 2, 09 11:10 AM
  1. INAPPROPRIATE YES - ABUSE POSSIBLE BUT MOST LIKELY NOT. AUNT I THINK IF YOU WERE AS CONCERNED AS YOU SAY THAT YOU WOULD HAVE TALKED TO YOUR SISTER.

    Posted by ME January 2, 09 11:57 AM
  1. judgement without knowing cause is as damaging as a caused done then spoken. One question I would ask, ok, she said something like, "this kid is full of ,,,,,,," what lead to that? was there a confrontation? was the kid actually full of it? did he lie, get caught doing something. Did he tell one person one thing, but she knew the truth? Abuse? OMG far from it, saying some kid is full of it with out knowing why and then call it abuse leads me to believe those that judge are also those that slander others. For those that say you are abusing a child because you said he is full of ***** are the ones that should never ever have children or are complete helicopter parents. He is 10 yes, not 2, but dont call it abuse if you have no idea what it truly was. I call it missing information, a lot of it. Next time, post what lead up to it, that letter was so one sided with no information. If you give guidance and pass judgement with such little information, then you yourself should not have a column to post in.

    Posted by celtic witch January 2, 09 03:44 PM
  1. I agree that speaking up right away is the best way to begin. And try to engage your parents in correcting this behavior.

    Years ago I knew a woman who called one of her children names, most often "Witch." As in, "Set the table, Witch." The damage was extensive and irreparable.

    Posted by FerialDay January 2, 09 03:45 PM
  1. Clearly there are some family issues here that are not revealed in this question - Where are the parents?, What is the role of the (adult?) aunt? But what is most important now is that this child be protected. It is also critical that he knows that he is protected. The next time your sister says *anything* like that to the kid, you need to tell her to cut it out - in front of the kid. It is important that your nephew knows that you will protect him.

    Posted by ritan1 January 2, 09 07:01 PM
  1. Ugh, here we go again. If I had a nickle for every time my grandmother told me that I was "full of prune juice" or other similies, I'd be rich! It doesn't seem to have left any wounds on me.

    Back off. This is not your child. It is not abuse.

    Posted by Whathappensinmyhousestaysinmyhouse January 2, 09 08:47 PM
  1. Abuse? Yes! Sounds like more than a "talk" is needed. How about reporting the behavior to the authorities, or to the child's pediatrician? That child needs to be removed IMMEDIATELTY from sister's care, and placed with a loving family. Can the sister who wrote in take the child? For the sake of the child, do so!

    Posted by reindeergirl January 2, 09 11:17 PM
  1. Hello, I talked to my nephew like that , at that age, in the context of humor... and he knew that it was. He is now 25, mature hard-working and responsible and with a very centered sense of ethics and morals. I think it might be important to hear a little more than an "out-take" to judge the situation!

    Posted by Dot January 2, 09 11:23 PM
  1. There's too little information here- knowledge of the culture and tone are critical to determining whether or not this is abuse. The inquirer says "people forget", which leads me to believe her parents and other adults in the household don't see a problem with her sister's behavior. If it is abuse, the abuser isn't going to change; the child needs to cope with it, which by 10 I'm sure he's learned by now growing up in this family. The inquirer should just let the child know she's on his side, and model the behavior she feels is lacking.

    Posted by eastie girl January 3, 09 07:23 AM
  1. Not enough info here .. there are many 10-year-olds who can handle this sort of thing depending on the tone and in some way the people who are closest to them show them respect by not treating them with kid gloves

    maybe the kid was full of crap and the aunt was just calling him out

    Posted by zitface January 3, 09 12:31 PM
  1. I agree with Barbara on this being an abusive situation, since the concerned Aunt and letter writer clearly states that this aunt is "mean" to the child. Where are the parents and how old is this aunt "still living at home with the parents"? If the aunt in the home is an adult, Grandma and Grandpa need to send her packing.
    It sounds like the grandparents have custody of this child and as a result are responsible for his health and welfare. A child who is not with his natural parents has already suffered a loss and is vulnerable. I find it concerning that the grandparents aren't writing with their concerns about this banshee living in their home. I'm going to guess that she rules the roost and they're intimidated by her. I think the concerned aunt needs to have a sitdown with grandma and grandpa and let them know that they can risk losing custody of the child if Broomhilda doesn't lay off. Then grandma and grandpa need to issue an eviction notice and send the freeloader packing

    Posted by bambinosmom2 January 3, 09 05:35 PM
  1. To both the Nosey Aunt and Barbara Meltz. Maybe just maybe the little boy (10 years old) is full of ____. Ten is not such a little boy that he has not heard these words before or does not know them and most likely use them himself. Does it make him a bad kid, No. Just like the Aunt in question who lives with this boy most likely has a lot better knowledge of what he is up to then the busy body who stops in when she can. At ten this kids should be taking responsibility for things around him. His room, his cloths, his toys but maybe the kid keeps lying, maybe the kid will not do any of this stuff and the aunt is calling him on it. It looks to me like the Aunt and Barbara Meltz want to neuter the boy with a lack of discipline and no standard. Another reason the young are growing up with week moral characters. John

    Posted by John M. January 4, 09 10:01 AM
  1. "Abusive" is a very strong word and should not be thrown around so lightly in a blog or advise column. Based on the question, it's hard to say what is really going on, do you know something we don't? All seems very speculative. See how such a word triggers a response like the ones from reindeergirl and bambinosmom2? Constructive advise is appreciated. Inflammatory sound bites are irresponsible. Lay off the witch hunt.

    Posted by realparent January 4, 09 12:12 PM
  1. Yikes! Wish I saw this sooner so I could have explained/defended myself.

    First of all, JOHN M., you are an ass. I hope that isn't "abusive" of me to say. My nephew is none of the things you mentioned and I am not a busy body. His parents are out of the picture, for reasons that are no one' s business. We all try to chip in and help out and give him the most "normal" life that we can, ESPECIALLY ME. Some day he will most likely live with me, but for now that isn't possible, so I'm doing the best that I can and trying to look out for him.

    As I told Barbara in a follow up comment to her chat, I do not think my sister is a bad person and I wouldn't go so far as to say it's abusive. I just need to tell her to cut the ____.

    Thank you to those who suggested I call her out in front of him and show him that I don't think it's right. I think that's a good idea. Either way, I need to talk to her.

    Adios

    Posted by Concerned Aunt January 14, 09 06:17 PM
 
16 comments so far...
  1. Sounds like there are other problems going on here if this child is w/aunt & grandma and not his parents. Who has custody of him, grandma or aunt? If not aunt, what is her role and why is she living w/her mother? I assume she's an adult?

    Posted by Jane January 2, 09 10:39 AM
  1. Sounds like the other aunt is the family bully if the sister writing in can't even stand up for a 10-yr-old. She's an accomplice to this nonsense by not simply saying "Do not talk to him like that - he's 10." or a simple "Hey, watch your mouth". Why do adults need a sit-down talk when the problem needs to addressed right then and there? The poor kid knows no one is sticking up for him when everyone stays mute - he obviously thinks this is acceptable behavior from adults in his family.

    Posted by kmira January 2, 09 10:41 AM
  1. Interesting case for two reasons:
    1) aside from living in the same house as Nephew, it's not really clear what the role of Sister is. Does she see herself as a caregiver? Is she an adult?? It's possible that a simple pushback when Concerned Aunt sees the behavior might be appropriate: "hey, lay off the kid!" "Sis, that's MEAN!", etc. We can expect people who share a house to show respect, but can we appeal to a custodial responsibility of some type?
    2) It feels to me like Sister's tone or attitude may be more important than the words she uses. The language is crude, but it's ok in some circles....

    Posted by E January 2, 09 11:10 AM
  1. INAPPROPRIATE YES - ABUSE POSSIBLE BUT MOST LIKELY NOT. AUNT I THINK IF YOU WERE AS CONCERNED AS YOU SAY THAT YOU WOULD HAVE TALKED TO YOUR SISTER.

    Posted by ME January 2, 09 11:57 AM
  1. judgement without knowing cause is as damaging as a caused done then spoken. One question I would ask, ok, she said something like, "this kid is full of ,,,,,,," what lead to that? was there a confrontation? was the kid actually full of it? did he lie, get caught doing something. Did he tell one person one thing, but she knew the truth? Abuse? OMG far from it, saying some kid is full of it with out knowing why and then call it abuse leads me to believe those that judge are also those that slander others. For those that say you are abusing a child because you said he is full of ***** are the ones that should never ever have children or are complete helicopter parents. He is 10 yes, not 2, but dont call it abuse if you have no idea what it truly was. I call it missing information, a lot of it. Next time, post what lead up to it, that letter was so one sided with no information. If you give guidance and pass judgement with such little information, then you yourself should not have a column to post in.

    Posted by celtic witch January 2, 09 03:44 PM
  1. I agree that speaking up right away is the best way to begin. And try to engage your parents in correcting this behavior.

    Years ago I knew a woman who called one of her children names, most often "Witch." As in, "Set the table, Witch." The damage was extensive and irreparable.

    Posted by FerialDay January 2, 09 03:45 PM
  1. Clearly there are some family issues here that are not revealed in this question - Where are the parents?, What is the role of the (adult?) aunt? But what is most important now is that this child be protected. It is also critical that he knows that he is protected. The next time your sister says *anything* like that to the kid, you need to tell her to cut it out - in front of the kid. It is important that your nephew knows that you will protect him.

    Posted by ritan1 January 2, 09 07:01 PM
  1. Ugh, here we go again. If I had a nickle for every time my grandmother told me that I was "full of prune juice" or other similies, I'd be rich! It doesn't seem to have left any wounds on me.

    Back off. This is not your child. It is not abuse.

    Posted by Whathappensinmyhousestaysinmyhouse January 2, 09 08:47 PM
  1. Abuse? Yes! Sounds like more than a "talk" is needed. How about reporting the behavior to the authorities, or to the child's pediatrician? That child needs to be removed IMMEDIATELTY from sister's care, and placed with a loving family. Can the sister who wrote in take the child? For the sake of the child, do so!

    Posted by reindeergirl January 2, 09 11:17 PM
  1. Hello, I talked to my nephew like that , at that age, in the context of humor... and he knew that it was. He is now 25, mature hard-working and responsible and with a very centered sense of ethics and morals. I think it might be important to hear a little more than an "out-take" to judge the situation!

    Posted by Dot January 2, 09 11:23 PM
  1. There's too little information here- knowledge of the culture and tone are critical to determining whether or not this is abuse. The inquirer says "people forget", which leads me to believe her parents and other adults in the household don't see a problem with her sister's behavior. If it is abuse, the abuser isn't going to change; the child needs to cope with it, which by 10 I'm sure he's learned by now growing up in this family. The inquirer should just let the child know she's on his side, and model the behavior she feels is lacking.

    Posted by eastie girl January 3, 09 07:23 AM
  1. Not enough info here .. there are many 10-year-olds who can handle this sort of thing depending on the tone and in some way the people who are closest to them show them respect by not treating them with kid gloves

    maybe the kid was full of crap and the aunt was just calling him out

    Posted by zitface January 3, 09 12:31 PM
  1. I agree with Barbara on this being an abusive situation, since the concerned Aunt and letter writer clearly states that this aunt is "mean" to the child. Where are the parents and how old is this aunt "still living at home with the parents"? If the aunt in the home is an adult, Grandma and Grandpa need to send her packing.
    It sounds like the grandparents have custody of this child and as a result are responsible for his health and welfare. A child who is not with his natural parents has already suffered a loss and is vulnerable. I find it concerning that the grandparents aren't writing with their concerns about this banshee living in their home. I'm going to guess that she rules the roost and they're intimidated by her. I think the concerned aunt needs to have a sitdown with grandma and grandpa and let them know that they can risk losing custody of the child if Broomhilda doesn't lay off. Then grandma and grandpa need to issue an eviction notice and send the freeloader packing

    Posted by bambinosmom2 January 3, 09 05:35 PM
  1. To both the Nosey Aunt and Barbara Meltz. Maybe just maybe the little boy (10 years old) is full of ____. Ten is not such a little boy that he has not heard these words before or does not know them and most likely use them himself. Does it make him a bad kid, No. Just like the Aunt in question who lives with this boy most likely has a lot better knowledge of what he is up to then the busy body who stops in when she can. At ten this kids should be taking responsibility for things around him. His room, his cloths, his toys but maybe the kid keeps lying, maybe the kid will not do any of this stuff and the aunt is calling him on it. It looks to me like the Aunt and Barbara Meltz want to neuter the boy with a lack of discipline and no standard. Another reason the young are growing up with week moral characters. John

    Posted by John M. January 4, 09 10:01 AM
  1. "Abusive" is a very strong word and should not be thrown around so lightly in a blog or advise column. Based on the question, it's hard to say what is really going on, do you know something we don't? All seems very speculative. See how such a word triggers a response like the ones from reindeergirl and bambinosmom2? Constructive advise is appreciated. Inflammatory sound bites are irresponsible. Lay off the witch hunt.

    Posted by realparent January 4, 09 12:12 PM
  1. Yikes! Wish I saw this sooner so I could have explained/defended myself.

    First of all, JOHN M., you are an ass. I hope that isn't "abusive" of me to say. My nephew is none of the things you mentioned and I am not a busy body. His parents are out of the picture, for reasons that are no one' s business. We all try to chip in and help out and give him the most "normal" life that we can, ESPECIALLY ME. Some day he will most likely live with me, but for now that isn't possible, so I'm doing the best that I can and trying to look out for him.

    As I told Barbara in a follow up comment to her chat, I do not think my sister is a bad person and I wouldn't go so far as to say it's abusive. I just need to tell her to cut the ____.

    Thank you to those who suggested I call her out in front of him and show him that I don't think it's right. I think that's a good idea. Either way, I need to talk to her.

    Adios

    Posted by Concerned Aunt January 14, 09 06:17 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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