What's grandparent's role when discipline gets harsh?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  January 13, 2012 06:00 AM

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We were celebrating my daughter's birthday at her house. My grandchildren were upstairs playing, my daughter's two children and a friend. The children began arguing and they called my youngest granddaughter out of her name and began teasing her. She came down stairs crying and I saw her first. Her dad heard her and asked what was wrong. She began to tell him and he (the dad) asked if her brother was also taunting her. She said yes. The father called the brother downstairs and began yelling loudly about what he had told him at another time about taking up for his sister and not joining in with others when someone is talking about her. Well, it [end up] in a "WOW" situation. The father took the son outside in the front and began yelling and telling him he should stand up and not be a sissy. I came outside and began listening. I did not interfere. After a while, I went inside to get my daughter who was still upstairs trying to console the daughter. She went outside and my grandson was crying profusely. She tried to talk to her husband and he refused to listen and she could hardly get a word in. Finally, she said, "If you don't stop, I am going to call the police. He said, "Call the damn police, I don't care." I motioned for my grandson to come inside. They continued to talk. Finally, I asked my other daughter to go outside and try to get him (them) to stop. It was getting terrible and I didn't want her neighbors to see any disturbance. They finally came inside and he was still very angry. The two of them went upstairs and continued to talk. My son-in-law kept saying, "I guess you (my daughter) just want him to grow up and be a sissy."

He made my grandson cry and cry, it hurt him so bad. Long story short. Will I, a grandparent, be out of place to talk to my daughter and or my son-in-law about how I feel about what happened or should I just let it pass over and pray for the best? Please help me because I haven't slept in two nights.

From: Yawyer, Atlanta

Dear Yawyer,

This is a little out of my area but, luckily, I knew just who to contact. Ruth Nemzoff, a resident scholar who specializes in family dynamics at Brandeis University, is the author of, "Don't Bite Your Tongue, How to foster rewarding relationships with your adult children." Here are her thoughts:

"If you start by expressing your opinion on what happened, it is possible that your daughter will feel she must defend her husband. Instead, in a calm moment when you and your daughter are together, mention that you noticed she was quite upset by her husband's disciplining of their son. See if she is willing to talk to you about it. If she is, perhaps you could ask if this has happened before and if she is worried about the relationship between her husband and her son and, together, brainstorm ways she might get help with the situation. If not, let her know you are available to listen, and that if she does not feel comfortable talking with you , perhaps she could talk with the school counselor or her pediatrician."

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4 comments so far...
  1. Grandma has the absolute right to make rules that apply in her own house. She can tell ALL visiting children their rules when they come to visit. She can make sure that HER rules apply in HER house. The children will benefit from this direct lesson in respect. It sounds like Grandma has a good idea of how to do this.

    Visiting your family and being confronted with a rehash of what is so obviously an old fight is a different kind of disrespect.

    Addressing the adults individually can and should be done. Why on earth would people visit one's house knowing that there will be such fights? Grandma can tell these adults that they are to sort out their issues before she returns for another visit.

    It's always bad for kids when therir parents disagree so openy about parenting styles. I think a strong general insistence on family counselling will do more good that taking sides on specific points of specific blowups.

    Posted by Irene January 13, 12 09:56 AM
  1. In addition to what Barbara said, LW, please be a friend to your grandson. He needs to know you support him. He needs to know he is not a bad boy, a sissy, and whatever other names his father calls him. (Gee, I wonder where the little boy got the idea to taunt someone with name-calling??) This boy needs a safe place to be sad and angry and confused about things, and he needs some validation. Because I am 100% sure that if this is what it's like in public, in front of other people, it is 100 times worse when it is just dad and son, not in view of anyone.

    Posted by jlen January 13, 12 08:38 PM
  1. As a grandparent remember that when we were parents we felt that we knew and understood what we were doing with our children better than our parents, I am sure this will always be a generational attitude in raising children. It is our right to bee grandparent not parent. We should respect our children enough to assume they want the best for their child and spend more time with them. Thus in 99.44% of the time they will make the right decisions. They are human as are our grand children do not expect perfection from children or grandchildren or of grandparents.

    Posted by Carolyn m. January 15, 12 12:43 AM
  1. People in healthy relationships don't threaten to call the police on each other over an argument about what to say and how to say it to a misbehaving child. Nor do people in healthy relationships say "Go ahead, call the cops" as if it were a trivial matter to involve authorities in one's lives. I'd bet that's not the first time those words were exchanged.

    There is something way bigger going on than a difference of opinion over what to do about a kids' argument. Find out what it is.

    Posted by di January 16, 12 11:48 AM
 
4 comments so far...
  1. Grandma has the absolute right to make rules that apply in her own house. She can tell ALL visiting children their rules when they come to visit. She can make sure that HER rules apply in HER house. The children will benefit from this direct lesson in respect. It sounds like Grandma has a good idea of how to do this.

    Visiting your family and being confronted with a rehash of what is so obviously an old fight is a different kind of disrespect.

    Addressing the adults individually can and should be done. Why on earth would people visit one's house knowing that there will be such fights? Grandma can tell these adults that they are to sort out their issues before she returns for another visit.

    It's always bad for kids when therir parents disagree so openy about parenting styles. I think a strong general insistence on family counselling will do more good that taking sides on specific points of specific blowups.

    Posted by Irene January 13, 12 09:56 AM
  1. In addition to what Barbara said, LW, please be a friend to your grandson. He needs to know you support him. He needs to know he is not a bad boy, a sissy, and whatever other names his father calls him. (Gee, I wonder where the little boy got the idea to taunt someone with name-calling??) This boy needs a safe place to be sad and angry and confused about things, and he needs some validation. Because I am 100% sure that if this is what it's like in public, in front of other people, it is 100 times worse when it is just dad and son, not in view of anyone.

    Posted by jlen January 13, 12 08:38 PM
  1. As a grandparent remember that when we were parents we felt that we knew and understood what we were doing with our children better than our parents, I am sure this will always be a generational attitude in raising children. It is our right to bee grandparent not parent. We should respect our children enough to assume they want the best for their child and spend more time with them. Thus in 99.44% of the time they will make the right decisions. They are human as are our grand children do not expect perfection from children or grandchildren or of grandparents.

    Posted by Carolyn m. January 15, 12 12:43 AM
  1. People in healthy relationships don't threaten to call the police on each other over an argument about what to say and how to say it to a misbehaving child. Nor do people in healthy relationships say "Go ahead, call the cops" as if it were a trivial matter to involve authorities in one's lives. I'd bet that's not the first time those words were exchanged.

    There is something way bigger going on than a difference of opinion over what to do about a kids' argument. Find out what it is.

    Posted by di January 16, 12 11:48 AM
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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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