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Advice about Cousins
My 13 month old son is a pretty independent, happy go lucky child who plays very well with most kids. My sister in law who has a 3 year old, a 16 month old and is expecting her third baby next month has recently moved to our town. Her 3 year old son is a very aggressive child who will hit, kick, punch, throw toys, scream and pretty much do whatever he wants whenever he wants. My SIL's ''disciplinig'' method consists of her telling her child that his behavior is ''not nice'' and pretty much leaving him to continue to do whatever he wants. I have witnessed this for the past 2 years and he shows no signs of outgrowing this behavior. Now that my 13 month old is around him, I am afraid of how the 3 years olds behavior is affecting him both physically (he has pushed him, punched him on numerous occasions) and psychologically (picking up bad habits). I try to be super vigilant whenever my son is around him but of course, there are times when I just can't get to him fast enough or miss something. I also can't completely cut off contact and my stricter methods of discipline are not welcome by her or her family. In fact, my inlaws already think that I don't like this child because I don't play with him or tolerate his behavior. Advice on what to do? Overly concerned mom?
My advice to you is to offer kindness and sympathy, because it isn't too long coming that you are going to need the same from her. Instead of criticizing your sister-in-law, why don't you ask her if you can drop her off dinner or have her younger child over for a few hours one morning. It is tough when you have just one thirteen-month-old to grasp how much those little creatures change in just a short period of time and to understand the physical and emotional exhaustion of the parent dealing with more than one child when one has hit a challenging age.
Your description of your own child sounds pretty typical. My kids were downright AWESOME at 13-months. From two until three...well, not so much. They were still awesome kids, but awesome kids who could throw temper-tantrums (younger one), hit kids who looked at toys that they had played with three days ago (older and younger), screamed if dinner wasn't served on a pink plate (younger), etc. You probably cannot imagine that in less than a year your child is going to be face-down in a supermarket kicking and screaming because you won't let him have a blue spoon or some other irrational need du jour. But, it happens to every kid that I've met to varying degrees. Some kids hit, some kids bite their moms, some kids scream and flat out refuse to co-operate for HOURS, etc.
You may want to pick up a copy of ''Two - tender or terrible'' and its follow-on for threes by Louise Bates Ames. I always try to keep abreast of those books in my children's current age and one year up and down. It helps me understand what is normal for their development and that of their friends (and everything you describe about your nephew is normal, though at an upper end, but reading the books will also tell you that it probably is due to adjusting to a new sibling -- he was still a baby when a new baby came along and was shoved out of arms and now another one is on the way...oh what fun for the eldest...I'd be mad as heck if I was him, too)
And finally, you are a good SIL for wanting to resolve these issues. It is hard sometimes to understand where another Mom is coming from when you have never walked in her shoes. I remember wanting to throttle another parent when an older boy hit and then pushed down my sweet then-15-month-old. The Mom was nursing a baby on the park bench. Her reaction was along the lines of 'oh, did Johnny hit her? Hey Johnny, play nice' all muttered without enthusiasm. Fast-forward a year and that same exhausted Mom on the bench nursing a baby was me watching my now 2 1/2 year old grab her shovel back from a much younger boy (she hadn't played with it in ten minutes, so law of the playground says it was okay for him to pick it up) and then pull his hair. It was a Eureka moment then that I realized that I really should never judge another Mom, because I don't know what they are going through. -don't judge other moms
My 5 year old son is being hurt by his 11 year old cousin and he won't tell me how. This is the second time I've picked him up and he tells me something happend, but won't tell me what. This time he said his cousing covered his mouth while choking him when he started to cry because he didn't want to get in trouble. When I asked him ''get in trouble for what?'' He said he doesn't remember.
Does anyone know how I can get him to talk? I need to know how to handle this situation, but until I know what happened I won't know what to do. I don't want to over react, but I want to protect him.
Also, in not trying to cause panic or fear, It could be just a game the kids are playing, but of course that is for you to decide. What happened to me was ''sexual experimentation'' today I believe it would be called molestation or abuse, and perhaps it was but it was consensual. Also, I was not as young as your son, but the influence did come from an older boy. Please remember, what your son will be most affected by and remember is your reaction to what is happening. Finaly, there are a million different ''things'' which could be going on between the two kids, so prhaps the best thing to do is not have your son go his cousins house.
A possibility would be to confront the cousin, pretending you know what he did but giving him the opportunity to confess first.
The first thing would be NOT to leave your son alone with his cousin any more. Aren't there any adults supervising them? Can't you talk to the cousin's parents about the fact that their son is choking and threatening your son? Do not make your son endure this a moment longer by making him keep going over to spend time with someone who chokes and threatens him (and possibly does worse). You need to intervene immediately to halt this behavior. Your son is depending on you.
Your question ''how can I get him to talk to me'' is a hard one to answer. Your child is really scared, and with good reason. Little children don't like to tell their moms about being hurt or abused, because they know it will make their moms feel sad. The fact that his abuser is part of the family makes it even harder for your soon to talk to you about it. Your son needs to talk to a trained therapist. If you can't afford to pay for this yourself, apply for the Victim's Witness Protection Program through the Alameda County D.A. office.
It can be extremely embarassing, shameful, for a child when they are hurt by another. (As it can for adults!) It may well be that your son is ashamed of what happened, and is finding it difficult to tell you for this reason. It could be this, as well as fear, that stops a person talking about abuse. I don't understand why it is embarassing or shameful to be attacked - and yet it is so. Perhaps we feel inadequate, weak, ashamed of our failure (perceiving it as that).
In any case, I would not pressure your son to tell you what happened. Just be open to him if he should begin to talk about it. Listen if he does, and try not to react with horror or anger, in front of him, but reassure him. Play therapy could help - but also, if you watch him playing yourself, you may well see in his play hints of what took place.
Good luck - and please don't let your child go near this cousin. Trust your instincts and trust your son. Janice
We just finished a long Thanksgiving holiday visit with family, including 2 nephews ages 8 and 9. My nearly 3 year old delighted in seeing his big cousins, following them around, and imitating everything they do. The problem is that I have different views on parenting then do their parents, and there are a lot of things that my nephews did that I do not want my son to do, and which were of course not appropriate for a 3 year old to do. For instance, the "big boys" watch a lot of tv, including violent or scary cartoons, spend hours playing "shoot-em-up" video games, play with guns and swords, call each other names, and refuse to join the family for meals. In addition, they were not big on "please" and "thank you." On the other hand, they were often quite sweet with my son and he enjoyed their visit a great deal. My son misses his cousins, but has also been imitiating some of their less than stellar behavior. We will be seeing them again over Christmas, and I am concerned about my son learning things that are not acceptable to us. (I know that we will no doubt have to deal with gun fetishes, battles over tv, and the like at some point, but I'd like to put that off as long as possible). Is there anything I can do to allow my son to have a good relationship with his cousins, while letting him know that some of the things that they do are not acceptable in our house. I do not want to criticize my nephews or their parents, especially in front of my son. Nor do I want to tell him that big boys can do things that he can't, since first he will simply insist that he is a big boy, and second, I don't ever want him to be impolite or to watch hours of tv on end. Any suggestions on striking a balance between being supportive of the relationship between the cousins, and letting my son know that we consider some behavior inappropriate and unacceptable?
For some reason, which probably wasn't concious choice on their part so much as probably just didn't want to deal with it, they really weren't as strict with us when we went to visit other people. I think this was the best thing they could have done. They may have explained from time to time, very simply, things like, "we don't play like that at home," or "every family makes their own choices." But never made a big deal out of it. The differences were really obvious and not confusing at all: the kids in that family get to watch TV, play with guns, make a mess in the backyard, choose whether to eat with the rest of the family. We don't play with those things, we eat with the family, and we eat real food, not dessert only, etc. But they didn't necessarily restrict us, which made it easier for us kids to do the visiting, and it was like a breath of fresh air: we get to be a little freer, a little looser, etc, at other people's homes. Yay! It didn't change who we were, and I LOVED playing with guns and army toys at other people's houses simply because we didn't have them (plus those are probably ways to learn about and act out power roles). I thought it was cool to be able to watch TV, run around, not worry about my behavior. But as a grownup, I'm really not into any of those things, and the extended family members who kept their TVs on all the time are not really appealing to me. Bottom line is, keep the important boundaries but loosen up on the others: don't use family or friend visits to teach moral lessons to kids. It's REALLY hard to be the kids in the family who always get in trouble for everything, while everybody else is having fun. Kids know parents' preferences, and they know which rules are generally enforced.
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