I witnessed an intense power struggle between my 23 month old niece, A, and her dad who is my BIL. BIL has been separated from his wife for almost a year and is living at home with his folks. He picks A up from daycare a couple days a week and has her for a 24 hour stretch on the weekends. BIL is high strung, stubborn, obviously stressed and when he is caring for A he lets his folks do a lot of the work.
We were camping this weekend and BIL brought A up on Saturday afternoon. We're eating dinner and he cuts up an adult size portion of food on her plate. She proceeds to pick and play with it, and BIL starts in with the yelling, pointing and making threats. My heart was in my throat watching this play out. I did speak up and said that A wasn't eating because she either wasn't hungry, or was making a power play to be in control. I got my head bit off as BIL said, "No, I'm in control". "Actually, if she's not eating, then she's in control" The yelling continued until BIL gave up and got her out of the high chair.
I thought it bordered on verbal abuse. My MIL broke down in tears as we were washing dishes over the situation.
I want to be passive aggressive and send him a parenting book anonymously. I want to have the guts to stand up for my niece if I see this happen again. What would the hive mind do here?
Ugh, that sounds like such an ugly situation. I've gotten in quite a lather over the Little Miss and her eating habits, and sometimes a well-timed intervention by my husband has really helped cool things off in the past. Is the BIL your husband's brother? Are you two friends? If not, he probably feels like you were attacking him, rather than trying to defuse the situation. When that kind of thing starts to ramp up, and it is bordering on abuse everyone needs to get on board and help him realize that that kind of posturing doesn't work on toddlers.
I think if you're going to get him a parenting book, don't do it anonymously. If you need to give it to him, then preface it with a 'this book helped us a LOT' type of statement. Toddlers can be a tough group to deal with - I think I used two different books plus advice from every mom and grandma I knew. BIL sounds like he's trying to power through it alone - and he will be miserable if he does so and he's going to make his daughter miserable as well.
I agree wtih mnm about the book - don't do it anonymously, do it as a "this helped us" situation, and do lots of identifying with his frustration (incidentally, I recommend "Becoming the Parent You Want To Be" for power struggle solutions). And maybe reaching out when there's no one else around, in a calm moment, when you can say "hey, it looked like that was a really hard moment for you and A - what's going on there?" It may have just been that he felt embarrassed in front of everyone but would be more receptive one on one.
Yes, BIL is my husband's bro, and we get a long fine- just not that often. I did want to chat with him about what happened and say "I was really uncomfortable with what happened....", but I never got the chance for a one-on-one.
I'll have to think about the book offer a little more- I agree I should present it as me sharing a useful tool, but wonder if he would actually make use of it.
I've had conversations not dis-similar to that with people, but usually not in the heat of the moment. My personal byline has always been that the adult's job is ONLY to put healthy food on the table, and what gets eaten is entirely out of their control or influence.
That may just be the wrong time to have that conversation, and you might not be the person to have it. It's obviously a power struggle for someone who's having a really hard time to begin with. Don't know who might be the easiest person for the BIL to accept advice from. Kommish has a great lead in though. I'm terrible with approaching anything sensitive. I'm the conversational equivalent of having a brick thrown through your window.