My Sister Treats her Son and Daughter Differently; Do you think I should intervene? — The Bump
School-Aged Children

My Sister Treats her Son and Daughter Differently; Do you think I should intervene?

Nephew - 6 (7 in June) Niece - 4 (5 in Feb)

I've had these feelings since before I had my baby, but I always kept quiet because my sister has never thought of me as mature.The age gap between us IS considerable, so in a way I don't blame her, but she can come across downright offensive if I ever disagree with her at anything. I could argue more, but that's not the point; I'm sure someone has experienced this and can relate. 

Anyway, the different treatment started out real small, sort of a gender-specific sort that should be harmless, but honestly my nephew always took a liking to girly stuff even before his sister was born. It didn't used to bug my sister--she WAS a big equal rights supporter if that says anything--but after she and her husband had a messy divorce she joined a Church--very unlike how she was before--and suddenly she was trying to have him cut back. She still made an attempt to say "people can be/like whatever they want" but I've always been suspicious that there was a change in her acceptance after the divorce. It could also be in an attempt to show respect for the father's wishes, but her contempt for him---and his wife--make me think otherwise.

Now, the gender-norms don't seem to be a particular issue, unless it has funneled into how my sister handles discipline. My nephew can play with his sister's toys and vice-versa, though the latter doesn't happen often. However, if he wants to try and play with her stuff when she doesn't want him to, it can escalate into something as severe as a spanking. Admittedly, my nephew can be a little butt, and he displays this behavior far more often than his sister, but when his sister becomes just as stubborn about playing with his stuff it only ever halts at timeout. Note that while my nephew does it more often, when my niece does act out she acts out like it's going out of style.

This is actually the way it happens with every time they get in trouble, and often for the same sort of offense--such as attempting to poke or otherwise touch eachother--my nephew will get a tongue lashing while my niece is told over and over again to go to timeout. The event that triggered this post was actually my nephew getting yelled at because he wouldn't let his sister give him a hug.

What alarms me most is that I see my nephew get spanked, but not my niece (Whatever the stance is on spanking, I'd think it should be for both children). I don't see them all the time, but I'm sure this is the norm. I wish I had said something sooner because now I'm afraid my sister will think I believe I'm some sort of expert just because I've had one baby and thus she will simply write off anything I say. I don't think I'm an expert on child-rearing; I feel I'm just seeing an obvious difference, and I'm afraid of the potential damage to my nephew, as well as my niece.

Any suggestions for going forward? There's not really anyone else I could ask to do it for me, though if no one else has said anything yet I'm pretty sure they're staying quiet.

 

Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie First Birthday tickers

Re: My Sister Treats her Son and Daughter Differently; Do you think I should intervene?

  • I had a feeling that would be the sentiment, and I can expect something less polite from my sister. No, she's not abusing her children. Her spankings are tame, so I'll keep my foot in my mouth.
    Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie First Birthday tickers
  • I disagree. This has nothing to do with you have an infant. LOL...This is your sister, if you see something going on that she may not see it is okay to politely talk to her about it. You should never be afraid to talk to family about anything and what you having a baby has to do with it, I don't get.

     

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  • MYOB comes to mind.

    Unless she is endangering her children it really is none of your concern.

    promised myself I'd retire when I turned gold, and yet here I am
  • imageridesbuttons:
    MYOB comes to mind.Unless she is endangering her children it really is none of your concern.


    While that is true I would personally refuse to be around anyone that spanked their kids in my presence and it would be harder if I thought it was only at one kid especially if I thought it was a punishment because he like "girly stuff".

    If possible I would try to ask her why she spanks one and not the other for the same offense. But IMHO I would ask her WTF she hopes to accomplish by hitting her kid.
    Jen - Mom to two December 12 babies Nathaniel 12/12/06 and Addison 12/12/08
  • Don't get too bunched up about what you're seeing with your sister and her kids. 

    --Different kids take different parenting approaches. While you and I may not agree with spanking, she might spank her son because it seems effective, while her daughter might respond to other forms of punishment/discipline.  It's still her call to make.

    --You are never seeing "the norm" for them.  Just the fact that you are there for a visit makes it things different from normal.  Who knows what things are like when you're not there?  She may treat him more harshly only when you're around.  You just don't know.

    What seems to be at the root of your post is really your concern that your nephew seems effeminate in some ways, and you are worried that since your sister's divorcing her H and joining a church, she's suddenly become more socially conservative toward these behaviors.  Again, tread carefully and remember that you're only seeing the surface of things in her household.  Many things could account for your sister's actions OTHER than her being prejudiced towards his behavior and unfair in her treatment of him.

    Maybe she was okay with him playing with traditionally girl stuff when he was in preschool, but now she's worried that as a bigger boy in elementary school he'll be teased, so she's trying to discourage him.

    Maybe she feels guilty about the effects of the divorce on him, and she's reading his interest in "girl" toys in that light and trying to fix the "damage" she thinks has been done to him by the divorce.

    Bottom line is that you may not agree with everything your sister does as a parent, but it's not your place to judge or correct her. 

    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
  • Thank you very much for your posts. If it seems like it escalates I'll probably say something, but I honestly don't want to come across as a meddler or know-it-all and especially not someone who thinks they know everything because they just had a baby. That's why I asked here in the first place.
    Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie First Birthday tickers
  • It depends on your relationship with the sister if she would be open to you saying something or would upset her or not

    We have a couple of friends that i do not agree with the parenting going on. I will talk in private with my husband about it and ask what would you do type stuff but this is to kinda role play and make sure we are on the same page wise. My rule is, if they don't ask you for parenting advice then they don't want it.  As long as you don't think there is any abuse then i would just bite my tounge to her

    Baby Birthday Ticker Ticker
  • I agree with the PP in that what one child responds to best may not be what the other child responds to best (and not being snarky, but as your kiddo gets older/more independent you'll be aware this more).  The thing is, you're only seeing a snapshot, not the full picture of what things are like all of the time and with some kids you CANNOT let your guard down/give an inch or you'll be playing catchup later.  I love how my IL's who see the kids once every so often say how "easy going" DS is yet at home he's a handfull and a half who doesn't sleep, is super needy and fussy...  Along with how helpful DD is when I can't get her off of dead center to help out for any assigned task (i.e. throw down the clothes)..
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  • imageneverblushed:
    Maybe she was okay with him playing with traditionally girl stuff when he was in preschool, but now she's worried that as a bigger boy in elementary school he'll be teased, so she's trying to discourage him.Maybe she feels guilty about the effects of the divorce on him, and she's reading his interest in "girl" toys in that light and trying to fix the "damage" she thinks has been done to him by the divorce.


    I don't think I have ever disagreed with you but this comment is just all sorts of F'd up. I don't know if you are saying this is ok or not but if any of these assumptions are true then I would not be able to be in her presence of I was the OP, this is basically saying to MYOB because maybe she is spanking him to discourage him from wanting to play with "girl toys". Sorry but if that is true IMO that is completely mental abuse and not something someone should keep their mouths shut about. Spank your kid because he you worry the toys will turn him gay, yeah that's a great idea and to each their own!

    I really hope that is not the case or I feel beyond horrible for those kids.
    Jen - Mom to two December 12 babies Nathaniel 12/12/06 and Addison 12/12/08
  • imageLittlejen22:
    I don't think I have ever disagreed with you but this comment is just all sorts of F'd up. I don't know if you are saying this is ok or not but if any of these assumptions are true then I would not be able to be in her presence of I was the OP, this is basically saying to MYOB because maybe she is spanking him to discourage him from wanting to play with "girl toys". Sorry but if that is true IMO that is completely mental abuse and not something someone should keep their mouths shut about. Spank your kid because he you worry the toys will turn him gay, yeah that's a great idea and to each their own! I really hope that is not the case or I feel beyond horrible for those kids.

    This is what I worry about the most. I'll be keeping an eye on it, but perhaps to settle your mind a little, she does let him play with girly things that do belong to him. When they went to Disneyland with their mother and grandmother, grandma bought him a Tangled make-up and brush set he wanted. There was only one time she seemed disgruntled that he was playing with it, but she had already been in a mood before so I don't think it was the norm. Like I said, I'll just watch for escalation in treatment. I love those kids so much.

    Lilypie - Personal pictureLilypie First Birthday tickers
  • imageLittlejen22:
    imageneverblushed:
    Maybe she was okay with him playing with traditionally girl stuff when he was in preschool, but now she's worried that as a bigger boy in elementary school he'll be teased, so she's trying to discourage him.Maybe she feels guilty about the effects of the divorce on him, and she's reading his interest in "girl" toys in that light and trying to fix the "damage" she thinks has been done to him by the divorce.
    I don't think I have ever disagreed with you but this comment is just all sorts of F'd up. I don't know if you are saying this is ok or not but if any of these assumptions are true then I would not be able to be in her presence of I was the OP, this is basically saying to MYOB because maybe she is spanking him to discourage him from wanting to play with "girl toys". Sorry but if that is true IMO that is completely mental abuse and not something someone should keep their mouths shut about. Spank your kid because he you worry the toys will turn him gay, yeah that's a great idea and to each their own! I really hope that is not the case or I feel beyond horrible for those kids.

    Littlejen -- I think you misunderstood my post.

    I think the OP didn't want to come right out and say this, but what she was trying to delicately say is that she's worried that her sister is punishing her son for seeming "gay" now that her sister has joined this church.  Based on her reply, that seems to be the case.

    IF that were true, it would be a horrible thing to do to a child.  But I think that the OP is making a lot of assumptions about what's going on with her sister.  There are a number of things that could account for the OP's sister discouraging the child from playing with his sister's toys other than "she's a homophobic kook."  Even if the OP has her sister's number, and the sister IS actually a homophobic kook, it's still the sister's call to make, unfortunately. 

    Personally, I agree with you that it's awful for a parent to punish a boy child for showing interest in girls' toys.  I feel very strongly about not pushing gender stereotypes on children.  One day I'll post the story about my son's butterfly shirt -- oy!

    But... I also think that this OP was making a lot of assumptions about a family that's in a state of flux.  She probably needs to let the dust settle from her sister's divorce for a little longer before she makes judgments about her sister's parenting.

    High School English teacher and mom of 2 kids:

    DD, born 9/06/00 -- 12th grade
    DS, born 8/25/04 -- 7th grade
  • For me, an obvious thing to do would be talk to your mom! =) "Have you noticed Sis being harsh on nephew lately?"

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