Anne - posted on 04/03/2010 ( 8 moms have responded )
My 13 month old little girl is afraid of my father in law. He has come to stay with us for Easter. He lives quite a distance away so he only gets to see her about 3 or 4 times a year. My parents on the other hand get to see her every day and she is very close to them. He has quite a brusk manner about him and whereas my parents enthuse about things with her and encourage her he is always making jokey critical remarks to her. I have tried to encourage her to show her Grandpa something, telling her he will be really interested to see how she can work a toy or to show off her new hat - she likes to model hats and we all tell her how fetching she looks in them. But he will then quite sharply say things like - 'what have you got that on for?', 'what a mess you look!', 'that's not how you do it is it!'. She is very intelligent and understands everything that is being said and the combination of the tone of voice and the discouragement hasn't helped her to warm to him. She is terrifed. She won't go and play with her toys in the living room anymore because he sits in there. If he is out of the room and we go in she keeps glancing over to his empty chair in fear. She has changed from her happy, active, boisterous self to being clingy and subdued. She won't eat if she can hear his voice in the house and has stopped running around and babbling. She was reaching for his used towel in the spare room today and I was unsucessfully telling her it was dirty and not to touch and then I said 'that belongs to Grandpa' and a look of terror came into her eyes and she dropped it and clung on to me. The mere mention of his name upsets her. She was playing outside in her little car today enjoying the sunshine and then he came outside and she froze and could not play anymore. She freezes in his presence and my husband doesn't realise that she is unhappy. He takes her up to Grandpa thinking she is cool with it because she's not crying anymore (she went hysterical and cried her eyes out the first night arrived) and keeps her there, her eyes nearly popping out of her head. I have told him she is still afraid but I'm not sure he will stay aware of it. I've asked him to tell his dad to speak more gently and more encouragingly to her. My husband is not great at communications though and he probably won't deliver the message correctly and my father in law will probably end up just thinking I'm being rude and bonkers. Grandpa will be here for a few more days and I hate to see my little girl under so much stress but I'm also sorry for my father in law. He has come specifically to see her and she won't go near him. Does anyone have any suggestions for what I can do to make her more comfortable around him? I have tried prompting him by saying 'doesn't she look good in that hat' but he never takes the cue. Another thing is he is deaf so we have to shout and he shouts back.