Defiant 4-year old and mom who is not accountable. Help!

Elizabeth - posted on 09/30/2011 ( 2 moms have responded )

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Help!
Here’s the scenario. I have a sister-in-law with two girls; 14 and 4. The 14 year-old is a typical teenager and has a few issues but my main question is regarding the 4 year-old.

My niece recently went into a Montessori school where she was for two weeks. On Monday, the school informed my SIL that she would have to find other options for preschool/daycare. They gave her a 5-page report documenting her daughter’s defiance to the adults and the aggressiveness with which she has treated the other children. They cited her behavior as disruptive to the rest of her classmates and mentioned that they did not have the staffing to be able to handle this type of behavior. My SIL has about a week to find another daycare option.
The problem has been pretty persistent—at her previous daycare, her daughter was excluded from field trips because of her behavior. At the daycare before that, my SIL was given a warning about her daughter’s behavior. It was that particular daycare that was also under investigation for abusing children. Allegations were made by other parents, but my SIL chose to not file charges against the practice, put her in a private (expensive) daycare and did not inform the providers of the abuse that occurred and the behavioral issues that may have been associated with it.
The truth is that I am having a problem with how my SIL is handling this situation. The current school has also informed her that her daughter appears to be behind kids her age. She enters Kindergarten next year and she still has not let her daughter be formally evaluated. She says she took her to a psychologist yesterday to have her formally evaluated but in her conversation, she said that the psychologist thought the school was making “a mountain out of a molehill.” Every suggestion I've fired at her--phone numbers, caling the school district to get her into the preschool program (which is awesome), getting a referral for a developmental pediatrician, etc. have been gaffed by my SIL. I’m skeptical and wondering what part of the story aren't we getting.
She calls the family for advice and it seems to go in one ear and out the other and is constantly quipping back with reasons why our suggestions are not viable. The aspect I am worried about most is the fact that she is making all of these excuses. I feel like there is something she is not telling us. She always falls back on the family to help her out of her messes—whether it’s childcare or monetary support. After 4 solid weeks of her attempting to pawn her 4 year-old on me so she can go out and “play teenager” with her daughter, I had about enough. I feel that my niece does have behavioral issues and is not just a “spirited kid.” I also have a 5 year-old boy with sensory issues that I’ve tried hard to develop a safe, structured environment for. Every time I turn around, she is either trying to beat the crap out of him (hitting, kicking, biting) or arguing with him over the toys. While he is no saint, this impacts his behavior and I feel like it takes days to get MY kid back after a visit from his cousin. My SIL is the type of person that will want a mile of given an inch—she plays on people’s sympathies. She offers NO consequences for her daughters’ (both) bad behavior. Last week, her youngest was throwing rocks at someone’s car and she pondered whether or not she taught her daughter to not throw rocks. Finally, after “pondering”, she said “YES! She knows not to throw rocks! I told her not to do it in front of our house!” Still, no consequences. And she wonders why this kid behaves this way?
While I am laying the groundwork and protecting myself and my family—enter my mother and father in-law whom, I feel are enabling the situation. No matter what, they always come to her rescue and if they can’t do it for some reason, the brothers and sisters jump in to help them. We’re all sick of helping her—but they are sweet people and when they ask for our help, it’s a different story altogether. I think it’s wrong of her to expect people to rescue the damsel in distress all of the time. I see this train wreck coming—I can see her not finding the “appropriate daycare” in about a week and she will either ask for daycare or money (because the daycare centers that aren’t “ghetto” cost too much and she can’t afford them.) She has to work as she is a single mom. Add onto this, the 4 year-old’s father is a criminal. I do not think the problem will be solved by keeping her with family. We are not trained in early childhood development—shoot, those who are trained even have a hard time! My husband and I want to lay the bottom-line down. We have agreed that we would like to help her get her finances straight and he even mentioned helping her a bit monetarily but we both feel that she needs to get on-track with her parenting and ironing out her daughters’ issues—getting her evaluated and into a program of sorts if she needs it. Unless she is interested in doing this, I have no intention of assisting her in any way. My big question is, what if my MIL and FIL ask us to help? How do we turn them down without starting a big family war?
Thanks for reading my novel and for your input!

2 Comments

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Michelle - posted on 10/03/2011

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Basically, what Teresa said. I've been there, done that, went through it. There really is nothing you can do, but support the 4 yr old to the best of your ability. And probably at some point if her behavior continues to worsen you probably won't even want your kids to be around her. Hard to hear, but true.

It is frustrating to watch and not do anything. Very frustrating.

If your MIL and FIL ask you to help I'm sorry to say you really can't legally. All you can do is be supportive.

Hope it ends well. Good luck!

Teresa - posted on 09/30/2011

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Being that it is not your child, unless she is being physically abused, there is nothing for you to really do but be an encouragement and a help. It sounds like the child needs some counseling and the mother needs some dierction, neither of which you will be able to give unless she asks for it, sincerely. I would be a positive influence on the child in all encounters and help as much as possible, not to enable bad behaviours to show positve inluence. Remember, the kid didn't ask for this life and anything you do to help her will make a difference to her.

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