Son-in-law overbearing with stepson

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-25-2014
Son-in-law overbearing with stepson
13
Wed, 06-25-2014 - 12:02pm

New to this board and would appreciate any feedback.  Not sure if I'm posting in the right area. My DD married 3 years ago when her son (my grandson) was 4.  He's 8 now, does really well in school, but has been "labeled" ADHD.  They resorted to medication this school year, only for school days and school hours. This has helped tremendously.  However, my SIL is very overbearing with him, quite harsh, has too high of expectations and yells at him a lot.  Discipline handed down is often not age appropriate. He seems to have no patience with him whatsoever. He micro-manages his every move in life around the house. If he sends him outside, he MUST be active....he can't just take a book outside instead. If he leaves his shoes by the table after school, my SIL throws them in the backyard, then reprimands him later about leaving his shoes out and not putting them away immediately. Gosh, wouldn't it be easier to just ask him or tell him to put his shoes away? What 8 yr old is going to do this robotic behavior each day? He's not. He's 8!  If my grandson walks away when SIL is reprimanding him, out of impulsivity, he is yelled at like a dog - loudly and harshly. If my DD is telling him to do something and he fidgets or procrastinates in the least, my SIL is jumping in to yell and demand that the request is done NOW.  He's a bully to my grandson. I don't know how else to put it. He's constantly saying, "Focus!". if he wrestles with him, and my grandson has had enough, he will scream. Then, my SIL reprimands him for screaming!  I've watched my grandson say hi to him when he comes home and twice SIL completely ignored that and instead barked out some order or question. One day it was, "Why is the scotch tape outside?"  Really? How about, Hey buddy, if you left the tape out can you please go put it back? Thanks."  He doesn't ask in a nice tone. It's harsh, loud. He has a very deep loud voice to begin with, so add harshness to that and you have a bully. He resents my grandson and it shows. My DD gave the disciplining power away years ago and now it's just way out of hand. She also just had her second child so she's a new mom and tired.  I've delicately mentioned just a few things to her out of worry, and she acknowledges that she sees some of it and that some of it does bother her. But, she picks her battles, because he (SIL) is so difficult. He's moody and never seems happy. I've asked her about that only when she  has mentioned it. The first things mentioned when I ask why he is moody is related to my grandson. So, you can see this is a source of frustration, anger and worry for me. I don't know what to do and I fear my grandson is being emotionally abused. Any thoughts or suggestions would be great. It's so hard being on the outside looking in. Thank you for reading!

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iVillage Member
Registered: 06-23-2014
Wed, 06-25-2014 - 12:15pm

It must be heartbreaking for you to know all this is going on.

It does sound like very harsh treatment for an 8-year old and your grandson. 

I think this happens in stepfamilies more than we'd like to think. I don't have any advice; you're in a tough situation since you've already spoken to your daughter. I'll be curious to see what others post and hope you do get some good advice. But my heart goes out to you and your grandson.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-15-2013
Wed, 06-25-2014 - 1:04pm

It must be heartbreaking for both you and your innocent grandson. I agree that it happens more than people realize with stepparents. 

"My DD gave the disciplining power away years ago and now it's just way out of hand. She also just had her second child so she's a new mom and tired."

The bottom line is that your daughter needs to stand up (tired or not) and stick up for her son. She is the mom and she is the protector. It's HER responsibility to make sure her son is not bullied or treated unfairly by her husband. Using the new baby is just an excuse, in my opinion. If she can't stand up to her husband and protect her son, that is very sad. 

I'm lucky enough to be married to my kids father but I can guarantee that if I ever got remarried...no man would ever treat my kids badly. Kids will be kids and they will cause trouble, which they should be reprimanded/punished for. However, to be yelled at for silly things on a regular basis is ridiculous. It is his moms job to protect him from his bully!!!

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-25-2014
Wed, 06-25-2014 - 2:42pm

Thank you Jerseygirl. I appreciate your thoughtfulness about this.  It has kept me awake some nights. I witnessed him yell so harshly one night and I regret not jumping on him immediately to say that was not acceptable from an adult. I remained silent. Ugh.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-25-2014
Wed, 06-25-2014 - 2:46pm

Thank you Justwantpeace!  You are right. DD does neet to step in and protect. She claims she does at times and has explained how. She also protects her husband and insists he is doing so much better with my grandson. I don't really believe it and think she is trying to appease me. My other daughter, her sister, lived with them for a year and witnessed the same things I witnessed just being there a week and a half after my  new granddaughter was born! My other DD didn't say much either and did try talking to her sister a few times. I will say my DD did a good thing a few weeks ago. My grandson came home with baseball papers and she asked him if he wanted to sign up. He said no. Well, my SIL was very disappointed and voice it and it got into this huge thing that was really crazy and my DD finally said, "He's EIGHT! He can choose whether or not he wants to play baseball!"  The sad part is that it has to come to her having to defend, you know? I thank you for your feedback so very much!  

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Wed, 06-25-2014 - 4:42pm

It's a sad situation and I know cause I was in a variation of that myself.  I got married to 2nd DH when my kids were 6 & 13.  I discovered after the marriage that my DH has bipolar disorder--actually he had never been diagnosed--he was told that he had depression.  He started off being nice to my kids but was difficult to live with.  he also had a 12 yr old DD and honestly he was worse to his own DD than my kids.  I think he knew that I wouldn't tolerate outward abuse but he did a few things that went overboard.  Ironically his DD was the one who was constantly acting out and did a lot of things in high school like skipping school, failing her classes, running away from home--it was a lot of passive/agressive type behavior.  The worst things that my kids would do were things like leaving their shoes in the living room--they are both good students, and didn't get involved with drugs or any kind of really bad teenage behavior.  The last straw for me occurred when my son was about 12 and asked if we had enough money where we could move and live w/o 2nd DH--I figured why was I ruining his life and I decided to get divorced.  

I think your DD has to reach that point where she sees that her child is being hurt.  I know finances were an issue for me plus the embarrassment and shame of being divorced twice.  It's possible (considering that your DD had a child w/ someone else) that she sees this as a big failure if it doesn't work out.  Plus I was very lucky that 1) I had a career so I could support myself & my kids w/o him and 2) that we didn't have any kids together so I really haven't had to see him much since the divorce.  Your DD probably isn't in the mood to be getting divorced when she has a new baby (and you don't say if she has a job).  Even if they get divorced, she will have to deal with him since they have a child together and she probably worries what will happen if he has visitation with the baby, how she will support herself, etc.

I think she needs your support and maybe some help, maybe knowing if you could help her financially if she decides to leave.  You don't mention if her son's father is in the picture and what is going on with him--is he paying child support, does he see his son, etc.  I don't think it would be  a good idea for you to be confrontational with your SIL but if you see things happening, maybe you could say something to try to defuse the situation.  You don't want to be in the position of not being allowed to see your grandchildren.  I'd say as a last resort to report to child protective services, but I think they don't do much if there is no physical abuse.  I think that you should continue to talk to her about how his behavior is hurting the child(ren).

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Wed, 06-25-2014 - 6:14pm

To begin with, ADHD is not a "lable" any more than DIABETES is a lable.  Of course, just like with diabetes, sometimes it is diagnosed and treated by a pediatrician, and NOT by a specialist --a psychiatrist in the case of ADHD, or an endocrinologist in the case of diabetes.  If your dd used common sense, she would have had a full medical and psychiatric work-up on your grandson done by a PSYCHIATRIST.  After all, if someone told you your child had a heart valve problem, would you have your pediatrician treat it, or would you find a cardiac specialist?

Hopefully, a specialist would have told your dd and her husband that medication for ADHD is for the whole child, 24/7/365.  The medication supplements, or replaces, a neurotransmitter that enables the brain to concentrate appropriately, switch focus when necessary, and combat impulsivness.  In essence, it allows the brain to "put on the brakes".   Hopefully, one would want their child to ALSO be able to do that when they are riding a bike in traffic, walking around the neighborhood and are approached by a stranger, and when sitting in church.  Again, would you only give insulin to your diabetic child on school days, during school hours, so he wouldn't pass out in class???

Hopefully, the specialist would also have noticed, during counseling sessions,  that NEITHER your dd nor her dh were parenting effectivily, or appropriately, and would have suggested additional counseling, or parenting classes.

Your SIL has every right to discipline his stepchild, and in fact, it should be his DUTY to parent his stepchild.  HOWEVER, he needs to learn how to do it correctly, because he isn't going to magically learn appropriate parenting skills, and then use the good ones on his OWN child.  The same is true of your dd. She is NOT parenting her first child very well, and I doubt she will magically be a better parent with her second.

There SHOULD be high expectations of an ADHD child, just like you would have of your diabetic child, or ANY child.  HOWEVER, it is not fair to ask an UNtreated ADDer (with uneducated parents) to remember to put his shoes away, after being told ONCE, at the same time he is tired, distracted and hungry.  It is not any more fair, than it is to ask an UNTREATED diabetic to stop urniating uncontrollably, healing poorly, and fainting.

My first daughter was diagnosed with ADD when she was 15.  When we found the correct medication for her, and administered it correctly, she told us, "It's like I've been a dark closet my whole life, and somebody suddenly turned on a light.  If you even SUSPECTED there was a treatment, why did you make me suffer so long???"  We had our 12 year old evaluated immediately, and she was diagnosed also.  My dds are 30 and 33 now, have successful careers, and are happy wives and mothers with spouses who understand them, AND their children.  They have been taking medication this entire time except when they are pregnant ot breastfeeding.  And older dd, especially, SUFFERS during these times.

Rather than tell your dd that her husband is a bully, suggest that she AND he consult a psychiatrist for a full work-up on your grandson, and that they look into counseling and parenting classes for themselves. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-25-2014
Wed, 06-25-2014 - 8:24pm

Thank you Sabrtooth. I  so appreciate your feedback and knowledge of the whole ADD, ADHD thing. I shouldn't say "labeled", as you are right. ADHD is no different than Diabetes. DD and SIL did go to a counselor a year or more ago, not a psychiatrist. Only school issues were discussed, not too many home life issues. My DD told me they didn't get into who or what types of disciplines are done, nor did that counselor know how my SIL handles my grandson. My SIL does not see the need to go back to her. Of course. Otherwise, he would be exposed. 

 I would wholeheartedly agree that my SIL should be able to parent/discipline my grandson, IF he were not a bully, or mean to him. I witnessed this for nearly two weeks in person and it was painfully obvious that he does not like my grandson, and my DD is somewhat blind to it, or in denial.  Even 3 or 4 years ago, when he first came into my grandsons life full time, other family witnessed how he was. He was harsh with him back then, in front of our entire family during a reunion and later, the family members asked, "What the heck is up with your DD's boyfriend?" They even saw it upon first being around him and never being told anything.

Because of his behavior towards my grandson, I feel/wish that disciplining should solely return to my DD, and SIL support her in that.....but I know it won't happen. She's married to a control freak. If she questions his way of a certain discipline, he will ask her who she has been talking to, as if she can't think for herself, as if she didn't parent her son the first 4 years of his life. If he stepparented maturely, with more praise and love, rather than harshness and cruelty...I would not be worrying about my grandson's emotional stability.  My SIL has also gotten so drunk that he made my grandson cry and my DD had to leave the situation with my grandson. When she approached him the following day about his bad behavior, he couldn't recall the yelling and badgering at my grandson. She says she told him that can never happen again. My other younger DD witnessed it and told me, or I would never even know that happened. 

The background on DD and SIL goes back 10 + years to high school days. SIL was controlling even back then. They broke up numerous times because she would get so sick of his unhappy moods and controlling behavior. She met grandson's dad, things moved very fast, and she got pregnant at 20.  That didn't work out and then she reunited with SIL, much to our dismay,  and they eventually got married (2.5 years ago). They are 28 and 29 now.  My grandson's father is involved, does pay  support, but sometimes falls behind and has to play catch up. He has the usual every other weekend visitation and a few weeks or more in the summer. His mother is also a very involved grandmother and adores my grandson too. SIL has ruined that relationship between DD and grandson's other grandma. He hates her for NO reason and I mean that. He resents my grandson because he represents what happened when he and my DD were no longer a couple. Does that make sense?

I really like what you said about treating 24/7/365. That makes so much sense and I've wondered why they wouldn't consider medication at home since SIL gets so frustrated with him. I know how my grandson is....I've seen him bouncing off of the walls when with me too....and I just handle it differently. With patience. I know he can be difficult so I try to give credit to SIL. He's not always horrible. I just don't see a lot of positive praise or feedback. I see a micro-managing, overbearing, control freak. Of course children have to have expectations. Age appropriate ones. There is no warning with my grandson and he is often cut off when asking a question. If he is told it's bed time and he asks what time is it, he is told "BED TIME!" in a harsh tone, rather than, " It's 8:30 and time for bed". There is just immediate discipline....if he puts his shoes near the dining table instead of in his room...and not just in his room, but in his closet.  He comes home from school and does his homework at the dining table.  So, later SIL just throws his shoes in the backyard. How immature!  That's not an adult way to handle that. Yet, SIL's shoes are always sitting by the table in the living room. Hmmmm.  

I don't know how to approach DD about parenting classes without her becoming defensive. I've thought about suggesting some ADHD books, etc. just to help them. I have to tread delicately.   I know that my grandson needs  proper and consistent disciplining. I just disagree with the type being handed down.  It's not going to turn out a well adjusted person. It's going to turn out another bully.  

I'm so sorry you also went through having ADD daughters....but so glad you found help and they recognized it and felt better. That's wonderful! I can only hope and pray for the same with my grandson. He's always done well in school...very well...advanced. He just couldn't sit still and couldn't stay in his seat and would distract others, thus the reason they decided on Concerta. He's also lost weight (which he didn't need to lose) because Concerta can suppress the appetite, and my grandson is sent to bed with no food if he doesn't eat the meal placed before him. Why would you do that when a child clearly needs the calories and nutrition? I feel like such a worry-wart grandma. Trying not to be. Thank you.

Thank you for taking the time to respond. Good stuff!  Smile

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-25-2014
Wed, 06-25-2014 - 8:38pm

Hi Musiclover and thank you for your response!

You are correct in your assumptions. I'm sure my DD would feel it a failure if this did not work out with her DH.  She does have self-esteem/anxiety issues and I think she feels like no one else would love her or take her and her son in. It is a tough situation and she tries to make the best of it. Tries to talk to my SIL when she feels he's gone too far. What is sad is that she has to have such talks with him at all.  He's a person who very much likes and wants his way or he will pout and become quite moody. She knows she married a man who is difficult. She even has friends who  will not bring their spouses/boyfriends around because their spouses/boyfriends don't like my SIL. He thinks he is better than everyone, above others. He doesn't have a lot of compassion for others and I've seen a change in my DD with this attitude. Sad. 

She did work full time at a good job, but is not quitting to be a stay at home mom. My grandson's father is involved...every other weekend and summer visits, etc. He just had my grandson for two weeks. He does pay support but falls behind at times, and also just had a baby with his girlfriend. So my grandson has two new half sisters on each side. 

I have let my DD know that we will always be here for her (in a way that is light and to not imply I think they will not last). I try not to mention a whole lot because I want the door to remain open should she ever want to talk or ask my advice. She has asked for parenting advice when at odds with my SIL. This is how I have learned about some of the very age inappropriate tactics he has attempted. He tried to implment a discipline tactic on a 6 yr old that he learned from a friend who was doing it to his 13 yr old! My DD let it go for a while and then after 3 weeks with no change, she finally put her foot down and said ENOUGH. So, it's just constantly stuff like that. My younger DD lived with them for a while and witnessed all sorts of bad behavior on SIL's part. She couldn't say anything and only tried talking to her sister a few times. She told me plenty and it was very frustrating. 

I will just keep being supportive, maybe suggest some books on parenting ADHD kids, etc. I don't want to ruin the family dynamic or be forbidden to see my  grandkids. I doubt that would ever happen as my DD would not do that to me, but I still can't just voice certain opinions. I have to suffer in silence and pray things will work out well for them and mostly for my grandson. I'm not worried about my new grand child because SIL is completely different with her. She is his first child. 

Thank you again. Have a nice evening! 

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Thu, 06-26-2014 - 12:20am

You should keep paying attention, and trying to educate your dd.  You SIL may be enamored of his baby daughter right now, but I'm willing to bet that a "control freak" won't be able to handle a toddler who gets into every drawer and cabinet, throws every toy they own into a pile on the floor, and has "NO" as her favorite word!   Even if he does continue to parent her correctly, there are more than enough instances where parents treat all their children appropriately, EXCEPT FOR ONE.  It is called scapegoating, and unfortunatly, often a weak-willed spouse will ignore the abuse being inflicted upon their child, in order to keep peace with the controlling spouse. 

If I were you, I would keep pushing your dd to get counseling for HERSELF.  She needs to resolve her own issues, and become self-reliant in her own right,  before she can be a good parent to her children.  The way things are now, she will never stand up to her husband. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-25-2014
Tue, 07-01-2014 - 10:34pm

Thank you Sabrtooth!  Sorry for the delay in my response. I was out of town to see my new granddaughter. We brought our grandson back with us for a few weeks too. So nice to have him here. I will continue to educate DD diplomatically. She has had a few talks with SIL already...minor things, but he just hates not getting his way. In fact, because she didn't agree with him that soccer is a gay sport (his opinion), he slept on the couch last night. He has since apologized....but my goodness. I told her that this is what she is in for for since she married him. Really, pouting over your wife not agreeing with you about soccer???? Yikes. 

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