Should I speak with my brother about his very overweight child?

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-06-2011
Should I speak with my brother about his very overweight child?
Sun, 09-01-2013 - 6:38pm

I know it's probably none of my business and I should mind my own, but it is very difficult for me to do this.  My brother and sister-in-law have one child.  She's a very sweet six-year-old, but she is very overweight.  I'm not talking chubby, but probably a good 100 pounds or more. My sister-in-law stopped taking her to the physician for check ups when he told her that she should be put on a healthier diet.  When my brother tries to say anything about it, such as gently reminding his daughter that she doesn't need a second helping of whatever it is she's eating, my sister-in-law scolds my as a result, he has given up. ( It's important to note that my sister-in-law is overweight as well, so maybe she doesn't see this as an issue?)  I recently saw my niece, and it had been a year or so since I saw her last, and she is even bigger than ever.  She came over to a dinner at my home, and not only did she have second helpings of everything, but asked me for  a "snack for the road"..even though they were only going back to my mother's home, which is five minutes away.  I tried to offer a healthier snack, but she went through my pantry until she found something sweet.  My mother, awful as it sounds, was actually embarassed to be seen with this child when they took her shopping for toys, because her mother (my sister-in-law) let the daughter go through the store eating as she shopped.  My niece would just open the snacks before they were paid for and start eating them.  To make matters worse, my brother and sister-in-law recently moved to a small town so my brother could accept a new job offer, and my sister-in-law has decided to home school my niece.  All I can think of is that now she will get no activity whatsoever, because at least in school they have P.E. class and talk about healthy eating, and she will instead sit home and eat all day.  I hate to see this continue, because truly this child's health is in danger.  I know her mother get's VERY offended when anybody triesd to say anything, but I feel like someone has to advocate for this child.  Advice please.  FrownFrown

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999

I think it depends a lot on your relationship w/ your brother & how close you are & whether you usually can talk about sensitive issues.  Obviously he knows that his DD is overweight--the issue is that he won't stand up to his DW.  Who told you that the mom doesn't take the DD to the dr's any more?  I suppose you could sympathize with him about his DD's health but only if you think that he will be receptive.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-03-2011


Sounds like your very concerned about your niece and you have every right to be concerned but not really any rights with the way the child is treated. It sounds like the niece is also very aware of how food is her addiction now and it might take more than you voicing your concerns to help her. 

There are a number of issues here. A dominant mother, a passive father and a little girl who is manipulative. The child is eating for attention, the second helping, the inactivity, there are no boundaries here. The child has never been taught the word no and being an only child, its easier for the overweight mum to feed her than go outside and play a ball game or go for a walk. 

Is your brother overweight? 

I would think that the mum is the biggest problem here. Sounds like she has low self esteem and doesnt do any exercise other than walk around shopping. I think if you can spend anytime with the mum, getting her out of the house, getting her fitter and educating her on diet and health, then you might have a chance of changing the situation. 

Have you ever thought about getting them a puppy to play with ? Dogs need walking, and this might encourage the family to do that? 

I think if you go there and persuade the mum to start exercising with you or do some healthy activities initially, this will be more effective than starting a blame game and embarrassing her about the situation. Good luck and hugs xox

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-16-2002

Yes, I think you should talk to your brother about his daughter's health.  This situation is tatamount to child abuse (imho) because this 6 year old is being given an early death sentence.  It sounds like Mom wants someone to eat with her and she's chosen someone she can dominate who has no choices (or has not been given any).  I think you can be an example for her, and when she's at your home tell her that your family only eats (insert healthy foods here), and takes walks after eating (take her out for a walk).  She won't get it until she sees others doing it.  Someone asked if your brother was overweight, if not (or if so), can't he at least go for walks, or go biking with her?  This child is not being well cared for, especially if her mother stops taking her to the doctor (that is ridiculous) because he was trying to *help* her!  Sounds like a job for Dr Phil!

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

.  -Albert Einstein

Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006

It sounds like your brother needs to step up to the plate on this one.  I know you want to be careful, as not to allienate your brother, but it appears your concerns are valid. 

If I understand correctly, your B is aware, and agrees with you.  So he knows, and tries in his own way to change things. 

I think that really only leaves talking to your brother.  There is no reason HE can't start making changes.  Taking his DD to the doctor.  Taking his DD on a walk and to go play at the park.  But ultimately he needs to be firm with his DW if she is the primary care giver.  Especially if homeschooled. 

Your mom can set her own rules at her house and when shopping with GD.  Kids figure out quick what that can, and CAN'T do at grandma's house.  :) 

Good luck with your brother.  I am sure it is hard talk about. 


iVillage Member
Registered: 01-22-2004

Tough situation, in your case I would talk with brother first (privately) and also ask him not to tell DW what you have talked about. As other poster said he can take her to the doctor. Probably it would be better to start with the kid and then her mom might learn from her.

He needs to be firm and give DW the example of how to help and make changes in someones eating habits. Probably then his voice will be listened, and then ask DW to fully support him and daughter with a healthier diet. He can also promes the child a trip or to buy her something she really wants if she loses X pounds. (the ones the doctor says she has to lose) Also insentivate her with rewards, like taking her to the movie or buy a pretty dress as she starts loosing pounds.

If mom is overweigh, she might need not to be the only overweigh at home.

Does you sister in law family has probrems with overweigh?

It is said that it takes a year to change someones eating bad habits, but I think it is worth the effort.


Good luck!