Sue Ellen Jackson
Dear Sue Ellen,
My sister and her family are coming for their annual summer visit. Both she and her husband are great people, but lazy parents. They come every year and dump the responsibility of entertaining their three children on me. I think they come so I will babysit their kids all week while they lay around, eat my family’s food, watch movies and take naps. I stay very busy with their three children, and my two children, but their kids are brats! They are defiant, demanding, spoiled, and an overall bad influence on my children who love their cousins and look forward to their visit every year. They see their cousins getting to do whatever they want, while we set limits at our house. I am thinking about ending these yearly summer visits. Does that make me a bad sister?
Dear Little Sister,
What you are describing to me about your sister’s children is neglect. Yes….I said neglect; and neglect is abuse. Child neglect takes several different forms. There is physical neglect where parents fail to take care of their children’s physical needs, such as: food, clothing, a clean environment to live in, nutrition and safety. There are parents that medically neglect their children by not being responsible with their child’s care when they are sick. And then you have emotional neglect, and in my humble opinion, this is the most common type of neglect. When parents are too busy or just preoccupied with other things, it is much easier for them to let their children run amuck, or plop them in front a TV for hours (even teenagers need limits with this), or fail to offer discipline and limitations.
Parenting is hard. It takes time and effort, but being good a parent can make us better people. I’ve seen lots of parents that are off balance on this concept and have no idea they are neglecting their children. More importantly, these parents have no clue of the damage they are doing to their children and the problems that can arise in the future due to their parenting choices.
I’m not judging here… Lord knows I’ve made my share of mistakes, but I wish everyone wanting a family would take parenting classes first. My children are adults now, and I am sure I would have been a better parent if I had taken parenting classes. Instead, I am now watching my adult children struggle with some things, partly because of mistakes I made with them. Family cycles pass from generation to generation, and it is always a mystery to me how children growing up in the same household can become so different as adults. I am supposing you and your sister grew up in the same household. Perhaps it is the influence our spouses have on us that can sway the direction our parenting skills take.
Family dynamics are so interesting, oftentimes strange, and frequently stressful. Do I think you are a bad sister for not wanting your sister to dump her family on you for a week every summer? We can’t put our children in a bubble to protect them from bad influences. You have to teach your children to be confident and independent individuals, so they can deal with life’s challenges. If I were you, I would not want my sister to come and mooch off of me for a week every year, and I wouldn’t allow her kids to act like brats either. Maybe you can be a good influence instead of suffering the effects of your sister’s family being a bad influence. That would make you the best little sister ever.
Please email your parenting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Parent’s Corner on the subject line.