Friday, July 6, 2012

Children Only Act As Good As They Are Raised

Dear Tazi:

My sister has four children, two girls and two boys, all under the age of 8. I love my nieces and nephews dearly; what I do not love is the fact that my sister refuses to control them. She claims that children need to be allowed to express themselves freely, that it will help them grow up to be assertive and successful later in life. My problem is that every time they come to visit they scream so loud that it disturbs the peace of my quiet neighborhood. I have tried to calm them down myself, but my sister will intervene and insist that the children are simply expressing their excitement at seeing me.

I have tried to institute a “my house, my rules” policy, but my sister refuses to respect it, claiming that she has the right to raise her children by her rules. She even sends her children to an alternative school that encourages children to behave as they would like, so long as they are not physically harming themselves or another child. I have put up with the bad behavior for so long now that I thought I had learned to just take a Xanax before they arrived, but their last visit was over the top – even for them.

On Father’s Day, I hosted a barbecue for my father. My sister wanted to jointly host it, but since she did not have the time to assist it ended up being just me. I have no problem with this, but my sister did. She was pouty all day because people kept telling me how nice of me it was to host a special party for Dad; because of my sister’s bad mood she paid even less attention to her children than usual. I was busy with my hosting duties and could not keep an eye on them, either. This is how my Bichon ended up covered in bright pink blush; how my late Grandmother’s cut crystal vase ended up shattered; and my Lenox® comforter torn down the center.

I know how rambunctious my sister’s kids can be, so I put my dog in my bedroom so he would not be terrorized by them. I then closed the bedroom door to signify that this room was off-limits, just in case the children jumped over the baby-gate I had put up at the bottom of the stairs that lead up to my bedroom. Any other child would understand that these barriers meant to keep out, but not my sister’s kids! While I was outside serving drinks and my husband was manning the grill these little hellions went straight upstairs to search for my dog. From what they say, they were chasing the dog around the bedroom because they wanted to paint him pink (with my blusher) and the vase accidentally got broken and the comforter accidentally ripped when they chased the dog across the bed. I was livid and my husband, who was even more upset than I was, quietly escorted my sister and her kids to their car and told them not to return until they “learn how to behave like civilized human beings”. My father was kind enough to keep the party going, in spite of the mishaps, so the rest of the guests were none the wiser.

My sister feels that since her children have apologized – and that the damage “was accidental” – that I should accept their apologies and let bygones be bygones. Tazi, I can’t. I just can’t. The comforter was part of a $500 set – I worked overtime for a month in order to earn the money to buy it! The vase was a wedding gift from my Grandmother’s personal collection of Polish crystal, which she had brought over with her from the old country. I will not even go into the trauma they caused my poor dog or the grooming costs to remove the blush from her fur! My father would like to see peace kept within the family, but he has told us that he will not get involved in our “fracas” and that we should do what we feel is in our best interests. I am not sure what to do, Tazi. I know my physical property was just stuff, in spite of its sentimental value; but my dog? That oversteps a line.

Frazzled Aunt

Dear Frazzled Aunt:

As backward as this may sound, please do not be angry with the children. I say this because they are all still very young and do not know any better. This is because they have not been raised to know any better. Their mother (and father?) is raising them with few or no boundaries, and they are being sent to a school that encourages the same. You do not mention whether or not you have children, so I will assume you do not. This means that they do not have your children to look to as an example of how to behave when they come over to visit. What they do see is their mother overruling your attempts to discipline them, making you appear to be someone that they do not have to obey.

If you seek to be angry with someone, your sister should be the target. Children should be allowed to express themselves, but not as freely as she is allowing. Children also need structure in order to grow up to be successful and to learn that there is a proper time to be assertive and a proper time to be passive.

I cannot help but wonder if there is something deeper going on between you and your sister. You mention that she wanted to help with the barbecue; was too busy to do so; and then got “pouty” when people complimented you on your efforts. You also mention receiving a precious heirloom as a wedding gift; your sister’s defensive attitude about her parenting; and your father’s champion job in handling the whole situation. If I read between the lines, I get a much clearer picture of a sibling who feels that they do not measure up to you. Your sister could secretly be deriving joy from your misery (the German word for this is schadenfreude, which means to delight in another's misfortune). It appears that your sister is using her children as tools to inflict misery upon you.

The financial damage that your nephews and nieces caused is significant, and you should be reimbursed for damages. I will not suggest that you sue your sister, but you should present her with an itemization of the costs and an explanation as to why she is responsible for them. You can even tell her from me that if she plans on allowing her children to “express themselves freely” wherever they go she will have to get used to paying such bills, and then some. I realize this may cause further enmity between you and your sister, but I am only thinking about what is best for her children. Only when she is held responsible for her children’s behavior will she start teaching them to be responsible which, in the long run, is a lesson that will always serve them well.


P.S. If all else fails, you can file a claim with your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance for reimbursement of your costs. This will not replace the precious heirloom that was destroyed, but it may help drain some of the bitterness you are feeling.

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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