Ask Amy: My Stepdad Plays Too Rough With His Grandson

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dear Amy: Recently, my children and I were with my in-laws (their grandparents) at a crowded event where I relied on my in-law to watch my son (4 years old) while I was with my granddaughter .

My stepdad tries to connect with my son by “being stupid,” which to him means holding his nose, tickling, tugging while holding hands, and general shoving and clowning behavior.

Occasionally my son laughs with him, but more often than not I can tell by his body language that he feels assaulted by all the unwanted touching.

At one point he fell down and was sobbing because his grandfather had basically pushed him down with an arm wrestle.

As we said goodbye and Grandpa tried to hug him (while saying “you don’t have to hug me if you don’t want to”), my son refused to say goodbye. I said goodbye and started to realize how much brutality there had been, so I asked my son if Grandpa was “pushing” him too much.

He said (surprisingly) “I love Grandpa so much and every time I see him I get so excited to play but he makes me so sad every time because he’s too tough.”

My question is, what is the best way to approach this?

I see a few options. My husband experienced this behavior himself as a child. I don’t think he would be able to handle this effectively with his father. I could encourage my son to defend himself with his grandfather.

I could tell my stepdad what my son said, something like, “I see you really want to connect with our kids, but what you’re doing is the opposite of connecting.

I feel like he’s a bully, but I don’t know if I’m projecting my own feelings onto the situation.

Protective: It never ceases to amaze me that some adults can look at children who are obviously distressed – and not adjust to their adult behavior.

Note that this grandfather is not intentionally a bully, but he behaves as he knows how to behave – and has always behaved with children. He can justify this by believing he’s “toughening up the little guy!” – but this behavior of a beloved adult is extremely confusing, as your son put it so well. And, mind you, the last thing this grandpa wants is for this kid to get so tough that he gets revenge (which his grandpa would probably punish him for) or just avoids him.

Coach your son to express his needs: “Grandpa, no, too hard!

Also pass on the comments cited by your son and ask your stepfather: “Can you reduce the brutality? It’s hard enough for him. »

dear Amy: My (young) 30-year-old sister is transfixed by a man who, in another era, would be called “a rake”. He is handsome, charming and has a reputation as a womanizer.

My sister “Cécile” is adorable, confident and sweet – and a bit naive. She had a few relationships of varying lengths and was burned a few times.

My instincts to try to protect my sister are very strong, but I don’t want to overwhelm her or alienate her.

Protective: I enjoy the term “rake” as an adjective – as it conjures up visions of various “lovable scoundrels” in English literature.

So I turn to Jane Austen for advice.

In her famous novel “Sense and Sensibility” (the story of a protective older sister), the beautiful younger sister Marianne falls in love with the debauched Mr. Willoughby, while the dark and proper Colonel Brandon loves him from afar.

Brandon offers the doomed couple a most gracious blessing, which I’ll paraphrase here: “I pray that she’s happy and that he somehow deserves it.”

What you can do for your sister is hope for her happiness and stay in her corner if things don’t go well. Weighing in – especially if you’re not invited – won’t help.

dear Amy: Thank you for asking the question of “Not talented“, the couple who were overwhelmed by the multiple gifts of the in-laws. The in-laws were not respecting the couple’s request to stop exchanging gifts.

My family faced the same problem. It took several years to essentially “train” family members away from material gifts, but now we share and enjoy “experiences” together.

Grateful: I love this idea and I hope that many readers will adopt it.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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