Niece abuse claims against parents at school

Postby Porridge » Sun Jun 09, 2019 8:19 pm

To cut a very long story short, my wife’s niece (12) had been using wife’s Instagram to message school friends last week and on Friday night one of those friends messaged thinking it was the niece and a story began to unfold.

Niece is apparently telling school friends that mum (not sure in what way) and dad (beating) are abusing her and that she’s started to self harm (cutting).

Other than being overly strict, to the point niece is forced to study constantly and not allowed to go out and mix with others, we’ve seen no evidence of specific abuse.

On the face of it, looks like an attention seeking strategy (she also copies school friends injuries/conditions) but we’re a bit stuck as to what to do. Raising with her parents would definitely result in repercussions (loss of privileges etc) so any views/advice welcome.
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#1

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Jun 10, 2019 2:17 am

Porridge wrote: Raising with her parents would definitely result in repercussions (loss of privileges etc) so any views/advice welcome.


Imagine you are the parents of a 12 year old child.

You want your brother or sister hiding information from you about your child? What would you do, how would you feel if you found out your own brother or sister was hiding information about your child regarding self harm? What type of trust would be lost and how many years would it take to repair that trust?

Go to the parents.

She is 12 years old. It is not your role in her life to subvert the parents and play her protector, guardian or parent. That is the the job of her parents. This means you take the information you have and tell her parents.

If there will be repercussions, that is life. There should be repercussions. That is what is suppose to happen.

IF you have any belief that abuse might be taking place, the above advice changes slightly. It gets a bit tricky. If for some reason you believe it possible that abuse is taking place, then you involve child protective services.

To do this you go to the parents and explain that the 12 year old has made some very public accusations on Instagram. To protect the parents and to clear their good name, you reached out to child protective services as to formally document that no abuse is taking place. This will give the opportunity for the 12 year old to learn how important it is not to make false accusations. That is the thought process you tell the parents. It is difficult, but that is how you frame the reason for getting legal services involved. It is to protect the parents from this public accusation by their 12 year old.
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#2

Postby Porridge » Mon Jun 10, 2019 7:01 pm

Many thanks for your reply.

I fully understand your rationale and turning the boot onto the other foot so to speak. I agree that if this were my child I’d want to know and to understand why they were saying such things.

Other than her parents are overly strict and controlling with her, we don’t believe there is anything else going on. I suppose our fear is, given their over reaction to any/all of her indiscretions, is that we will contribute to making her existence all the more miserable and isolated.

Niece clearly has a need for attention and/or acceptance amongst her peers but her tactics are worryingly flawed. Knowing her parents, I don’t think there’ll be any attempt to understand the ‘why’, the behaviour will simply result in punishment, not understanding or remedial action.
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#3

Postby tokeless » Mon Jun 10, 2019 7:46 pm

Porridge wrote:Many thanks for your reply.

I fully understand your rationale and turning the boot onto the other foot so to speak. I agree that if this were my child I’d want to know and to understand why they were saying such things.

Other than her parents are overly strict and controlling with her, we don’t believe there is anything else going on. I suppose our fear is, given their over reaction to any/all of her indiscretions, is that we will contribute to making her existence all the more miserable and isolated.

Niece clearly has a need for attention and/or acceptance amongst her peers but her tactics are worryingly flawed. Knowing her parents, I don’t think there’ll be any attempt to understand the ‘why’, the behaviour will simply result in punishment, not understanding or remedial action.


I think that in itself is cause for concern. If her parents punish her because of their strict actions that can be a form of emotional abuse. I can understand your reluctance but I think you need to say something, even if it's talking to your niece and see if there's more to this than you think.
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#4

Postby Porridge » Mon Jun 10, 2019 7:53 pm

Again, thanks for your reply and different perspective. We invited niece round on Saturday after we found out (she lives around the corner and used to visit regularly but is no longer allowed.....usually because of grounding or studying or.....) but wife’s sister said she wasn’t allowed to come unless we told her why we’d invited her. We have children (her cousins) so even a social visit shouldn’t be out of the question for her.

Wife has asked her sister to come round this evening to talk (not shared why yet) but she’s busy this week!
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#5

Postby tokeless » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:19 pm

but wife’s sister said she wasn’t allowed to come unless we told her why we’d invited her.

I don't want to over read in to this but that's a bit strange imo. It sounds quite controlling and perhaps there's more to this than meets the eye. I've been involved in safeguarding professionally and you'd be surprised how events can be discovered from very innocent sounding situations.
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#6

Postby Porridge » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:33 pm

It’s just typical of their controlling behaviour towards her really. They have her studying constantly, weekends, holidays, never allowed out with friends or to mix socially unless it suits them (placed with friends occasionally whilst they’re at work). Never given any credit for doing well, put down frequently in front of others.

Appreciate parents have the right to be strict but as the parent of three of my own children it’s way OTT to me and potentially damaging.

I think the isolation from other kids her own age (except when at school) is making her look for some kind of attention/acceptance and hence her (hopefully) wild claims.
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#7

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:53 pm

Porridge wrote:Other than her parents are overly strict and controlling with her, we don’t believe there is anything else going on.

I don’t think there’ll be any attempt to understand the ‘why’, the behaviour will simply result in punishment, not understanding or remedial action.


Here is a thought exercise for you to try.

What are the top three things they do as parents that are superior to how you parent your own children? If you could learn from them ways to be a better parent, what might they be able to teach you?

***

No abuse is taking place. You have stated that twice. So what this really boils down to is you believe your way of parenting is superior. You believe that they need lessons on how to be better parents, like you. They need to understand how to ask the “why” questions as to take the appropriate remedial action, like you.

Fair enough.

Indeed, your way of parenting might be better. Your knowledge of the importance of asking why as to take appropriate remedial action is certainly superior to the style of “over react and punish”.

You should take the above lesson to them, but at the same time see what they have to offer in return.

Certainly they look at how your children behave and see the flaws in your parenting, so why not let them give you a few lessons on how you can be a better parent? Maybe they think you should have your children study more, or that you should be more strict. Maybe they don’t think you understand the value of instilling discipline early in life.

I wonder what types of parenting lessons they might be able to teach you?

***
Note, I’m not saying you are wrong in this case. But, given you know it is a niece seeking attention and that no abuse is taking place, is it really your job to use this specific incident, this specific event to now try and become the “parent teacher”?

It seems to me a better approach, even if you fake it or it is feigned humility, is to start a more broad discussion on parenting in general. Go to the parents and open up a dialogue, tell them you want to learn, you want to discuss, you want to share what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to parenting. To do this, you might have to be a bit vulnerable and share some parenting mishaps on your end. You might have to admit that one of your children struggles with X or Y, or that you have difficulty getting one child to do Z. At the same time, this will give you the opportunity to offer ways you have found that work.

Bottom line, I will assume you are correct. I will assume that how you parent is superior. Based on what you wrote, it does seem reasonable that how they are parenting could use some help. But, the approach you take in my opinion must be one of collaboration. You must be willing to treat them as equals in parenting ability as to then work towards your goal of helping your niece.
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#8

Postby Porridge » Tue Jun 11, 2019 6:38 am

Richard, can I be frank and say I find your responses (on reflection) to be overly confrontational.

To make it very clear, in no way do I feel superior in my parenting skills and my niece certainly doesn’t need for her parents to offer a tit for tat exchange of parenting ‘best practise’ with us.

I have stated that (based on my current knowledge and experience of them) that the abuse she claims is a figment of her imagination. HOWEVER, I don’t want to run the risk that she is actually yet another victim who nobody believes and am happy to raise the issue as necessary for her benefit, not to imply any parenting superiority!

Yes, I have expressed my opinion on her parents level of control over her which again, in my experience of parenting and observing other family and friends methods is overly excessive. Indeed her own wider family (grandparents and aunts/uncles.....who have raised it with her parents to no effect) have independently made the same comments so suggesting I feel somehow superior because of my having that same view is an unwelcome and misplaced criticism.

I don’t know FOR CERTAIN, that she isn’t being physically abused or is self harming, I only have that opinion based on what I’ve observed.

What I do KNOW, from my observations is that by raising this with her parents (whether it’s true or fantasy) she WILL suffer consequences and I fully agree that if she’s lying, that is the right outcome. However, as a caring family member who has a shared GENUINE concern
for nieces welfare, I’m concerned about why she would make this up and whether the way she is being treated emotionally is actually an underlying cause. Her parents will not look further than an immediate reaction to the situation, there will be no move to try and understand.

I’m not inclined to even comment to them on their methods as you have nailed it by saying they will counter with views on my own parenting methods. This would serve as no more than a distraction from the main issue, our (and wider families) concern.
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#9

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:43 am

Porridge wrote:I’m not inclined to even comment to them on their methods as you have nailed it by saying they will counter with views on my own parenting methods. This would serve as no more than a distraction from the main issue, our (and wider families) concern.


It doesn’t serve as a distraction if it gets them to discuss appropriate parenting.

What do you believe the main issue, if not their parenting skills?

You think the best approach is to educate them on how they can be better parents, but if they share what they believe it is a distraction?

You are using the “incident” of your 12 year old niece as a catalyst, a reason you must act to help educate her parents. How do you plan to do this without sounding superior, without creating friction?

Or is your thought process that the parents are beyond education and therefore your role will be to step in and provide a sort of alternate parent figure? What might be the negative outcomes that result from that approach?

You are presenting a tough problem where you, and presumably many others, do not believe they are being good parents and that this means the parents need to improve their parenting skills. But, the parents are resistant to being told their parenting skills suck. So HOW!!! If you don’t like my idea of a collaborative approach, because that would be a distraction, then HOW! What’s your idea? Lay it on me!

THINK! You want help. You think I’m being confrontational for suggesting you collaborate? My last response is that IF you come across as appearing you are the superior parent, that your parenting is without flaw, then that will be seen as condescending. Therefore, try a bit of deference and use a collaborative approach instead.

But hey, no big deal. I have made my suggestions. I’ll assume you have a better idea. Best of luck.
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#10

Postby tokeless » Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:24 pm

Hi Richard,
To be fair I didn't see where the op was implying or inferring they had better parenting skills, just that the allegations were their concern and sought advice on how to manage it. They state the parents are overly strict and force her to study but didn't add they thought that wrong or bad parenting. I therefore think your response was a bit confrontational if I'm honest.
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#11

Postby Porridge » Tue Jun 11, 2019 5:12 pm

I do appreciate all inputs but to confirm again, this isn’t about any claim to parenting superiority.

The issue as I see it and which I needed support with relates to two scenario I guess:

a) niece is fabricating and my personal view is she should be challenged about that and the potential ramifications for her parents explained clearly to her. In addition, my (again) opinion is that her parents won’t seek to understand the reasons behind her behaviour and will simply punish her and add to what appears on the outside to be quite a miserable childhood. Pushing study and discipline is commendable to an extent but children need a childhood too. Almost complete isolation in order to achieve those things is excessive to most people....isn’t it?

b) niece is actually telling the truth and deserves to be heard. Many recent examples of people who have suffered in silence for fear of being called a liar only to be found truthful many years later. Is it a claim of superiority to at least keep that possibility open in my mind, even if my gut is telling me it’s unlikely?

Anyway, my wife is still waiting for her sister to free some time up to come round and share the messaging details with her face to face. Many thanks for your comments and apologies if any lack of clarity on my part has led to misinterpretation of my/our motives. I will feedback on here in due course when there is more to share.
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#12

Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Wed Jun 12, 2019 2:09 am

Hi Tokeless

tokeless wrote:To be fair I didn't see where the op was implying or inferring they had better parenting skills,


There is nothing wrong with the OP stating that he, and other members of his family all agree that how these parents are “parenting” the niece is “overly strict/punishing”. There is nothing wrong with the OP saying that in his opinion, these parents will not ask “why” as to understand why their child is misbehaving and will instead just go straight to punishment.

In stating the above, the OP is implying that the parenting skills of his niece are lacking.

It is not a big leap to see where this then means the OP, as well as other members of his family, see themselves as having a better way to parent this niece.

And what is wrong with that? Why is it such an issue to imply better parenting? If you believe that you have a superior way to raise the niece, then OWN IT! Don’t shy away from it. If you truly believe, as do other members of the family, that how these parents are raising the niece is overly strict, then they need to stop pretending that these parents are just as good at parenting as anyone else. That is BS. They don’t think that, so stop pretending like they think that.

tokeless wrote:I therefore think your response was a bit confrontational if I'm honest.


And what is wrong with a confrontational response? Do you honestly think that this problem has a solution that is not going to result in confrontation? The OP better be ready for confrontation and have the skill to handle confrontation, because there is no solution to this problem that isn’t going to have a hefty dose of it.

So maybe, if we think two moves ahead, there is a purpose in my “confrontational” response. Maybe, when we simulate beyond this forum into the future, then asking the OP to consider what are the top 3 things these parents will say about how he raises his children serves a purpose.

The OP even admits, that indeed these other parents will criticize his parenting and that it will be a distraction. Well, guess what? TOO BAD.

There is NO universe that exists where you are going to say, “This isn’t about my parenting. This is about your daughter, this is about your child, so let’s focus on you and your parenting,” and these parents just sit there.

The only way the OP gets away from an upcoming confrontation is to outsource to another family member or to a 3rd party. The OP can outsource to child protective services and deny making the call, or the OP can go to a grandparent or other family and have them go to the parents of the niece. Both of these will avoid the OP having to confront the parents. Regardless, confrontation is coming, it is just a matter of who is the one to do the confronting.

Again, CONFRONTATION...it’s happening. It’s part of life. So if the little, tiny, smidgeon offered up in here is any indicator of the OP’s current skill level in dealing with verses running away from confrontation, then maybe that is an area where the OP might focus some energy and try to improve.

I understand, ideally it would be nice if these parents could see the error of their ways without confrontation. That’s not going to happen. Therefore, it is about managing the confrontation, managing the conflict.
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#13

Postby Porridge » Wed Jun 12, 2019 7:59 am

Hi Richard,

My response to you wasn’t in anyway an indication of my typical response to confrontation or conflict or an attempt/wish to run away from it ( I actually deal with some degree of conflict every day as part of my career). By asking for others input on how to deal with this very sensitive issue, rather than run away from it, I’ve actively taken responsibility for tackling it but obviously want to do it in the right way and especially given that I’m pretty certain the outcome for the niece won’t be pretty either way.

What I was struggling with is how you’d interpreted my posts as any kind of claim to parenting superiority. What I was trying to offer was some background and a view based on my own parenting and experience of others’ parenting that her experience is significantly different in terms of level of control, discipline, pressure to study, isolation from her peers/friends (with the exception of when she’s at school).

Now that you have that information, you can make up your own mind as to whether YOU think it strange or tending more towards normal.

In terms of ‘confronting’ her parents and dealing with the associated ‘conflict’, give me some credit for planning to go about this in a supportive an empathetic manner. I’m not going to go in all guns blazing telling them they’re bad parenting has led to this (their methods may actually have no bearing in this, that’s only one view I have on the topic). The issue will be raised by simply sharing the Instagram messages we’ve come across and showing GENUINE concern that niece has resorted to this kind of interaction with her school friends.

Now, from my own experience of parenting, I’ve sometimes felt really bad when I’ve learned something unexpected about my own children (not of this magnitude I admit) and have reflected on whether I should have acted differently, almost a feeling of self contribution which was generally misplaced. Again, MY OPINION based on experience of her parents is that they won’t engage in this self reflection and that concerns me. I won’t even suggest that they do so, but I will sow the seed that something is clearly amiss with niece for her to feel the need to engage in such behaviour. How they proceed from there is up to them.

As promised, I will update on here once we’ve shared with her mum and have some view on how it’ll be handled.
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#14

Postby quietvoice » Wed Jun 12, 2019 11:36 am

How to ask anyone else to change their behavior in a manner that is agreeable for everyone involved, a very delicate situation indeed.

Now that you have that information, you can make up your own mind as to whether YOU think it strange or tending more towards normal.


Whether or not something is normal, does not imply whether it is the right or wrong way to do something.

Do you observe that it is normal to use animals for food and other products in this world? Are we not learning that using farmed animals is harming the environment, people's health and of course, the animals themselves? Have you tried to change the behavior of people who don't want to open themselves up to new information and reflect upon that information for the sake of making an improvement in themselves and the world around them? Some people just aren't ready and may never be ready to hear.

Do you have any indication that these parents are open to receiving new information about their behavior?
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