DEAR ABBY: I'm at my wit's end. My brother-in-law and his wife, "Ethel," have two boys; one is 6 and the other is 3. I love them and would do anything for them, but there are times when the thought of seeing them makes my skin crawl. Their parents seem to believe that disciplining them is too much trouble, and would rather blame their bad behavior on "boys will be boys."
I have a 2 1/2-year-old daughter, "Pam." Since she could utter her first words, my husband and I have insisted she say "please" and "thank you." As she grows, we expect more manners and correct behavior from her, just as we were taught. We are not tyrants, but we believe there is a time and a place for everything. The dinner table in a restaurant (or anywhere else) is not the time or place to go running at full speed yelling at the top of their lungs.
The boys' grandmother and step-grandfather think the boys' behavior is acceptable and can't understand why we're so "strict" with Pam. It has reached the point where everyone else in the family avoids any contact with Ethel and her family, and plans things secretly.
I enjoy Ethel's company and want Pam to have a relationship with her entire family, but it's hard to explain to a 2 1/2-year-old why her cousins can jump on furniture, throw things in the house and eat ice cream for breakfast while she cannot. They also seem to think that tormenting Pam is OK, and they do it quite often. In fact, they have tried to run her over with a big wheel and have hit her with their toys. I don't want Pam to pick up on this inappropriate behavior.
When I try to intervene, their mother, father and grandmother pick them up, cradle them, then look at me and tell me the boys are just "playing" with her. I have voiced my opinion to no avail. Help me, please. -- HAD IT IN SAN DIEGO
DEAR HAD IT: Your brother-in-law and his wife have a responsibility to teach their boys what is appropriate behavior and what is not. The blame is entirely theirs. Discipline takes work, but the parents appear to be too lazy to put forth the effort. Imagine the headache when the 6-year-old must be in a structured environment -- such as school.
I don't blame the rest of the family for avoiding contact with these relatives. One out-of-control brat is hard to tolerate; two of them are too much to endure. Since Pam is too small to adequately defend herself against her unruly cousins, curtail her exposure to them.