DEAR ABBY: I have a sister I love dearly. "Thea" is married to a wonderful man, and they have a 3-year-old son I love as if he were my own. My problem is Thea has a nasty, violent temper, and she doesn't hesitate to use it toward the boy.
Recently when he was overtired and needed to go to bed, Thea said he "knows better than to push me by throwing a tantrum." She then threatened to "beat him bloody" if he didn't "shut up" and go to sleep. Abby, she had already swatted his behind to the point that he could no longer stand up.
This feels like abuse to me. When I suggested that perhaps Thea should try to calm down before she hits him (more than she already had), she threw me out of her house! I am terrified that this may be happening more often than I realize. But what if what I witnessed was just an isolated incident? If I act on it, I may never have a relationship with my sister again.
What (if anything) can I do? I'm worried for the safety of my nephew, but I don't want to cause a rift I can't mend. -- MIDWEST AUNTIE
DEAR AUNTIE: It appears your sister has serious anger issues and lacks parenting skills. A mother who "swats" her child to the point that he can no longer stand is an abuser, and she needs an intervention before her child is seriously hurt. Because Thea's reaction when you tried to intervene and calm her down was to throw you out of the house, the next step is to call Childhelp USA. The toll-free number is 800-422-4453. Your call will be kept confidential and a counselor can guide you further. Please don't procrastinate.