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Dr. Kaushik
Dr. Kaushik, Psychiatrist
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Experience:  MD Psychiatry
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I have always thought of my sister as a fabulous parent. We

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I have always thought of my sister as a fabulous parent. We have slightly different parenting styles, though I thought our core values were the same. Recently it came up that she will slap her children eg. If one is throwing a tantrum and she needs them all in the car fast for the school run. It was a difficult conversation as for me, hitting is a big "no" under any circumstances. I think she is on the same page intellectually, we had the same upbringing and very happy childhood, but her life is more stressed in lots of ways versus mine. During our conversation, she made clear that she felt my life less stressful and so of course I did not get to that point and thus no point talking about something I could not understand. Yes I am irrated as the implication is that circumstances reversed I would respond in the same way. I feel a strong need to talk about this in more depth with her.
I am worried, I am very judgemental on this issue, I feel strongly she is letting herself and her children down. Obviously I have to find an approach that does not cause more damage.
The children all heard our debate as it came up over Sunday lunch. During lunch I had to separate warring cousins and gave the standard pep talk I give to mine every now and then. I know you are cross, but hitting does not help, please find a way to control the urge, count to ten, use your brain, talk, but hitting is wrong and a daft thing to do everytime you get cross, it does not solve the problem. We never hit you guys just because we're cross, it is not acceptable behaviour. Standard talk, my sister was nodding happily in agreement. To which the response was but mum you hit us and our brief debate began. The children are now talking to each other about it. It would appear my sisters children are dealt with swiftly and sometimes with a hard wack. They don't seem upset as they know what they've done to get wack. How can this not have come up over the last five years. We see each other everyday and I've never seen my sister hit, yet it is clear that it is reasonably frequent. Am I being silly. It is partly she has specifically asked me not to bring up the subject that leaves me floundering. I feel strongly for the children and I am angry with my sister and of course the darker more dramatic voice is saying how often, how hard, what is the impact, are the children scared, what else don't I know, she will not discuss this subject with me. The dark side of me feels she knows this is behaviour that breaks our code and thus she does it in private and it is a concious thought process to use a slap as a strategy to get the children to fall in line?
Hi there.

Welcome to Just answer !

Well i can see your dissapointment and shock over the recent revealation of your sister's physical punitive approach to get things done in the house when her kids are not obeying her commands. I agree with you and share the same sentiments that kids should never be hit / physically abused in any way what so ever, but having said that i believe you shall have to give some more time to your judgment of your sister's approach and behaviour as you have not been able to see and hear her point of view on this.

Agreed that both of you have been raised in the same happy environment during childhood and have been instilled with the same good values and morals and ethics but you got to admit that you two are different persons at the end of the day with your own set of sensibilities, perceptions and thinking process and more importantly have different circumstances to cater to , all of this colours one's behaviour and so has happened in your sister's case.

No doubt you got to talk to her and ask her to modify her type of parenting and stop beating up the kids because this sets a bad example as respect for the mother is taken over by fear in the eyes of the kids and as they shall grow up this kind of behaviour will colour their approach as well and they may also end up mimicing their mother while dealing with their own kids. So physical punitive methods are a strict no and i completely see and respect your point of view on this and i support your decision that you should talk with her on this and help her to overcome this kind of parenting style as it is not healthy for the kids especially in terms of the impact it may have on their fragile minds.

But having said that what is most important aspect in all of this is that you got to approach your sister very subtly in a non - judgmental manner because you see no matter how close you two may be but your crticism of hers regarding her parenting style may push her to the wall and make her defensive and this may lead to retaliation on her part leading to a bitter tussle between the two of you about who is right and who is wrong which may eventually lead to a friction between you and her. So please do not pounce on her in haste to seek answers about how she ended up being such kind of parent when she herself had a lovely non- violent childhood just like yours because by doing so you may hurt her unintentionally though, which may lead to estranged ties between the two of you and your families.

So have patience , give her some time to relax after your last verbal duel , now she is fully aware of the fact that you have gotten to know about her parenting secret which is nothing to boast about, so she will be very much conscious and praying that you do not use this to put her down and make her realize how wrong she is which will hurt her immensely. So have patience , give yourself and her a week's time and then rake up this topic but when you two are all alone , please do not do this in front of her kids as that will make her defensive to salvage her pride in front of her own kids. Also there is a good possibility that within a week she herself calls you and discusses about all of this , now that she is aware that you must be thinking and criticising her internally for her behaviour.

And whenever after a week when you talk to her please see to it that you make her comfortable in a way that she does not feel that she is being criticised and looked down upon by you , make the talk more constructive rather than talking mostly about her bad parenting tactics , offer her advise about your own personal experiences when your kids are not obeying , listen to her limitations and restrictions and empathise with her and give her a moral boost, and offer her help in terms of having joint sessions with hers and your kids to be taught the right manners and etiquettes and discipline so as to ease her burden off her shoulder and teach her kids to obey her in a more condusive non- threatening way.

So i will conclude by saying that no doubt you are a good mother and have the ability to seek maximum output from your kids in terms of their respect , discipline and obeyance towards you, but this should not make you overly cycnical and critical of your sister as she may have been compelled into making such a behaviour unintentionally due to shear circumstances surrounding her, so please approach this talk with her keeping in mind that no matter how close you two are but when this talk begins you will be talking to a mother and telling her how to behave with her own kids which may put her into a defensive or an offensive mode thereby inducing friction between you two , so talk about this whole issuse in a non disparaging and non- critical manner and try to explain her the benefits of non violent parenting methods and disadvantages of physical punitive methods and leave the decision to her to take a call which way she will want to go , that is either rescurrect and redeem herself by stopping the practise of physical punitive methods or else continue doing so with impending danger of a fall out between her and her own kids when they become old enough to rebel. Lastly these talks with her need to be done in private , away from the knowledge of her and your kids and please assure her that no one else knows about this , which will help her to trust your judgment and make her open to use your suggestions in her own life.,

I hope this helps.

Wish you all the best.

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