Do You "Mama Bear" for Your Nieces or Nephews?

Updated on August 11, 2011
M.D. asks from Washington, DC
14 answers

I am super protective of my kiddo's (8, 6, and 4). While I do let them learn lessons and teach them how to handle things, sometimes they need a parent to step in for them. I have NO problem doing this. I am polite, but firm, and get my point across every time. Today my younger sister calls me upset over the way the two boys she nanny's for (7 and 4) are treating her daughter (2). My niece has me wrapped around her little finger and I really don't take kindly to people being nasty to her...but also work to teach her when she is with me. The 7 year old boy took every toy he owns to his room and closed the door. Then he slid a note under the door saying something to the effect that Audrey is never, ever allowed to play with his toys. His parents are also getting him a lock for his door so he can lock it. And the 4 year old, following suit, took a teddy bear right out of Audrey's hand and took it to his room and closed the door. Then he took the rest of his toys. Audrey did play with a train set and since they had to leave, my sister decided they would pick it up when they returned. So the 7 year old went to pick it up and then made the comment that he "always picks up after her." So my sister brought them to my office and I went out and just asked them if the way they were treating Audrey is how they want someone to treat them. My sister was on her way to the pool with all 3 of them and it is a pool they have access to through her boyfriend, so I told them the pool was Audrey's and how would they like it if they couldn't play...the 7 year old starting smiling and got smart mouthed and said that would be fine. So I told my sister to have him sit out for 7 minutes. If he still thought it was funny give him 7 more minutes. I also told them it is completely fine to have things you do not want to share or are special. It is OKAY to have your own things and keep them private or safe, but not everything. They had a better understanding of how to treat her (and people) when they left. Do you stick up for your nieces and nephews same as you would your own kids?

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So What Happened?

So for the mom's who say to stay out of it, what do you do when another kid yanks a toy from your kid's hand? My sister is not able to deal with these things too calmly because the boys drive her insane. She is looking for a new job, but until she finds one has to stay here. I see no problem with me talking calmly to them to get them to understand you have to share. Why is that so wrong? I also spend a lot of time around these boys with my kids (if I work from home they come over for lunch or we all meet at the park). I definitely feel it was my place to step in when my sister asked for her with it. Sorry if you disagree.

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answers from Washington DC on

I am VERY protective of my family - extended as well...

My nephew plays pro ball - and the girls can get nasty...

I'm also mama bear with my friends kids - they know that I will protect their children as my own...we have a small group of trusted friends and the feeling is mutual

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Dover on

I do go all "mama bear" for my nephews when it's needed, but with that being said, I also have no problem disciplining them either.

In your particular case, I'm curious why you were brought into it in the first place. I'm also not at all sure it was handled properly as the kids in question are the reason for your sister's employment & she's pretty lucky to be able to bring her own child to work at all, let alone expect the kids she's nannying to allow her much younger daughter to have use of their toys. Personally, in that situation I would have stayed out of it altogether I think.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

So the kids she is paid to watch, who's parents allow your sister to bring her daughter to work, don't want your niece playing with their toys. You find this something you need to protect her from??! Your sister needs to bring stuff for her daughter to play with. Jeez...

I hope this wouldn't be an issue you feel you need to protect your own kids from. :(

The pool is Audrey's?? No the pool belongs to the apartment complex or subdivision, not your sister's boyfriend or your sister. My god, really, is someone the adult around here? Does your sister realize she could lose her job with all this childishness?

Oh, to answer the question, no, nor do I get into issues like this with my own kids. If they are going to have childish arguments then the children can handle it themselves.

I read your what happened, there is a huge difference between a kid yanking a toy from a child's hand in a park or a play date and protecting your toys from an employee's child! Huge! I hope your sister isn't under the impression that she will find a job where the kids allow her daughter to mess with their stuff, that just isn't going to happen. I can't even imagine anyone wanting someone to watch their kids that isn't even able to control her own daughter.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on


That said, if the person I paid to nanny my children took them to her relatives workplace to get scolded, then allowed said person impose discipline, I would be LIVID. IMO, totally inappropriate on both of your ends given the circumstances.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Yes, I would stick up for any family if it was appropriate. I am not sure though, if in this case it was appropriate. Maybe the full story isn't coming across in the post. This isn't a case of kids being mean at a party or play date you are hosting. This is a case of your sister and her job. She is lucky to have a job that can include her daughter. It is her responsibility to watch and correct the children she is caring for, it is not your job to suggest punishments or to correct these kids. If that were my seven year old, I think I would take some issue with your interference, even if his behavior was not appropriate.

As far as their treatment, it's not nice, but it is normal. We had to put a lock on my five year old's door, because his two year old sister would come in and destroy what he was building, creating or playing. My daughter meant no harm. Two year olds just play differently than older kids. Sounds like your niece needs to bring her own toys and model how to share.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

If they are with me, and the incident happens on my watch, of course. I don't know why your sister the nanny can't handle this herself. I think if I were you I'd stay out of it. You aren't going to change this little kid, and it really is none of your business.

The boy is old enough to tell his parents what you said. If I were his mom, and I found out his nanny was dragging him around to other people to be reprimanded, I would fire her on the spot.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Yes I stick up for my nieces and nephews. I also stick up TO my nieces and nephews. They may have their Grandparents and parents wrapped, but not me. Same goes for my kids. I completely know when they are pulling one over and that doesn't work with me. Works with their Dad, not me, and they know this.

She should also have a bag of Audrey's toys that she brings and takes home daily.

As for how you stood up for your niece, I'll have to agree with the others. You are not the caregiver, and while your kids may play with them all the time, your sister, who is the one being paid needs to be the one to correct and discipline them. If she 'is not able to deal with these things too calmly' then she shouldn't be a nanny.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I agree with you 100%!!!!! I think the way you talked to them was polite and totally acceptable!!! I have a very good friend who i went to visit last week and I took my boys with me, 2 1/2 year old and my twins are 8 months old, my toddler was playing with some cars that belong to my friends son, who is 10 or 11 years old. My toddler kept taking cars away from his baby brothers, and my friend got onto him, very nicely and said no no Ian let your brothers play, they can play with the cars. I didnt get offended at all. There is some logical sense to the whole "it takes a village to raise a child". Maybe you explained it in a way that they hadnt heard before, and I think you had every right.

I get very protective of my nieces and nephews, I love them very much and I would have done the same thing!!!!!!! Good for you!!! Ignore any moms giving you grief over this!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

YUP!!!! Would do ANYTHING for Any of them! Just hearing this story makes me want to Squish this kids face -little Jerk. I Hope your sister finds a job quickly. Does their parents know how 'cruel' and mean they are being towards a 'baby'?? ......Hello - Sharing is Caring !
I would Never allow Mikey to act like that towards Anyone!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I don't have nieces and nephews. But, I do have extended family and believe that we have have to be aunts and uncles so that kids understand that they are part of a community that cares for and about them.
Modeling and teaching compassion and empathy are important lessons that I believe should be taught as early as possible.
Keep letting these children know boundaries and that you care and love them.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Yep I have the same instinct......! My sister she doesn't have any.... is very much a mama bear with my kids.....

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Richmond on

When my brothers have kids of their own, I will be all over it!!

I already mama bear to my friends kids, I can't imagine me NOT doing it for my future nieces and nephews ;)

It's not about stepping on the other parents toes, it's about reinforcing their parenting style and guiding the parent if they need it. I totally see where you're coming from. I would be lost if my friend didn't sometime's step in and put my kids in their place! That's how we learn to parent, from other parents, no kid ever came with an owner's manual!! ;)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Well, two of my nephews I helped my sister raise for a while, her husband was having MAJOR back surgery ... (16 pallets of bananas fell on him) ... that was years ago when they were 3&6 ... they are 12 & 16 now and they still tell me it's like having two moms only now I am half way across the country so it sucks. Yes, they are still my kids too and yes I mama bear them but that is how my sisters and I are.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I think the better approach is for you to coach your sister in how to handle the situation. As a parent herself, these are skills she is going to need to develop if she doesn't already have them. Keep in mind that this perfectly normal behavior and its nothing personal against your neice. If the boys want to put up special toys that they don't want the little one to play with - that's ok. They need to be guided in sharing and taking turns - all of them. Your sister also needs to bring toys for her child that are more age appropriate. If your neice doesn't help pick up then the 7 yr old may have a ligit gripe. She's old enough to help put the toys back. As a parent who has hired a nanny if I found out that an outside party was getting involved in discipling my child that nanny would lose her job then and there. I completely understand you being protective and the boys may be rude but your neice is going to encounter far worse in the world. Teaching her how to handle it is an important lesson too.

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