How Do I Handle My Nephews Bullying on Vacation?

Updated on January 14, 2009
J.P. asks from Murrysville, PA
13 answers

I am going on vacation with my in-laws for two weeks. My husband will only be there for one week and the rest of the time I will not have support for this issue. My nephew is three years old (three months older than my son) and has a lot of jealousy driven behaviors. He lives out of state with my SIL and we don't have to deal with this on a regular basis, so I'm not sure what to do now that we are going to be together constantly for 2 weeks. My nephew wants everything my son has or does, and he will aggressivly rip toys away from him - push him off a chair - quickly eat all the food off his plate etc. Nephew is like this to all his peers, but is around my son the most. We feel so upset for my son - he loves his cousin and has a VERY long fuse with him, but eventually ends up crying and upset. My son trys passive approaches to dealing with his cousin. Like getting a different toy, or finding refuge next to me so he can play in peace. Everytime they go out of adult sight for a second my nephew will end up hitting my son.

My in-laws acknowledge many of these problems with my nephew, but are not as concerned by them as my husband and myself. I don't want my son to learn these bad behaviors or be bullied constantly. They all just focus on how funny and sweet my nephew is (which he is those things too) and minimize his peer relation issues. We have decided to limit our kids time with him, but it will be unavoidable on vacation. I am sorry to go on but I'm getting nervous as the vacation approaches. Any advice is appreciated!

Also, I have been physically taking toys off my nephew and giving them back to my son-telling my nephew that's not nice/my son had it first. I try distraction by interesting him in something else. But, it is exhausting because it is so constant. I think my inlaws don't know what to do either because he is so high energy and never stops for one minute. It feels impossible to manage his behaviors every second because his is a bit wild.
Thanks for reading!

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answers from Cleveland on

Bring 2 of any toy you can so when he wants it, give him the toy, just not from your son. He just wants it b/c your son has it but this solves the problem without you having to discipline him ALL the time.

Set 2 toys aside as special, your son's wubby kind of thing. These two toys are non negotiable and are always your son's. Encourage your nephew's mom to do the same. That way when your son has had enough of the grabbing and mauling he knows he's got a fall back. My daughter had a blanket and a bear that other kids weren't allowed to play with. If a kid was out of control she would go pick them up b/c she knew I'd keep the kid away. It was her signal for I've had enough w/out being able to verbalize it. Each of my daughters had their own bear or baby that is theirs. Everything else is shared but not that special toy.

Also my mom had a "no apologies" approach to parenting. If you were in her house you did it by her rules. Also if it affected her kids even in other's homes. She'd give a stern verbal warning along with "the eye" and stare the kid down. If they didn't listen the kid was immediately brought to the mom to be dealt with. Half the mom's didn't do anything(that was the problem to start with) but the kid learned not to mess around in front of my mom. The trick is you HAVE to mean business and back it up everytime no matter how difficult. It will be worth it in the long run but it will be tiresome for you. Not one of my sisters or myself have ever been bullied in front of my mom, ever. Neither have my daughters. It's a nice feeling.

He's just three, it's still your job to protect him.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

This may be one of those unfortunate but necessary lessons your son is going to have to learn that occasionally life sucks. I think all the suggestions offered sound good, but I don't have much confidence they are going to work in reality BECAUSE the adults for whom they are intended aren't going to follow through. I think you need to establish a "safe" zone for your son (no one is allowed to play with him in your room, or his room or whatever), and then just try to get through it. (This will be a great lesson when he grows up and goes on vacation with HIS in-laws.) Try to spend some time with him each day (leave the baby with your inlaws) and take him for ice cream or to the pool each day. Just having you back to himself a few hours each day may make this a great vacation for him!



answers from Philadelphia on

I feel for you. You need to have the conversation with your SIL, BIL and your husband together. Tell them your concerns and together work out a plan to deal with him so you are all on the same page. Don't point the finger at your nephew, approach it as the boys will be together for 2 full weeks and they don't always get along when they play so what can we do to help to help them and minimize the usual problems. Set up the rules for both of the kids, that way your SIL may be more receptive and then when on vaca. you can remind her of the rules you agreed to. Hopefully she will be receptive and then when on vaca. she will be more willing to control her son. Unfortunately sometimes its not about handeling the children, but rather the adults that deal with the kids. Good luck and have fun, if you've had too much have an outing with just your kids and husband, even if it's just a walk or to the grocery store. Just because you are on vacation together doesn't mean you have to do everyhting together, especially 2 weeks worth. Have a great time!



answers from Philadelphia on

Unfortunately, this is a very difficult situation to deal with. You can constantly redirect your nephrew to the correct behavior, but as you stated, this is tiring. Is there any benefit to you staying 2 weeks and not the 1 week with your husband? Vacations are supposed to be fun and relaxing, but it does not sound like it will be that way for you.


answers from Allentown on

Hi J.,

Here are some web sites about bullying.

Massachusetts Medical Society Public Health and Education has a tip card on Bullying.

you can email them to send you a card.

[email protected]

The child's bullying problem is a family problem not just your problem.

Your family needs to get together and do a family group decision conference.

Call ###-###-####

Use a format of discipline:


When you _________________(Describe the bahavior the child does).

I feel_____________(Describe the feeling that is generated when child does his behavior)

In the future___________(Describe the behaviors you expect from him and what the consequences will be if he does not do it)

Hope this helps. All the best. D.



answers from York on

Dear J.,
First, I'd say that it will make a HUGE amount of difference if you're all staying in a home v. a hotel, where you can retreat. However, even in a home, I would DEFINITELY make the bedrooms off-limits to anyone but those sleeping there! That said, will you have your own transportation, that you could take your two kids and "escape" if things get too crazy? I definitely would figure out a way to make sure that you have an "escape plan". Since you'll know ahead of time where you're going, go online & find at least one place for each day that you can "go". If you think the nephew is behaving well, & you're willing to risk it, you might invite everyone else along too, IF they'll be responsible for him. (He's NOT your responsibility!) If you'd prefer not to, just say that you're taking your two kids for a drive or something like that. You don't owe anyone an explanation, but feel free to mention that you'll be doing something with just your two kids away from the house EVERY day. Also, let them know that you won't tolerate your son being bullied. While I agree that every kid needs to learn how to handle being bullied, I don't think a three-year old is really going to fully grasp the situation OR remember it for the future.
Taking doubles of toys is a good idea, but probably not practical. However, you could take similar toys ~ a few puzzles, & explain BEFORE playtime that each child gets one to do, and when they're finished they can trade. Same thing for cars/trucks, etc. If your nephew insists on taking the toys, don't be embarassed about taking the toys from him, and either giving them back to your son, or taking your kids & the toys back to a bedroom & letting the adults know that since no one else has a problem with it, you're removing your child from the bullying & bad behavior for a while. (Setting a time-frame might help, but isn't necessary.) Good luck with your vacation. I'll pray that your nephew has changed for the better while you've been apart, and that you'll be able to have a relaxing & enjoyable vacation with ALL your family.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Looking at your situation my first thought is honestly not to go on the vacation. A vacation should be fun. You have 2 young children that will keep you occupied. Your husband will not be there half the time to assist. Your in-laws don't seem like they would be much help (despite their well-intentioned efforts). I like the idea of establishing a reward/consequence system now before your vacation starts, but that is out of your control. Would you be able to only go for the time that your husband will be there so you are not faced with this alone? I'm sorry if I sound negative, but I'm kind of stuck on the idea that a vacation should bring about postive feelings not anxiety. If your family isn't going to have a good time, why go? If not going is not an option, I would continue to handle your nephew as you have been, opt out of some joint activities so you and your family can have some down time, insist on alone some alone time for you and your family. Good luck to you.



answers from Philadelphia on

The next time that your nephew hits your son then you hit him and when he thinks about hitting your son again he will stop doing it. He sounds like he needs a little disciplining that no one else is giving him.



answers from Erie on

I'm wondering how old the bullying nephew is. This kind of situation doesn't seem to have an easy solution, but since this is your husband's family, could he (before he leaves you alone with them and the hassles) talk to his sister or brother and let them know that if they won't discipline their son, then you guys will. They will be on notice that they need to correct his behavior.

And when you tell him he shouldn't act like that. Don't be hesitant. Tell him that no matter how he acts at home, he is not at home right now, and he is not allowed to act like that HERE. Children can learn that there are different rules in different places, and they can cope with that. My children survived living in my home, visiting my mom whose rules were different, living with my ex and then with his mother for periods of time, and in all 4 households, the rules were different. There were some challenges when they returned from their visits, but they coped very well with it.

If your in-laws don't like your telling their son he has to behave and making him sit in a chair or go to his room when he misbehaves, then tell them they will have to teach their son to control himself. You didn't come here to have your child or children abused by him. It won't go over well. But you guys may have to draw the line in the sand and stick to it. It doesn't sound like your nephew is taught good boundaries at home.



answers from Philadelphia on

When your nephew takes something from your child, take the toy, hold it and ask him out right did you ask (your son's name) if you could play with this toy? If he responds no, then hand it back to your child and tell him he has to ask for the toy. This way, you are making him aware and maybe his parents aware of what is happening and also teaching him to share at the same time....sort of putting a positive spin on things. Make sure you behave the same way with your child if he should take something. When/if he asks and your son says no, then say, let him play with it for 5 more minutes and then you can swap toys. That way neither child is really getting punished. They are both getting a lesson in sharing.

When the first instance occurs, you could make a point of pointing it out to your inlaws immediately, by saying something like, "Do you mind if I handle this at the moment?" This way they are seeing what is going on at the moment. They can also see how you handle it. When you are done, look at them and say is that okay with you?

It may work. My son will soon be three. He has many friends that are all close in age..give or take a few months. It isn't a good sharing age, but it is a good age to start teaching them.

Good luck!



answers from Philadelphia on

J., I can only tell you what I would do. I would have a frank talk with my inlaws, with your husband of course. It would be a miserable vacation for me to be constantly trying to defuse the problem. And you never said anything on how the SIL/BIL reacts. I would tell them the only way we would vacation with them is if we were alone with them one week and then the SIL/BIL can have the other week. Why be miserable? And at 3 he could very easily pick up some bad habits.



answers from Philadelphia on

WOW! He sounds very wild! Well your SIL could start doing a reward chart. For ex. for everyday he listens he gets a sticker for that day and than a reward (whatever your SIL thinks is suitable for him) And start doing the time outs in a designated spot (like supernanny) He stays put until he apologizes (so everytime he snatches a toy he is put in timeout, everytime he hits he is in time out etc..etc..) If they don't nip it in the butt now, they are in for a world of trouble. Because he already thinks he can get away with anything. Your son seems very tolerable with things which is great, but you also want him to understand that he doesn't have to take that kind of bullying from anyone, you need to teach him now to stand up for himself! So the next time you see your nephew take a toy out of your sons hand, you tell your son to tell your nephew that that wasn't nice and he wants his toy back, and if your nephew doesn't give it back then you and your SIL need to take action immediately with a time out etc.. I learned this from SUPERNANNY LOL!!! If it works it's all worth it! Good Luck!



answers from Harrisburg on

If it were me, I'd take one of two approaches:

1. Treat him as if he were my child and be firm and aggressive with his behavior, period. Time outs, groundings, snapping at him, whatever it took.

2. Don't allow him around my child or I'd stay away. That would be not seeing the in-laws, but what else can you do at this point.

Either way, I wouldn't take a passive approach as your son does since you all are the adults. Don't let the child run the house.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets
chat and events within 2 hour radius

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