General Etiquette > Family and Children

If/when to tell my inlaws: your not supervising your kids in our home is not OK

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For the last 5 years, we've hosted a mother's day brunch at my apartment for my inlaws. This was my idea of a way to contribute something to the family, as MIL hosts all other events. The time is advertised as being 2 hours duration, 10:30 to 12:30. The personnel include:

Me and my husband
My husband's parents
Sometimes, my husband's single brother
My husband's sister, her 2 kids (now ages 4 and 8), and her husband who usually can't attend this holiday due to work

Without my 2 BILs that list would comprise a total of 2 children and 5 adults - typically a manageable ratio.

It's become clear over the years that my inlaws have no plan for supervision of children (man-on-man, or take shifts?) and all the family events end up with kids running wild, whether at our home or our inlaws' home(s). This has become unmanageable for me and I feel like it may be a situation where they just "don't get it". Some folks are comfortable with running in the house while others are not. My husband and I are in the latter category - plus we are childless and don't have a childproofed home.

What I would need for this event to continue is not an arbitrary set of rules like no running in the house, but simply a mandate that there is an adult with each child at all times so they don't end up in my office or our bedroom or closets or high-rise balcony. I don't care who is assigned to whom, just that there is a plan. I would leave judgement calls to the adult in charge. My feeling and experience now is that the concept of supervision will not happen in this particular family.

In the past I've tried to enforce a no running rule, but these children don't respond to me and aren't held to this rule in any other home since they mostly just play at their own home or their grandparents'. My husband has also taken the older kid outside to play when needed, but this doesn't solve the overall problem that we don't have a meeting of the minds between us and his other family members regarding supervisory expectations.

There have been other violations of common sense such as shoed feet on furniture, etc., but I'm focusing on the big picture and not a laundry list of behavioral rules. My sister-in-law will turn a blind eye to any such violations or simply deem them unimportant. I didn't object when I saw the kid(s) putting feet on furniture, which is why I call it a common sense issue and not one of my "specific rules". It simply happens and nobody says a word either way.

My question is: should we tell them the truth or should we just attribute the brunch cancellation to some MacGuffin such as a change in my health, a change in my work schedule, etc.?? (Invites this year haven't gone out yet, so by cancellation I mean the tradition being discontinued.)

I'm planning to ask my husband if he thinks there is any room for tactful negotiation with his family, and depending on the responses here, how to handle whichever decision we make. Thanks for reading!

Safety trumps etiquette, in my opinion. Your home is not childproofed; these children running wild could break something and/or hurt themselves, and the balcony is definitely a no-no for children (not to mention your own personal space such as your bedroom and office). Tell them the truth. The way I would say it is, "While we really enjoy having the Mother's Day brunch here at our place, it's just not safe for the kids to be allowed to run around unsupervised, not to mention the fact that they're allowed to go into our bedroom and office. If no one is willing to supervise them and make sure they behave, then I'm afraid we won't be able to host the brunch this year."

Should you decide to have the brunch, is there any way that you can lock up your bedroom, office, and the balcony so it isn't accessible to the kids? Obviously they will still need to be supervised and prevented from running and acting out in other ways while in your home, but at least then you can have the peace of mind knowing that they kids can't get into your personal space.

Honestly?  It doesn't sound like you will be able to change your SIL and her kids, and you will probably have no end of frustration if you try. 

So... if you don't want to cancel the brunch altogether or invite only your MIL and FIL rather then the whole family, what about changing the venue?

Can you "host" the brunch at a local park and make it into a picnic?  That way at least you won't have to worry about the kids trashing your apartment while your SIL sits around and ignores the problem!

I would either let them know the tradition has been discontinued or try a different approach which is for you to tell the kids they can't go in your office, on the balcony or whatever and if they do not comply ask their parents to make them comply. If their parents refuse, let them know you expect them to enforce the rules of your house and if they can't do that you won't be able to host in the future.

I have many nieces and nephews. Even when supervised some do things of which I do not approve in my home and when that happens, I speak up. I'm not talking about parenting choices here. Just things that put my home, property or privacy at risk of damage. For me that would include feet on things, food and beverage where they should not be, and being in rooms in which they have no reason to be.

Example: my brother and SIL let their young kids walk around with beverages and food (thus the stains all over their furniture.) I guess brother and SIL don't even think about the fact that others may not be okay with that. If I see that I my house, I tell the kids they need to sit at the table with their cups and then my brother picks up on it and enforces it.


--- Quote from: MindsEye on April 01, 2013, 03:28:27 PM ---while your SIL sits around and ignores the problem!

--- End quote ---

Herein lies the problem, I think.  The SIL does think the way she is parenting is a problem.  To her, she is not ignoring anything.  If you do not approve of her parenting, I don't think it does you much good to tell her that unless there is actual abuse, for example.  You can lay down rules for your household, but since you apparently have not been successful so far I doubt you will be going forward.   I would either accept that the kids will not behave as you would expect them to, or suggest that the events happen in the kids territory (or somewhere other than your place).


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