Nephew's wife is abusive to child

My family witnessed my sister’s daughter-in-law being abusive. We were at family gathering and she smacked her three year old in the face twice and put him in the corner. And, she yelled to him, that she was going to kill him, and then kill his sister.(a year old baby)

My sister asked her daughter-in-law to choose her words more carefully. DIL told her they were her kids and she would discipline how she wanted. My sister agree they are her kids, but she is concerned about their well being. At their age, words can really hurt. Her DIL grabbed her kids and sped off. the poor kids were in the car with their mom for a 90 minute drive.

I know that my sister should not have mentioned anything while she was in her rage. I am sure that she took great offense to it. It is such a sad situation. My sister is the calmest, laid back person I know. In fact, we would joke that there must be valium in her water., as it took a lot to rattle her.

Her DIL was brought up in a dysfunctional home. In fact she is estranged from her brother and father. They have not spoken for years, and she has limited contact with her mother. I can look at her family background and cut her some slack, for that is how she was raised. With that being said, she married into a loving family. Change can begin with her, as she learns there is another way. It is not belittling your children and being a bully.

My nephew’s wife is punishing my sister by not allowing my nephew to bring children to visit. My nephew is defending his wife, saying that she is all stressed from watching the kids all day. My sister mentioned that she go back to work full time, and put kids in daycare, if she can not handle the stress.

I believe that my niece has Borderline Personality Disorder. She certainly fits much of the criteria.

My sister is calling an attorney, today. I believe that will not help. She is just a grandmother, and she can not prove anything. My nephew is defending his wife. He has fallen under her spell. He was not brought up in that manner at all. His discipline was to have things taken away, and he was never verbally abused like his wife does to the children. My heart breaks for my sister, her grandchildren, and my nephew.(I believe that he may feel stuck) Also, she wanted to call Children protective services. We told her that would not help. They give a call ahead of time, and mother is on her best behavior when they are around. Also, it would infuriate her, and she would take it out on children.

Asking for prayers that my nephew will advocate for his children. Ideally, his wife would get into therapy and on mood stabilizers. That may never happen. I pray for intervention of this matter.

Realistically, the most you can do is call CPS. I’m NOT an expert on GP rights, but in general, because the couple are married, your sister’s rights will likely be very restricted. (Some jurisdictions do not give any GP rights if the parents are married. Others require that you ask the court’s permission even to apply for them if the parents are married.) If you call CPS, or she does, the couple will NOT be informed that she’s the one that called. CPS will conduct an investigation and it will proceed from there. Apart from that, all you can do is pray.

This is the most important part (assuming the children are not in immediate danger for their lives in which case you need to call the authorities to have them removed from the home even if that means removed from your nephew.) It is your brother’s job to protect his children, even if that means protecting them from their own mother.


ineeda said:

“We were at family gathering and she smacked her three year old in the face twice and put him in the corner. And, she yelled to him, that she was going to kill him, and then kill his sister.(a year old baby)”

That sounds CPS worthy, particularly if the mother doesn’t think she’s doing wrong and the children’s father doesn’t see anything wrong with the situation. Aside from hitting a child in the face (which is not OK), threatening to kill another human being is actually a crime.

It’s going to be really obvious who called, but this is the sort of situation where somebody has to do something. If there is a tragedy (and we read about those every day), you are all going to live with the guilt for the rest of your days.

I think your sister should also arrange to talk to her son privately, and perhaps show him a number of news stories where there were signs that a mother was in psychological distress before she murdered her children. It’s not uncommon for husbands to be in denial about how well their wives are coping with small children.

Best wishes!

ineeda said:

“My nephew is defending his wife, saying that she is all stressed from watching the kids all day. My sister mentioned that she go back to work full time, and put kids in daycare, if she can not handle the stress.”

I think it’s important to frame this not as blaming, but as a question of figuring out what is best for the mom and the kids.

If she can’t handle being alone with the kids all day, she should not be alone with the kids all day. That’s the question that needs to be asked the nephew–we know she can’t handle being with the kids by herself. What are we doing to make sure that she is happy and the kids are safe? Also, as you mentioned, some sort of medication for her would probably be a good idea.

Best wishes!

I don’t have any advice to offer, just wanted to add my prayers for the family…

Jesus, courageous and vulnerable, you broke into the vicious circle.
May we break into cycles of violence.

Jesus, bold and brave, you confronted the traditional customs.
May we confront patterns of hatred and prejudice.

Jesus, assertive and strong, you challenged the perpetrators.
May we challenge victimizers and abusers in our day.

Jesus, clear and direct, you drew a line in the sand.
May we refuse to accept injustice.

Jesus, amazing and powerful, you got them to drop their stones.
May we find ways to be in the world that increase safety, establish fairness and promote peace. Amen.

Her telling a 3-year-old that she will kill him and his 1-year-old sister for misbehaving, is criminal abuse. It is extremely grave, and must not be taken lightly. I personally would have called the police at that point, with no hesitation. And child protective services, and any other relevant agency. I beg you to do the same immediately. She is currently training her children to be violent (possibly murderous) abusers as adults. This is no small matter.

Yes. CPS needs called immediately. They will help your niece find the services that are appropriate for her and hold her accountable for participation and follow through.

While I do believe is spanking if done properly, there is never ever a reason to slap a child in the face for any age, and for child as young as 3 is totally unacceptable.

Calling CPS is a sticky situation at best. They say it is anonymous but in my case it was not. In my case I called for my Nephews well being, mom is a bit of a nut job. Was totally stressed, which made things worse, and she was very threatening to his emotional and physical well being. It took me a week and some talking with people to finally make the call. It was my doctor who I asked for advice, and his reply was simple if something happened to you nephew could you live with yourself for not helping. The answer was simple, no and I went home and made the call.

Also you sister might have some rights, here is a link for what states give what rights to grandparents.

Her son will always side with the wife, and who knows maybe she is even abusing him? It happens and men are ashamed of it. Which they shouldn’t be, but they are.

Prayers for the family.

I want to tell you that if there is a problem, call CPS. I have full custody of my niece because of her alcholic/drug addict mother. Her mother hit rock bottom, threatened suicide, ODd and wouldn’t go to the hospital so I had to call 911. I lived in another state and it took me two hours to get there but I got there.

The ambulance took her to the hospital and then seeing the living conditions (i had no idea how bad they were because they never let me in) and seeing the condition of her mother, they had to get CPS involved and that was the best thing that could have ever happened. THey worked iwth me and made sure my niece came home with me. I went through the courts and I now have full legal custody.

My one regret is that I didn’t make the call to CPS sooner. I kept thinking about it. I needed to do it but it was my sister and I didn’t do it. But what i did is I left that child in a harmful environment longer than if I had called. She is healthy and happy now and very smart and just tested for the gifted program at her school. (we have had her almost three years now). But I just wish I had called sooner.

So please call. If you have any doubts at all, call. Let CPS decide if the situation needs intervention. And they don’t always take the kids away. Sometimes they will educate the parent and help them learn better parenting skills.

Call CPS now!

Yeah, death threats and physical violence warrant a CPS call.

You have to call CPS and report exactly what you reported here.

This may not give an answer, but food for thought - if this woman is willing to treat her child(ren) so horribly when there are witnesses, what must go on in the secrecy of the home where there are no witnesses? :frowning: The little three-year-old knows instinctively that this is not right, but at the same time, he or she has no idea how, or power, to make things better.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit