I am a 30ish years old man, living at my girlfriend's parents place for 4 months. It's been 2 months already, 2 more to go. I don't have kids (yet, but want to). With us is my girlfriend's sister and her 5-year-old daughter.

She is a single mom, not working and taking care 24/7 of her child. She is vegan, and so is her girl. She is breastfeeding. She is using non violent communication with her child, and has that education principle where she is letting her do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, with as little restraints as possible. So, no schooling at all (where we live there is nothing mandatory until the child is 6), it is all driven by her child's wishes. There are no limits apart from the limits of physics, and finances, because the mother doesn't have lots of money. Basically the mother considers her child like an adult making her own choices, capable of knowing what's best for her. This includes:

  • Eating what she wants when she wants.
  • Spending all day long, all night long on a smartphone or computer, either playing games or watching videos (of people playing games, mostly).
  • Going to sleep between 3 and 8 in the morning, depending on the days, then waking up in the early afternoon.
  • Crying and yelling until she gets what she wants.
  • Throwing things at people, hitting people (mostly her mother) when she is angry (she gets angry very easily).
  • Ordering people (mostly her mother) to do things. For example, her mother needs to ask for permission to go pee.
  • The child has no regular friends, they go out sometimes and she can play with other kids, maybe once or twice a week, nothing regular.

I am very worried about the child:

  • She looks like a video-game addict. I know because I've been there when I was 18-20, and with her character it's hard to cope with. For example, when she loses at a game, she starts crying/yelling (she is not throwing the phone away anymore since the time she broke it, yay) loudly, only getting calmed down when she's at her mother's breast. Also I've read a lot about screens being bad for kids and she spends easily 2/3 of her awake time on them!
  • The sleeping hours!
  • The education. The principle looks nice, learning things you're interested in, but in this case I feel it is only creating an addict with a horrible character, and I don't see how she's going to learn anything like this.
  • The social skills. Her only friend is her mother, and she is also her slave.
  • She also looks very skinny, compared to all other children that age I know. She eats mostly rice and fruits/veggies, and her mother's milk.

The grandparents are worried as well but they support their daughter's decision of choosing this type of education, and they are quite passive with the child.

Here is what I have tried to do until now:

  • Speak to the mother. I told her how concerned I was about her child, especially the sleeping hours and the screen-addict thing. She seems concerned too, but I didn't see any changes since I spoke with her. She thinks the freedom of her child is more important than anything else.
  • I also insisted that the mother should express her needs more to make the child understand that other people have needs too.
  • With respect to the education principles (using NVC, etc), I try to make the child think about consequences, about putting herself in other's shoes. Like, when we were on the beach and she threw sand at my girlfriend's face, asking (the calmest I could) why she did it and if she would like someone to throw sand at her face. Same when she forbids her mother to do things. Or asking why she continues playing games if it makes her cry so often. But I have very few interactions with the child so I don't think it's making much of a difference.

Being not related to the child, how can you have an impact on a child's education? What can you do concretely in this kind of situation through interaction with the child?

  • 1
    "Am I crazy?" Only a psychiatrist can tell (and only "maybe" at that.) You have asked many Primarily Opinion Based questions ("Yes/No") which are off topic for this site. Please have a look at our help section, and if you can edit this to one specific, non-POB question, we would be very happy to help. That's what we're here for, and it's what we really want to do. Thanks. – anongoodnurse Mar 16 at 2:27
  • @anongoodnurse thank you for your comment. I have edited my questions to just one non primarily opinion based question :) – Vincent V. Mar 16 at 2:44
  • What do the grandparents make of this? Have you spoken to them? – Paul Johnson Mar 16 at 9:45
  • The grandparents are worried as well but they support their daughter's decision of choosing this type of education, and they are quite passive with the child. – Vincent V. Mar 16 at 11:49
  • Hi and welcome to Parenting.SE! Is this about interaction with the child or the child's mother? – Anne Daunted Mar 16 at 13:37

You are too involved. She is not your child, the mother is not your sister, you aren’t an experienced parent yourself - you have no authority or bearing here. It’s excruciating to watch someone parent in a way you do not like, by all means discuss with your girlfriend to see if y’all are in the same page as far as your parenting style, but you cannot change them.

What you can do is plan an outing for you and your gf to take the child to a museum or aquarium or something. Having positive experiences with other adult role models can have a positive impact on the child.

  • I think this is a great answer. The best way to influence is as a couple (you and your GF) wanting to take their 'niece' somewhere nice for the day. Don't do it too often as you may come off as overly interested (as answer says - she is not your blood, you're not married to your GF) which is creepy. If you need any justification you can (presuming your GF knows your desire for kids one day) say you want to get more experience of looking after a kid. – Smock Mar 22 at 14:09

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