Dear Savvy Auntie,

I love my sister dearly, but she and I are complete and total opposites when it comes to our personalities.  I am very easy going, laid back and relaxed, whereas my sister is a bit more high strung.

I am worried how this is affecting my niece.  My sister can be a bit of a micro manager. Case in point: every Sunday, I, along with my parents, Skype with my sister and my niece to help close the 300 mile gap that separates us. This past weekend in particular, my niece was being very squirmy, not really sitting still, and my sister, being my sister, wanted her to sit still the entire time.  SHE'S THREE. She can’t sit still for more than about 5 minutes.

Also another growing concern of mine is my sister being so picky as to how my niece communicates with people. She is never terribly rude, but there are times that she does not always make eye contact with the person she is talking to. My having some slight hearing loss, I know how important it is to make eye contact when speaking with someone - but to expect a three year old to understand this concept I feel is a bit beyond her realm of understanding. She always answers us vocally, it’s clear and understandable, to me, coming from a three year old that is enough but it’s not for my sister. She insists that my niece make eye contact every single time she talks to someone

I do not have any children of my own, so perhaps I am in the wrong in my thinking, but I do not know, am I just being overly concerned? Also how do I deal with some of these worries? I can't take these to my sister, since as I said, I am not a parent myself.

Am I Overly Concerned?

Dear Am I Overly Concerned?,

I am so sorry to welcome you to the  “club”! You are in very good company! Many, if not most aunts, uncles, grandparents and godparents have a constructive criticism on behalf of the child(ren) in their lives and the parents reactions range from resistant  to unresponsive to outright enraged.

Yes, you are right on target, a three year old should not be required to sit still for any length of time nor sustain eye contact in a conversation. In fact, they need to move and look around in order to organize their thoughts and coordinate their words.

I would suggest you speak to your sister in private and ask her why she feels strongly about eye contact and sitting still for her daughter - and  really  listen  to  her  reasons.Then ask her if it would be possible when you Skype with your niece if she could suspend her rules.If not, keep in mind that the parent does have the last word and in order to maintain contact and keep the relationship going you will have to accept your sister’s edicts.

Also, dig down inside yourself and touch your compassion for being a mother to a three year old which is a trying, challenging, and exhausting full time job and express it to your sister.

Remember, '”I was right!” is engraved on every gravestone in the cemeteries of  relationships.
Good Luck,
Natalie Robinson Garfield


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