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How to Deal With a Mean Sister-in-Law

by Kay Ireland

You might be dreaming of having a doting auntie to fuss over your child, but if you've got a sour sister-in-law, it's time to retool your expectations. While your sister-in-law might simply seem cranky, there's probably an underlying reason for the hostility you are feeling.

Talk to your sister-in-law to see what's up. Be sensitive to her feelings by taking a casual approach. Ask her how things have been going lately or mention that you've noticed that she seems a little frustrated. If you don't feel comfortable speaking with her directly, ask your partner to help since she may be more interested in hearing what her sibling has to say.

Limit the time your child spends with his aunt if her behavior does not change. Not everyone can tolerate toddlers. If your child is around his aunt often, she may be exhibiting a lack of patience for your little one because she feels burned out. Be sure that she has breaks or limited visits.

Supervise your child's time with his aunt. That way, you're there to halt bad behavior from either party. Your sister-in-law will probably have a more pleasant disposition if you're nearby and you can stop your child from frazzling her nerves during the visit.

Find something that your sister-in-law and your child can enjoy together. Moments of bonding can help solidify their relationship and give a purpose to their visits. Whether it's checking out local museums, heading to the park or baking cookies together, your sister-in-law can feel more purposeful when she's with your little one.

Stay in the present when you're talking to your sister-in-law. There's a good chance that she's taking out her frustrations or feelings toward you or your spouse on your innocent little guy. If something's up, do your best to rectify the issue, but don't bring up past issues unless absolutely necessary. As adults, you should be able to work through your issues so your little one doesn't have to feel the frustration of strained adult relationships.

Keep your child out of any altercations between you and your sister-in-law. However, you may need to talk to your child if the mean behavior continues. Make sure he knows that he's not doing anything wrong.

Sever the relationship if necessary. If your sister-in-law is calling your child names or being abusive in any way, cut off access to your child immediately. Remind your sister-in-law — and all extended family members, for that matter — that spending time with your child is a privilege. Sometimes, even adults need to learn to play nice.

About the Author

Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.

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