I am an introvert and recently moved into a house where I live with my wife's brothers as their mom has recently died. The elder brother of my wife is very cocky and proud and yet does nothing. He is very moody, leaves things open/dirty and I think has been a bad influence on my son.

My son is 4 years old and loves to be naughty (do silly things). My wife's brother loves playing with him, but is moody and will suddenly change and start scolding him for him being naughty. My son is becoming very agitated and confused. My brother in law acts like he is my son's father and pushes him to do things e.g if he wants him to do potty, he will make him sit for longer and tell my wife "don't let him off until he does it" Now out of fear my son doesn't go to the toilet. My son does his potty well with me as I know my ways around my son.

The problem is there are 3 other brothers and they are also following in his footsteps while I feel my boundaries are violated. It is worth mentioning here that I moved in because I am the only breadwinner in the house and run the house.

I want to talk to him but whenever I talk to someone who I don't interact with much, my heartbeat raises very quickly and I avoid the talk. When my heartbeat elevates I turn defensive and can lose focus of the talk. I am almost 40 and there are things I want to address with that particular person but I do not know how to as my heartbeat takes over.

How can I tell my brother in law not to interfere with how my wife and I are raising our son?

  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because is about intrapersonal issues. Not interpersonal skills.
    – Santiago
    Dec 26, 2019 at 14:22
  • I added this question to parenting, they mention it is an IPS thread and ur closing it? @Santiago
    – localhost
    Dec 26, 2019 at 14:29
  • 1
    Try to slighty change your question based on interpersonal.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic. Because the question right now is more related to how you can control yourself (intrapersonal skills), while the purpose of this site is about the relationship with others (interpersonal skills). If you already know what you want to say, but you need to know how to say it, this is the place.
    – Santiago
    Dec 26, 2019 at 14:50
  • 2
    Is introvert an euphemism? I read this phrase a lot in this se, it seems to me a lot of people don't know what the word means. I know many introverts, I'm an introvert myself, this is hardly just you being introverted. Go look for professional help - life coaches can prepare the confrontation with you for example. You shouldn't have that much trouble talking with your brother in law, but you could try fixing it. I don't think a post here can help you. You seem to know what to do, you just can't execute. Do something great for yourself and get help
    – Raditz_35
    Dec 27, 2019 at 10:06
  • 1
    What is your desired outcome in case of someone scolding your son because he is naughty?
    – puck
    Dec 28, 2019 at 7:51

2 Answers 2



My condolences on the loss of your mother-in-law, that is a very difficult situation. Something to note, everyone is grieving and may make even simple interactions more difficult (even if it has been months since the passing). It sounds like the eldest brother might feel like he needs to step up and try to fill the shoes of his parent. On top of that, there's a lot of change that comes with trying to combine families/households, that's always very difficult.

It seems like this issue stems from a bigger situation of trying to mix families, as this living situation does not sound temporary. It would be beneficial to plan and address this as a whole, as there are other issues as well (such as you feeling as though others aren't carrying their weight and making this a comfortable home for all). While it doesn't completely fit, there's a lot of good advice out there and support groups on how to blend families. While typically aimed for merging step families, there's still a lot of good stuff out there and just ignore the bits that don't apply. A simple example: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/parenting-family/step-parenting-blended-families.htm

I don't know about your specific relationship, but you really need to talk to your wife about this FIRST. She is your parenting partner who needs to be included, the literature on the benefits of parenting together is extensive and many relationship issues stem from when a parent feels as though they aren't being treated as a team player. If you want to keep the involvement minimal because she is stressed and grieving, you can simply say that you notice this situation and plan on doing xyz to remedy it if she has no objections.

What to say? Family dynamics can be tricky, some ideas:

If your wife holds more respect/authority over her brother than you, then this should be a conversation your wife has with him instead (it is common for siblings to respect other siblings authority first before their spouses).

It sounds like it might be easier to get the other siblings on board first, so you could try talking to them first and get them on the same parenting track. It's important to let EVERYONE know what you want them to do when he is naughty (not just what not to do).

However if you think he will respect you man to man more, then saying something simple offhand like SuperStew suggested would be good, especially since he is a proud man.

If you think something less bro and more heartfelt would be more effective, you could do something like: "I really love how you play with my son, it's great to see you two having fun. I want you two to have a great friendship and this new scolding stuff is getting in the way of that. I would really appreciate it if you could instead do xyz." You can ask that he help do something specific as part of your parenting plan, could ask him to defuse the situation and to let you know later for your wife and you to handle as a team later, etc. If he argues that he wants to continue to scold your son, you can explain the negative effects it has had and reiterate that you want your son and him to have a good relationship. If he does other things to parent your son, not just scolding, then I would leave out the bad guy bit and generalize more.

Another angle could be something like, “Hey I know things are really confusing and difficult right now with the passing of your mother and I just want you to know that you don’t need to step into a parent role for . I love how good you two play together and want you to have a good relationship, I know he can be naughty but I would like it if instead you did xzy.”

You could also pitch this as asking for his help and avoiding saying he’s doing anything wrong, “Hey I know you help take care of my son while I am work, and I would like your help with something as part of our parenting plan. When my son is naughty, can you do xyz so we are all consistent? This is a hard time for him and we’d really appreciate your help with this, you game?”

How to say it?

Think to some times you have had difficult conversations but were able to manage your anxiety enough to have the conversation. Remember the things you did well. It may be hard to remember a time you did well, ask a friend, they may be able to think of one. Breaking down sometimes you were successful may be the most helpful thing you can do to figure out a plan to have this conversation. I used to have a lot of anxiety with delicate conversations and while I was given a lot of tips by professionals that didn't work for me, the key was trying stuff out and identifying what did work for me.

Perhaps most importantly, you mentioned that this is a difficult conversation because you haven't interacted with him too much yet. Start by fixing that! What interactions are you comfortable with having with him? Find ways to do more of that. Maybe just small talk when you are home, go out for a beer, do something as a group together, etc.

Some stuff that worked for my conversational anxiety (even though I really didn't want to do it):

Thinking about what might appeal to the person I am talking to. Asking for help rather than telling someone what I wanted has been easier for me and usually appeals to the people I am talking to.

Rehearsing the conversation. Just getting over the physicality of talking was hard for me. Practicing it until the sound of my voice became normal and pronouncing the words felt natural.A lot of people suggest working with a partner, but that made it too hard for me. Just simply practicing it in the car by myself in the garage really helped me the most.

A lot of people say to take deep breaths, but this actually makes me feel anxious. Once I figured this out, focusing on taking normal breaths in and slightly slower exhales helped me a lot.

Remembering something positive that person feels towards me or a good interaction we had together and that they like me or like those I love.

You can always try writing something out that is has been carefully crafted and emailing it or leaving it as a letter in their room (so the proud brother can read in private and feel less on the spot and you don't physically have to have the talk).

You could also try having a sit down conversation with the adult members of the household about merging the families/households and this could be something that naturally comes up. You may feel less anxious of your topic isn't the main focus and if your wife is there to support you rather than one on one.


I only have a partial answer. I'm not a parent, so I can talk about the parenting issue.

However, I often have trouble expressing myself. When I'm talking to someone and the conversation gets heated, I lose my words and I'm unable to clearly express myself anymore. I also have the same issue when I have to talk in a situation that I find stressful. Like making an important phone call or talking to my doctor.

What I found helps is to write things down before the conversation. For the doctor's appointment, I will write down everything I want to say to my doctor.

For the phone call, I will do the same thing but I will also write a script for the beginning of the conversation. This way, I know that I won't forget to:

  1. Say hello
  2. Clearly state who I am
  3. Clearly state why I'm calling

Without the script, I might forget to do one of these things and I don't want to seem rude if I unintentionally forget to say hello.

So, in the case of your conversation with your brother in law, I suggest that you do the same thing as me and write down everything you want to talk about with him. However, it might be weird if your brother-in-law actually sees you using this bullet list during your conversation, so it may be better to not show it to him (and only use it if you are really unable to do without).

Even if you don't use the bullet list during the conversation, having written it will help you remember what you want to tell him and help you structure your discussion.

In case you think that, even with the bullet list, you won't be able to talk to your brother-in-law, the last resort might be to write him an email. This way, you have all the time you need to think about what you want to tell him and you don't have to worry about him interrupting you.

It might be a little weird to send an email to someone you see every day, that's why I am suggesting explaining (in the email) why you are writing to him instead of telling him "face to face". I did this with my mother (who I speak with, on the phone, every week and who never write me emails because she likes speaking better) and it worked fine.

As for what you should tell your brother in law, I believe I can't really help you here. However, you might be interested in the following articles:

  • Non-defensive communication 3 easy steps

    Step #1: State an observation

    Step #2: Describe your feelings

    Step #3: Make a specific behavior request

  • How to confront issues without being confrontational

    Effective Direct Communication

    1. Start with a compliment. Disarm your target listener.
    2. Choose neutral or positively charged words. Avoid negatively charged words.
    3. Be ready with a solution or ask your target listener to brainstorm a solution with you.
    4. End on a pleasant note with a smile.
  • 9 keys to handling hostile and confrontational people

    1. Keep safe

    2. Keep your distance and keep your options open

    3. Keep your cool and avoid escalation

    4. Depersonalize and shift from reactive to proactive

    5. Know your fundamental human rights

    6. Utilize assertive and effective communication

    7. Consider Intenvention in close relationshio

    8. Stand up to bullies (safely)

    9. Set consequences to compel respect and cooperation

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