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Family Relations/Grandparent disciplining


Hello Bruce. I need some clarification on something. So my fiance and I have been arguing about her mother babysitting our baby in the future. Right now, she is 23 weeks pregnant. She is adamant about her mom being the primary babysitter for our girl when we are at work. I, however, have deep reservations about this.

My fiance told me today that when her nieces and nephews get out of hand, misbehaving, etc., her mom locks them in the bathroom with the lights off. She will then further scare them by saying that the boogie man will get them in the dark if they don't behave.

I find this punishment to be on the child abuse side of things. Did I over shoot the issue? Or is this a genuine concern?

Thanks for the advice.

Hi, Jared, well, I would say that locking anyone in a bathroom is ineffective - that is, nothing good comes of it. I would also guess that it would teach kids many wrong values, and that they would associate the 'punishment' with random behaviors (e.g., smiling and laughing), so it would discourage random things.

Worse, I can see that the state could easily view this as child abuse. Depending on your state laws, professionals and even lay persons (such as you) may be required to report this behavior.

Still worse, it is possible that the state may consider this to be kidnapping. e.g., holding a person against their will is almost always a crime.

I'm not sure what the solution is. If it is really happening, it could result in big problems for the family. One of the best things for families is open dialogue, so you may want to discuss it with everyone. On the other hand, depending on the facts, it could be very harmful to the kids, and the adults may not want to stop, so it might continue.

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Bruce Borkosky, Psy.D.


questions framed similarly to 'what are some ways to respond when someone does/says X' are best. Questions posed in the form of 'why does my father do/say Y', or 'how would you diagnose my mother when she does/says Z' are difficult, if not impossible, to answer. I will probably reframe your question to fit the first question (what do I do). Nay question regarding any family member is fair game. Some of the most difficult are in the area of step-parenting and divorcing families.


I've been a licensed psychologist in Florida since 1994. I've evaluated and/or treated thousands of patients.

American Psychological Association Florida Psychological association National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology


Psy.D., Miami Institute of Psychology, 1993 M.CS., U. of Dayton, 1984 B.A., Ohio Wesleyan U., 1978

Awards and Honors
Award for Years of Dedicated Service, Palm Beach County Legal Aid Society, 1999

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