A: Oh, yowza. That is always so tough. You see something so clearly because you aren't living in the box, but to say something to your sister...what a pickle. But one thing is clear. You CANNOT continually hit and spank a child - that is not fair to Cassie, and it will do absolutely no good to change her behavior.
First off, keep in mind your sister's point of view. She is 60, and by golly, you shouldn't have to be raising your grandchild. She is taking this on in the best interest of Cassie, so she deserves some slack. However, she IS making life harder on everyone by yelling and spanking. If the acting up doesn't stop when she yells and spanks, then guess what? It's not working. My guess is that Cassie is getting attention in the only way she knows how - by acting up. Kids will do whatever it takes to get some attention, and if negative attention happens to be the only thing they get, that's what they'll shoot for. Plus, you absolutely cannot yell and spank all the time and expect it to work. You have to SHOW the child what you want to see instead. If you don't show them and tell them, how will they know?? Yes, they know that certain behavior is "bad" because they get a spanking or get hit, but how do they know how to act instead if no one ever shows them in a loving way?
So what do you say to her...?? Well, Life with Toddlers would be great guidance, if she's a book reader. It's also broken down in such a way that you can read a little here, read a little there - and still get some great suggestions. I know a lot of people just don't have the time or inclination to sit down with a book, so Toddler ABC Guide to Discipline is also an option. It's the boiled down, fast version of Life with Toddlers, so that might work if she needs a quicker reference. It would help so much for her to read one of these! You have to change your thinking in approaching children. When you always yell and spank and it doesn't work, you have to step back and say, "Okay, what can I do differently?" - THEN you will start to see a change in the child's behavior.
Just keep in mind your sister's life - I'm sure she doesn't want to raise a child at her age. And 2 1/2 is the toughest part. She is probably exhausted, unhappy, and fighting just to get through each day - we all are. You know your sister best...what approach works with her? Can you make a suggestion or will she get defensive? Make sure you sympathize. Then empower her - because nobody likes to be told that they are "doing it wrong". Turn it around so that she understands that she is in charge, and SHE can get Cassie to behave better by simply tuning in to what Cassie is trying to communicate. She can make a huge change in her life by simply trying a different approach to discipline. Try to get across (in your loving, sisterly way) that she is hurting Cassie (emotionally and physically) by hitting, yelling and spanking. If need be, turn it around so that it's all about HER life...she can be so much happier and Cassie will act better if SHE takes charge and learns how to approach Cassie differently.
You are in a really, really tough spot. You know that hitting, yelling, and spanking are only going to create a bitter, unhappy child. How can you feel love when you are admonished so much? Yes, caregivers need to be firm, but at two and a half...they can't reason. You have to provide tons of guidance and boundaries, but it IS possible to do it in a loving way. Your sister just doesn't know how - she doesn't have the tools in her toolbox. And how do you change that? Well, go get the tools and learn how to use them. Once your sister has them and "gets it" - life will be so much easier. Your sister needs some guidance so that she can turn around and give that to Cassie.
Best of luck to you - and bless you for being an advocate for your family!!