Negative Influence

Updated on May 18, 2009
J.H. asks from Modesto, CA
16 answers

I need serious help! My daughter just turned 6 and is usually well behaved. My 10 year old niece is quite different. She acts outs for attention all the time, has no respect for anyone and runs off at the stores and does the worst things in public (she crawls under desks at the bank, throws fits for what she wants, hits her sisters). She even likes to tell my daughter that there are ghosts in my house and tell her scary things. I have talked to her about that before and she still does it. After playing with her cousin my daughter has nightmares and is afraid to go in dark rooms. Today while at the store with the girls and my sister in law, the two ran off and all over the place, my niece tried to get into the ice cooler and then while I was bagging my purchases the girls ran out of the store and waited for us in my sister in law's car. This was quite disstressing for me. When I got to the car I told my daughter that that behavior is never allowed and unsafe. What do I do? I don't want to cause problems or bad feelings in the family. I love my niece but I hate this behavior. Any help would be much appreciated.

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So What Happened?

Thank you Moms!! First let me respond to a few questions, I thought the girls were being supervised by my sister in law. My rules have always been to stay with me at all times. When I looked up and didn't see my or her daughter I asked and she said calmly that they had gone out the door like it wasn't a problem at all. She never disciplines this child, as she is the "baby" of the family. Being the baby worked well for her, as she controlled the household with her whining and demands, til 6 months ago when her oldest sister had a baby. Now she is really acting up. As for us, we have decided to limit access to our house only, no shopping or spending the night at their place. We have now talked to our daughter about the incident and our rules and what we want from her. We have made it clear that we do things differently than my brothers family. I going to keep up on this and only make playdates with children her own age. Also, we are going to do more as far as positive behavior reinforcement. I much appreciate everyone's advide, thanks again.

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answers from Cincinnati on

how does HER mother respond in these situations?
is she also frustrated, or embarrassed, overwhelmed or unconcerned?
if it seems like you need to talk to her mother about this, it might help people give advice knowing that part of the story.

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answers from Cleveland on

WOW! First, you need to talk to your sister-in-law and then your husband. The behaviors that you described are inappropriate and immature for a 10 year old. These behaviors are what I would expect out of a two year old.
Running out of the store puts them in a position to be hit and KILLED by a car.

Doesn't your sister-in-law discipline or correct your niece? If she does not get a grip on her daughter's behavior, she will have bigger problems emerging in the teen years. Looks like she is raising a Boo-Boo brain.
Hate to say that. What does the father know here?

I would NOT go shopping with them. Tell your sister-in-law that you are busy and that she and her daughter need to get their act together. Tell her to get her daughter tested by the school psychologist for Attention Deficit disorder. Her wild behavior is also sign of a thinking process gone wrong. Since they don't have their intellectual act together, it is important that you do.

I give you credit for using your good judgement, listening to the alarms that went off, and seeing the influence that this has on your daughter. You MUST protect your daughter and have her not influenced by immature off the wall behavior! Is this the type of influence you want on your daughter? You MUST CONTROL your own space and your daughter's own space. Take ACTION. NOW! Good Luck.

I wrote my response without reading Janet B's or anyone else's. My response is very close to Janet B's.

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answers from Cincinnati on

I think I would limit the access to the niece.

Regarding the situation today when they ran out to the car at the grocery today...I really think I would have left my groceries and purchases right there on the conveyor belt...just LEAVE the cart and all, and I would have run outside and got my child and forced her to return and stay with me while I got the groceries. If I couldn't have carried her...I think I would have left the groceries. (I know it's embarrassing.) By the time you got to the car after getting the groceries, it was rather too late to make a big impact with your daughter on the importance of STAYING BY YOU in the store. Physically carrying her back into the store with you would have been embarrassing to both of you, but would have stressed how seriously you felt about this.

If your child was 2 years old instead of 6, you would have NEVER left a 2-year-old leave the store without you. I'm not saying to treat your 6 year old as a 2 year old, but I don't think 6 is old enough to go to the car by herself. The fact she was with a 10-year-old is not enough. A 10-year-old might be old enough to go ahead to the car, but she is not old enough to also care for and watch out for a 6-year-old companion in that situation.

I think your 6-year-old is starting to think when she is around the 10-year-old cousin that she can do anything the 10-year-old can do..... even if your 10-year-old niece were a GOOD role model, a 6-year-old cannot do all the things 10-year-olds can do.

my 2 cents.

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answers from Columbus on

It appears that the 10 year old has no self-discipline or respect for others.
If you want your child to continue to be well behaved LIMIT the amount of time she spends with the 10 year old. We mothers work hard teaching our children morals and values and manners so they can be productive members of our family and society. If she runs through a parking lot with a 10 year old now, what will she do when she's a teenager?
You can talk to the 10 year old, but not control what she does. You can and must take charge of your 6 year old NOW!
I have 4 sons and 1 daughter the youngest is 24. I knew if I didn't train them right, as kids, they would be unrully teens, or juvinile delinquets. (the world doesn't need more of those!) I treated their friends the same way I treated my children. If a friend swore, they went home after I told them: "We don't do that here. If you want to play here, no cussing." When they came back they respected our rules!
You have a tough job, God Bless

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answers from Cincinnati on

J....I would limit the exposure to this niece. Your daughter looking up to this person, since she is older will try to take on her actions. You need to tell your daughter that her actions are not good, etc. Good luck!



answers from Indianapolis on

Do NOT hesitate to tell your daughter that such behavior will NOT be tolerated.
I would limit contact with her cousin and if asked, I would explain that about the fears etc. that result from the "playtimes".
Be calm and matter-of-fact with everyone about it and don't hesitate to express your concerns.
YOU have EVERY RIGHT to look out for your child;s safety and well-being, and to do what is necessary to safeguard herand teach her what is acceptable.
Also, I personally would refrain from letting your daughter play at your niece's house when you are not present. just as I would not let her play at ANY house where the attitude toward behavior and supervision is lacking.
The 4 year age difference between the 2 girls should be a concern too.
The example your niece is setting for your daughter is only setting you up for trouble down the road.
In your home it is YOUR RIGHT to expect good behavior and enforce your rules.
As to the incident when they went out to the car without adults, I would have hit the ceiling!!!!
Who was watching them????
That alone would spur me to the actions I have described above.
Perhaps YOU need to be the one who sets the behavior standards in the "family" since others are apparently not doing it.
Be strong for your segment of the family.
Maybe your example will rub off on the others.


answers from Columbus on

My husbands brothers kids are a bit wild (to put it mildly) as well. I am sure to talk to my kids about appropriate behavior anytime I know we are going to be around them. Then while in their presence, I watch my kids like a hawk. Sure I don't get much adult time in these situations, but I know my children are learning the rules of life (as an adult, you REALLY can't act that way). I can't count the times I have said things like 'different families have different rules and these are ours' or 'do I look like their mommy?'
It is hard, but so worth it!
good luck, my sister in law has never liked me, so I don't really have to worry about alienating her, as it sounds like you may have that concern.



answers from Dayton on

First of all, tell your six-year-old before your next interaction that the niece doesn't do things that are safe, and that it makes you scared when she does the same things. That might help her realize that her behavior affects you too. Plus, since the niece so obviously craves attention, the next time you go to the store or someplace, set a goal for your daughter within earshot of your niece. Say, "If you stay with me at Walmart the whole time, I will buy you a candy bar." Then if you feel like it, make the same offer to your niece. Either way, your daughter will have a goal and when she accomplishes it, the praise will make the behavior worth it. Sometimes goals and positive reinforcement work wonders.

As far as making your daughter afraid of ghosts, I would tell the niece that if she purposely scares your daughter, who is younger and believes her, then she won't be allowed to come over at all.



answers from Cincinnati on

When you are together, you keep a very close watch on your daughter. Just because your niece is doing something inappropriate does not mean you allow your daughter to do so. If she runs off, you get her and make her stop. If she's hiding under a bank table, you get her out and make her stop. If she runs to the car, then you make sure there are consequences for misbehaving (lose a privilege for the day, etc.) It's not your job to discipline or watch over your niece (when your SIL is there) but it is your job to continue to teach YOUR child. If she says "Suzie is doing it" you just tell her Suzie has different rules to follow and you expect your daughter to follow your rules.



answers from Indianapolis on

You're the parent - and if your child was running towards a burning building, you'd get her away from it at all costs - right? Well, your neice is the burning building.

If SIL starts to get miffed - TOO BAD. YOu're doing this in the best interest of your child. If removing this bad influence means your daughter quits having nightmares and quits running off unsupervised and stops doing things that are unsafe, you'd do it right?

Well - seems to me, the answer is obvious. Cut off contact between your daughter and your neice until your neice doesn't behave this way anymore.



answers from Cleveland on

I am now a grandmother but when raising my own five children I always taught them that not all families have the same rules that we do. That is not to say that anyone is right or wrong but that this is what I expect of you. In our family this is how we do behave, at the store, in church etc.There are words that other children say that we do not say etc. When your daughter comes from playing with her cousin I would do a debriefing with her so that before she goes to sleep she can talk about what she might be afraid of and you can help her understand that she is safe,



answers from Lafayette on

First of all, I would limit the amount of time spent with your niece in public places. If someone reported the two kids alone in your car, you and your sister in law could both be charged with neglect. It sounds like your daughter would understand this if it was explained to her.
I would also wonder if the 10 year old girl has something wrong with her that could be treated with medication or behavioral therapy. If she does this at school, I am sure the teachers have noticed, and maybe she has an IEP. If not, then she has the ability to behave, but does not do so while with you and your daughter. Also, this behavior is something you might expect from a 2 year old, but at age 10, she should be more cognizant of how she looks to others. That is another reason to have her evaluated - maybe suggest to your sister-in-law to ask her doctor if this behavior is normal for her age. The doctor will hopefully refer her to someone who can help. Always keep the main thought that you are concerned about your niece, not that you think her mother has done anything wrong to cause it. If it is a medical condition, treatment would help everyone.



answers from Cincinnati on

Dear J.,
When my kids were little I went to a seminar called Growing Kids God's Way. It changed the way I disciplined my children. Go to and they will have materials and seminar listings in your area. I always get compliments on my children throughout the years. Now that they are in their teens, I even enjoy them more! It is espeically nice because others also enjoy my children. I encourage you to check into it. L. J



answers from Indianapolis on

First and foremost, for your sake, the sake of your niece AND the the safety of your daughter........ELIMINATE contact w/ this child to a BARE minimum, if any. You mentioned nothing about your relationship w/ this child's mother or if this even phases her mother. THAT'S where this needs to start.

She - mother & daughter- need to realize that others will not want to be around her destructive and inappropriate behavior. I can see this out of a three or four year old, but 10!!?

You MUST talk about what is appropriate and inappropriate ALL THE TIME, even it if means and sounds like you are repeating yourself OVER & OVER & OVER. TAlk about alternative behavior. AFFIRM and praise good behavior and good choices. Talk about consequences of bad behavior vs. good behavior. How do you (ask your daughter) perceive those actions? How do they make you feel? When you get at the root of the feelings and WHY they feel that way, you can re-direct those to an affimative and constructive form of behavior. Make sense?

I would ONLY allow her to be involved in family & fun things IF she CHOOSES to behave properly. IF she does not...she goes home. Plain and simple. STICK TO THE PLAN AND SHE'LL LEARN QUICKLY that YOU are in charge, NOT her! This is NOT being mean. You're helping her to see the consequences of bad behavior. Enabling this to continue will only lead to MUCH bigger things and consequences down the road!

Help her to understand that she can get attention thru POSITIVE & helpful behavior, not just bad behavior. Help give her good choices and AFFIRM when she makes them. Talk about how they make her feel when she makes good choices, too!



answers from Killeen on

Letting her get away with this will make life as she grows older more difficult because she will have always gotten her way. You and your sister must talk to see what can be done. If you try to do something, it must be reinforced in her home to stop the behavior. Emotionally it has taken its toll on you and your daughter. Running out of the store alone must be an eye opener. My neice was not unruly but a "miss know it all" because my sister let her get away with things and allow her to act like a grown up at the age of 11. She did not chores, always got what she wanted and did not have any meaningful work, love, and fun activities to do. She would stay on the phone texting to friends and not take care of her dog letting it pee all over the place and telling the grown ups around her what to do.

Well, I did not like it or the picture it presented to my three sons 8, 15, and 15. So, I spoke with my sister and started to explain to my neice this was inappropriate behavior. I also put her on a routine to take care of her dog, her room and improve her hygiene practices. It makes a world of difference and tough love is love only accepted from family. How would your sister feel to openly hear how her daughter is thought of by her friends and people at school. Kids that make a mark in the world this way are the first impression for their parents.

Good luck!!!



answers from Toledo on

hey i have the same problem J.. its even crazier in my family... my sister in law has four girls, i have three kids, (2 girls). everytime i got pregnant, she got pregnant. anyway, her oldest daughter is a handful. wants to be grown up so fast... is pretty much left to take care of herself most of the time because her mom is taking care of the other three, which includes a 6 year old, an onry 3 year old, and a 13 month old... anyway, i dread when they come to town to stay with their grandmother. the first thing they do is want to come over OUR house and play. grandma doesnt have anything planned for them, so she puts them off on us, or so it seems. anyway, i have deliberately tried to be "unavailable" just to avoid the stress. there are some other issues, but i wont bore you with those...besides, i dont feel like getting angry!! anyway, im hoping someone will give you advice that i can use, but i just wanted you to know that im struggling with the same thing...except my niece is 12... aaaargh!

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