Seeing Advice on Handling Bad Behavior from Spoiled Niece

Updated on December 07, 2014
M.M. asks from Fort Lauderdale, FL
24 answers

The children in my family have a very strong sense of entitlement and have an excess of toys, clothing, and neverending adult attention. On an ongoing and general basis, one of my nieces behaves terribly. She is 10 years old and is demanding and stomps her foot when she wants an adult's attention. She whines when she doesn't get her way. She interrupts adults while they are speaking and will even go as far as to correct their pronunciation of words (even when she is wrong). And although she has good table manners, she is bossy and inconsiderate of the feelings of her cousins and brother. During gift-giving holidays such as birthdays, she does not thank the giver and instead will toss toys to the side and say things like, "I already have this!' or give a disgrunted huff at not liking a gift. Last year during Hannukah, after we'd given her several gifts and were planning to leave she asked "Is that all? Are you coming back tomorrow with more presents?" Her mother barely admonished her behavior with a half-hearted, "You don't say stuff like that." Meanwhile, her behavior duing gift-opening of tossing gifts aside, eye rolling, and grumbling about the gifts went ignored.

She is a gifted and bright child but her parents have done a poor job of teaching her gratitude and kindness. Her younger brother is showing more and more behavior along these lines as he gets older. During Thanksgiving, I asked what she was grateful for and she ignored me when I was speaking directly to her. I asked again later on and she said, "Candy" as she was eating candy. I said, "What about the people that love you? Are you grateful for them?" and she shrugged and said, "I guess."

I worry about this child because she has a difficult time with social interactions due to her lack of awareness of the feelings of others. In addition, I'm not entirely sure how to handle her behavior when I give her a gift and she reacts negatively. Others in the family have a problem with this behavior but no one addresses it. I'd like some advice on how to handle her beavhor with her directly. Should I say something in the moment to her? Or should I just ignore it like everyone else does?

I genuinely love my neice and I know she has a lot of potential. She can't help that her parents are creating a monster and I'd like to have some positive influence on her life if I can, to help guide her to become a more caring, kind individual.

What can I do next?

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answers from Washington DC on

Don't stop giving gifts all together. To me that just screams petty, sorry.

Try giving non-material gifts. Heifer International will allow you to buy a goat or rabbit in her name that will feed a family in need. Or say you are giving her $20 to give to any charity of her choice. Sit with her and google charities and show her how the money will help.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I'm going to agree with the other responses- no more gifts. And don't apologize, either. Her parents have done such a disservice to her by not correcting her awful behavior, but it doesn't mean that you have to put up with it, too.

Diane B. had some great suggestions for dealing with her. I'm sorry that you have to deal with this, but it looks like you've been too nice for too long. It's time to say "enough!"

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New London on

I brought my child (who is not spoiled) to a local animal control where there were a room full of kittens that were born, but, needed homes.

I called ahead and asked what the kittens were in need of.

We went shopping and brought a few things to the shelter.

This is a good way to show her "indirectly" that it's better to give than receive.....since the parents won't be doing this any time soon !

My rule of thumb: I always redirect kids when I am in a group. It must be because I am a former teacher.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Columbia on

Speak up. Children don't learn from silence or in a vacuum. They learn from experiences. She needs to experience some displeasure and disdain for her behavior.

"The way we respond when someone gives us a gift is to say, 'Thank you! We don't ask for more, and we don't say mean things about what has been given."

"We do not stomp our foot or whine. If you need something, you must ask in a nice way."

"That is a very unkind and disrespectful way to speak to people. Try a different way."

"You are not the boss here, young lady. Stop telling people what to do."

"This is a grown up conversation. Please go into the other room and play with the children."

"Young lady, nobody was speaking to you. I was speaking to ____. Please do not interrupt me or tell me what to say. Go on let the grown ups talk. Now."

Often, children who are treated and spoken to like little adults, allowed to engage with their parents any way they like, have very little respect for others. Children are not adults and it is important that we place that boundary for them.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

oh my God!!

I'm sorry!! I would have picked up the presents and said "sorry - you can't have doubles of something!! I know a homeless shelter that would LOVE to have these!!"

I would stop giving her gifts. I would invite her to a soup kitchen with me instead. Maybe even to an elderly home to talk with people whose families have abandoned them (and I KNOW NOT EVERYONE in a retirement community is "dumped" or "abandoned").

If my niece OR nephew acted that way? I would have NO problem stepping up and putting them in their place if their parent(s), my siblings, refused to.
Ultimately, her upbringing is her parent's responsibility. However...we have people like Hillary Clinton telling us "it takes a village" - well - you are part of that village, right? So start interjecting.

NO MORE GIFTS. I would stand firm on that. She's an ungrateful snot. If she asks where her gifts are? Tell her the truth. You gave them to someone who would APPRECIATE them. Yep, it will be a slap in her face, as well as her parents, but THEY NEED TO HEAR IT.

She's 10 years old. She's acting like a two year old and her parents aren't doing anything about it. Time to step up and be part of the village it takes to raise a child.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

She's not your kid to raise.
If you don't like her - don't bother seeing her anymore or giving her anything.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Her behavior in general isn't for you to worry about since she has parents. However, if you are giving her gifts and she is not thanking you and is asking for more, I would set certain limits. If you've been giving this ungrateful kid multiple gifts for birthdays and holidays, rather than just one gift, you've been indulging her just like everyone else has. If she's tossing gifts aside saying she already has that or just isn't excited by it, perhaps you should be asking her ahead of time for ideas of things she would like! Then I would buy her ONE thing, and be sure that she knows she will be receiving ONE gift, and if she tosses it aside, I'd say, "That was on your wish list, and I expect a thank you." If she gives you an attitude, it would be the last gift she'd receive.

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answers from Washington DC on

As a fan of Heifer International, I like Taylor's idea below of sitting down with your niece and letting her choose what gift to give others via Heifer. She can read the stories online of families and whole communities helped by others' generosity.

I would not give her any money directly, though -- donate to Heifer yourself as she sits there, so she isn't tempted to pocket any cash and not donate it. I would think hard about what charity might appeal to her most; if she likes animals, try Heifer; or see if a local animal shelter takes donations and drive her to that shelter to give them her donation in person, along with some blankets (shelters do use old blankets), animal food you and she buy, etc.

I strongly suggest you NOT do any of this at the height of the gift-giving frenzy when your family is all together and other kids are opening stuff around her. Talk to her parents and arrange to do it before Christmas when you can take her out alone to do this or have her over to your house (if you're local....?) to pick out her Heifer contribution, or drive her to the animal shelter or whatever. For a gift to open, give her a Christmas tree ornament that has a photo of her at the animal shelter on it, or a picture of the kind of animal she donated via Heifer!

Don't make a huge moral deal out of "We're doing this so you can learn to give." Just tell her that your gift to her is a chance to pick out great animals to give to others or a chance to make some unwanted animals at the shelter have a better Christmas. Whatever. If she's not into animals find another charity where she can go in person to take her donation. If she says -- and from what you report, she just might say this out loud, rude as it is -- "I'd rather just have the money for myself," then can you manage to smile a big, sweet smile and say, "Sorry, honey, but this year THIS is my gift to you. I would love you to (pick out farm animals / go to the shelter and see the dogs/cats etc.) but if you don't want to do this, I will give the money in your name anyway." If she persists in being greedy about it, just walk away and do donate that money-- then be SURE she gets a lovely card later from you adorned with animals and telling her "A goat is on the way to a village in X thanks to you -- I have donated it in your name" etc.

If you can give her the gift of more of your time through the year, do it. Don't let it center on holidays or her birthday and don't let it involve anything material. Ask her folks if you can take her to a park and out for ice cream when there is no special reason at all. Take her to a movie and then make simple pizzas together if you live near enough. Ask her about herself, school, what she likes, etc. When she's rude or grasping, ignore as much as you can, and when she can't be ignored any more, change topics, and when that won't work, tell her how sorry you are she feels that way. An adult saying that can really rock a kid who is used to being either indulged or snapped at for her look-at-ME antics.

See if you can persuade her folks to get her into Girl Scouts or involved in school clubs or school activities if she isn't already. She needs more, not less, interaction with other kids. Other kids will be quick to bump off her sharp edges if she pulls the self-centered act with them, frankly. And being involved in things bigger than herself is only good -- whether it's service projects through school or Girl Scouts, whatever.

You are a great aunt, by the way. You cannot parent her and I'm not saying you should try; just see if you can spend some time with her that is not centered on gift-giving occasions, and be regretful and cool when she acts greedy and entitled. You cannot undo her parents' poor parenting but you can just be a steady presence whenever you are able.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i'd be concerned and annoyed too. it sounds as if she's awfully unpleasant, and that her unpleasantness is created and not innate.
but she's not your kid. and by trying to insert yourself into the process, you're just going to end up the bad guy.
you CAN have a positive influence on her, and guide her to become a more caring, kind individual, and that's simply by modeling that behavior for her. not by ignoring, but by removing yourself one step. if you are put out by her lack of gratitude, you can fix that by not buying her gifts, or simply one single one, and responding to her pouts with a cheerful 'well, druscilla, you never like what i get you so i just decided to stop annoying with all those gifts you hate! you're welcome.'
wink and smile.
and don't try to force her to express gratitude. she's clearly aware of what you're doing and pushing back.
it's not for you to correct, but you also don't have to bite your lip and put up with it. temper your reactions to 'light and appropriate', and keep the door open. i'm an old gal now, and have had several nieces and nephews whom i thought were utter nightmares grow up into amazing teens and young folks.
i like to take credit for it all, although i suspect my brilliant influence was less than i like to think.........
;) khairete

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I treat every child as though they were my own and correct their behaviour when necessary. I wouldn't wait for her parents to do the correcting. In fact, the correcting will probably have more of an impact coming from you rather than her own parents.

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answers from San Francisco on

I would just say "oh that's not a very kind thing to say!" every time she says something rude, and then change the subject. She's not your kid, so there's not much you can really do, but maybe she will hear your words, on some level, and also if you don't give her any attention for her negative behavior she may learn to change it (if she's as smart as you think she is, that is.)

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answers from Williamsport on

Who are her parents if she is your niece? Your sister or brother's child? What is your relationship with them? You cannot teach their child anything I'm sorry to say. People who let their kids act that way would probably be offended if you said anything. But the relationship is key in determining how to proceed.

I have a friend with a granddaughter who acts like this. They are close enough, and she is familiar enough, and her grandmother is tolerant enough, that I CAN scold her for really bad behavior, and she has learned not to act that way around me too often...but she still will, and I'll still scold her...but overall, I'm not the influential parent in her life. I can say things like, "Wow, that was a rude thing to say" etc, but she doesn't really care. I can praise her when she's nice, but it doesn't change anything.

As for how you should react when she is rude about a gift? You don't react. I've been to lots of bratty birthday parties where the kids didn't receive presents well. You ignore it and move on. Family could be different. Again, it depends on relationships. You could stop giving her gifts altogether and say kindly, "You usually don't like my gifts so I didn't bring you one" instead. Again, if the family relationship is such that you can get away with that.

If her parents are close to you, you need to address it with them. If you aren't comfortable mentioning it to them, there probably isn't a way to address it with her. If they are OK with you taking on a teaching role, do it whenever you can.


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answers from San Francisco on

Unfortunately, her parents ARE creating a monster. There is no way I would not say something to a child in my home who acted like your niece does. So yes, I think you should say something. It won't change her, because she is still going home with her parents, but it still should be said.

Frankly, if a 10 year old acted rude about a gift I had given her, I would take the gift back. So I completely disagree with ignoring her behavior, and I hope you take her to task for her rudeness.

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answers from Atlanta on

Unfortunately this is all too common. And there will be a huge price to pay in the bigger picture of it, not only for the parents but the child as an adult. At this point I just would not tolerate this behavior. Some things are not meant to be tolerated.

Get and give the book Simplicity Parenting, I think the author's name is Payne. Most parents should study and abide by this one because this behavior is so rampant.

These parents aren't really going to do anything if they think there is no problem. When their child becomes worse, and she will, and they will then be at a loss as to how to deal with it. I suppose they're going to wait till she really presents some real issues and problems directly in their face. But they could wake up now if they so choose.

This always comes with Too Much Stuff and not enough parenting.

You will have to be the voice of reason and be a shining example, which is hard at times and is never the popular one. Pray for them to come awake and aware and open their minds, hearts and spirits. At this point they have chosen Materialism rather than Soul Ethic and a higher way of thinking and being. Ya know a lot of people believe if they choose a higher way to lead their life that somehow it means they won't have material things. This couldn't be any further from the truth. These parents would rather be ignorant and lazy at the cost of their daughter and a healthy life she could and should have. After all her behavior will not be acceptable in other situations and or as an adult.

Yes, I would say something directly to her when she acts this way. I would let her know firmly and yet calmly, kindly this is not the way to act. And I would strongly suggest to the parents that they go through her things with her and have her give at least half of her things away to children that have none.

The people that say (as I read some of your posts now) it's not your child. Well if that's the attitude, how about we all act like we're the only ones in the world. Yeah, like that hasn't been a problem in the world and everything and everyone is perfect, right. The thing is: this child like all children will become an adult and will be making decisions and affecting society. We're all in this together and the sooner everybody gets that, in a balanced, enlightened way the better off we will all be as a whole. Of course you should be concerned and she is affecting the whole family and it's high time the parents be presented with this. But most people are too afraid to do this, so afraid and yet apathetic. If they had any real love for this child they would do something positive. She and more importantly, the parents, need an intervention. Her behavior is not acceptable. And if it were that bad and she tossed the toy aside and said, "I have that." I'd take it back and say something like, "well thank you for informing me of that, thank you for your honesty, I'll be taking this to a little girl I know who'd love it and doesn't have one. Thank you." And if she tried to take it back, I would Not let her have it.

Another thing: Do these parents think you have money to burn? Really, they should be spanked. And I don't even believe in spanking.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Unfortunately, the job of teaching her falls to her parents who aren't doing it. You might talk to the parent you are related most closely to. Maybe say you love her and think she has a lot of potential, but you are concerned that she seems to have problems with social interactions. Is this something they noticed? Are working on? Something you can support them with? Or you might say that since other gifting occasions have fallen flat (example here) what do they suggest for the next holiday? Or simply say you are doing x and y and want to give them a head's up (a donation in each child's name, a savings bond for college, etc.)

You can also go old school and call her on her business when she does it to you. "I was addressing you. It is rude to ignore someone who is speaking to you." Or "That's fine. I will donate to Toys for Tots." Or "Excuse me, I was speaking. It is rude to interrupt/this does not involve you." and then turn your back on her and continue the conversation. "If you want my attention, you will wait your turn and act like a young lady, not a toddler."

I have a relative who has a very hard time with any negative comments about her kids. As they have gotten older, my DH has been more direct with them (he's closer to them than I am) and stated things like "this is how the world works and if you don't start to understand that, your life is going to be really tough." I don't know how much time you spend with her outside of holidays but if she is in your home, say for a weekend, you can try nudging her with please and thank yous at the table, good manners, addressing people properly, etc. Find teachable moments.

My sks have a mother who is much more into buying affections than actually doling them out, and something we did was donate to a Giving Tree around the holidays. I'm sure there is an appropriate charity the kids could get involved in. Perhaps Child's Play, where they can choose a gift via Amazon for a child who is too sick to leave the hospital. Read them some of the thank you letters so they get an idea of what the kids are going through and then look through the list for a nearby hospital and have them each choose something they would like (so a kid their age would also like it) and donate it to the hospital. I almost always choose from the Giving Tree a need for someone similar to my own family and enlisted the sks in the choosing, to get them more invested in the giving. I wanted them to think about being that kid if their circumstances were different. I do that now with my own DD, but she has a more naturally loving heart.

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answers from Seattle on

She sounds like she needs social skills training. Maybe you can help her by giving her the words to say after you give her a gift. Prep her before you hand it to her. Such as, "I expect you to let me know in a positive way that you appreciate this gift after you open it" or "remember to say thank you to me after you open this gift, even if you don't care for it". Some children are naturally more empathetic than others. It's not always what the parents are teaching, but it's a personality trait. So, I'd do whatever you can to help her and teach her how to behave. It sounds like her parents are in denial about it.

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answers from Washington DC on

I have no problem correcting my 5 year old niece when she is with me. My baby sister and her husband are just different parents than my husband and I, but my niece is still a well behaved and well mannered child. My husband is big on having her say "yes, sir" and "no, sir" to him, as our children do to all adults, but my sister doesn't do that with her. It's okay in my book - as long as she is respectful.

Like the others have said, it isn't your job or place (unfortunately) to really change or fix these bad behaviors. Depending on your relationship with the parents, you could say something, or you could just do as others have also suggested and say something along the lines of "that's rude to say that to me".

Honestly, if a child I loved acted like that when I gave them gifts, I would likely give them a small gift card from then on out, out of obligation. At 10 she knows better...I would be mortified.

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answers from San Francisco on

I'm with Wild Woman - no more gifts. When she asks, say you bought and donated it or you didn't bother wasting your time shopping since she never likes what you get her. Either way it will be a slap in the face and a real eye opener. At 10 years old, she REALLY needs to understand that her behavior is not acceptable.

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answers from Anchorage on

She sounds pretty typical for a kid her age. If she does not like the gifts you get her just go to gift cards (that is what I have done with all my nieces and nephews) and if she fails to say thank you for anything like that don't be afraid to mention it, but politely as to not step on her moms toes. Other then that, you really can not do much to control how she is being raised, she is not your child. If she interrupts you or other things like that simply tell her you will be with her when you are done, and then ignore her until you are ready to listen to her. If she starts acting huffy simply walk away with the explanation that you don't entertain temper tantrums. Just because other put up with her rude behavior does not mean that you have to.

I also like the idea of having her donate money to something (or you doing it on her behalf) rather then getting her a gift this year. She will never learn to be grateful for what she gets if people just keep giving stuff to her.

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answers from Boston on

I'm not an aunt yet, but when I become one I think I have some ability to be a role model for him/ her. I wouldn't keep my mouth shut either. Being from the south, I've always had the importance of being polite, kind and courteous towards others ingrained in my head. With that being said, I would show your neice just that.

Take her with you to volunteer, or to a shelter to serve food to homeless. If her parents aren't showing her, I believe you are the viable candidate. I've always felt it's the responsibility of family to assist in the character of a child. I have parents, but it's also the relationships I have with the other family I do have that have shaped me into who I am today.

Action speaks louder then words.

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answers from New York on

Oh wow. One, I would stop giving her any materialistic gifts. It sounds like she doesn't enjoy them anyway. Two, like a few people suggested, I would do some charitable work with her - volunteer at a shelter for women and children, homeless kitchen, etc. I am sorry to say that, but the little brat needs to get a little reality check. Third, I would always keep it clear that I am her aunt and an adult, not a girlfriend and I would correct any negative behavior I witness, especially if it occurs at my house. I would also bring up her behavior etc with my sister or brother in a non aggressive way.

I want to add something - someone said she wasn't your child to raise and if you don't like her don't see her. This is not the way to handle a problem. She is certainly related to you. And I am sure there are many family events that you see her at, it's not like you should stop attending them because of her. Also it does sound like you care about her, otherwise you wouldn't ask this question here.

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answers from Knoxville on

I would talk to her parent first. Help then acknowledged what they are creating. That being said. Why are you giving thus child any gifts? I would in the next gift giving day not get her a conventional gift. I would arrange to take her out somewhere just the two of you or her brother as well and do something charitable for their gift. Time with you and a gift for the community. Maybe a soup kitchen so they can see what exactly they have to be thankful for. Do this regularly Talk to them about people in their own communities who are less fortunate. If she continues then treat her the same way. When she talks to you say something like ' I already talked you a little girl today' and walk away. Or I don't associate with rude people. I know that sounds cruel but she needs to realize how her actions and weird effect others and giving her a but if her own medicine will at least open her eyes to start it feels like to besspoken to and treated with such a lack if respect. And absolutely do not give her a material present. If you must gift her something. Make it for her. Handmade. She can't possibly have it already right?

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answers from Los Angeles on

The real world will lower the boom on her eventually.
NOT your job to"fix" her.
Could be your job to provide positive model/s.
A kid like this is no fun to shop for, that's true.
Don't stress.
Treat her like any other kid on your list.
You can ask her parents for suggestions, or think of something on your own.
Stick to your budget.
Snide reaction upon opening? Silence will make a point.



answers from Mayaguez on

I don't think I would ever give this child any gift. Why bring yourself up to this kind of contempt? Next time a gift giving occasion comes up, buy a gift and donate it to some charity, in her name, of course.
About her horrible manners, You are the closest relative, next to her parents. I believe this allows you to have your say when she is disrespectful to others, If you don't want to make a production out of it, then take her aside and have a word with her. Her parents obviously don't want to be the bad guy, but it needs to be addressed. Also talk to the parent who is your relative, sister or brother, about this behavior. Maybe they are too overwhelmed and would appreciate knowing about your support.

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