Help understanding my niece
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I do not have kids so I sometimes have to rely on my mom friends to help me out. I have a wonderful relationship with all my nieces and nephews....except one. When I'm with my sisters, I tend to spend a lot of time with the kids because I, frankly, never really grew up. I always connect with them really well and I can usually find a way to get us all in trouble with my sisters. Usually to the kids great delight when I get in trouble with their moms.
My eldest sister calls me an instigator. Anyway, there is one niece that I just can't ever seem to connect with. I'm at a complete loss for how to interact with her. She's 9 years old but still acts like she is about 5 years old. She talks baby talk so I really struggle with understanding her. Her voice is really high and the best description I can give is baby talk for how she talks.
She is just so different from my other nieces who were talking to me normally by 9 years old. She's in the normal grade at school and an A student. There isn't any delay and I can't imagine she acts like this in school.
So, when I saw her last week, I did get her into a conversation about chores and allowances and such but every time we get to talking it devolves into lies. She lies, lies, lies. And they aren't little lies about her doing something she hasn't or things like that. They are lies about people that are horrible and mean. She does it purely for a reaction and I know we all try to not give her one but she will say the most mouth dropping things to you if she knows her mom has walked out of earshot. And she is absolutely deadpan too. She says things like "My mom told me that you don't have kids because you HATE all children." Then she smiles sweetly at you. Or she told my sister's best friend, "My mom talks about what a horrible, evil person you are to all your other friends." Seriously! Thankfully, all the adults she does this too know that she is a liar and just pass on to my sister what the latest lie is.
Is this a phase? She is so manipulative. This kid is a master at it. I really thought I was misunderstanding some things until my other sister pointed out some times when my niece was manipulating her mom into some things. I trust her mom sense and she waited and gave a quiet whisper into my other sister's ear who sighed, realized she'd been gotten by my niece and managed to get herself out of my under my nieces little plan. Her mom is completely aware of it and it's pretty impressive watching her deal with my niece but I just get lost and look like a deer in the headlights when the barrage of lies and manipulation hit me.
Is this just something that some little girls go through? She's a smart kid so I'm assuming she will grow out of this. It's just so strange for me when I interact with all my other nieces and none of them ever did anything like this one does. It's like trying to figure out how this round peg fits into a family of squares.
It may be a phase, but I think you should stop trying to be her friend and try to be more of a role model. When she says terrible things to you, tell her its hurtful and don't let her get away with it. She seems to be looking for attention in a negative way and she needs to not get reinforcement for that behavior.
Focus on the other kids who are better behaved. All kids are different and she may just need some space until she can figure a few things out.
I agree that it's time to be honest with your niece. You don't have to be unpleasant, but she should know that you don't approve of the things she says to you. If more people let her know that her comments and lies are not acceptable, maybe she'll get the message.
I'm no psychologist, but she sounds like a child who's missing something in her life. You said she's really smart. Maybe she's one of those uber smart kids who thinks she's really a small adult. Yet, at 9 years old, she doesn't have the social development to pull it off. As I said, I'm just speculating.
Practically speaking, just do what this child doesn't do. Be honest. Show her how people are supposed to act.
I wish you and her mother all the best in dealing with your niece.
Don't try to be her friend. She has those - and they're her age.
Try to be her aunt. That means, when she lies, call her on it. Tell her up front that you KNOW she's lying and that it's a shame she's made herself ugly to others by not being trustworthy enough to tell the truth. When she baby-talks, just tell her you'll come back and talk to her when she can have an adult conversation. You will not talk to an infant or a child who pretends to be an infant. In either instance, get up and immediately leave, telling her you're going to go find another niece or nephew who either speaks clearly or does not lie and say hateful things about/to others. Tell her this once, and let her know that the next time it happens, you'll just get up and leave, not saying a thing about it, because she'll know why you're leaving. By the fact that you sit there and continue to converse with her is actually giving her reinforcement. Make it negative, and then none at all.
You say her mother knows about all this, but the child does it all out of the mom's earshot. Her mom doesn't know about how bad it is. Yes, you can tell her - but more than likely, she'll not believe you. After all, this is HER BABY.
Has her mom seen all this behavior or know about all this? It sounds like a very insecure child trying to drive everyone away from her Mother. She may need to talk to someone professionally, this sounds abit more than all of you can deal with. and also what Teresa said above, that sounds like good advice to try with her in the mean time.
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Thank you! I knew I would get good advice here on how to handle our next time together. Thinking back on our last visit, I can see how continuing our conversations is reinforcing when the bad behavior is occurring.
When you only have sporadic interactions with kids it can be hard to know what is the right or wrong response. This helped a lot and it's an easy thing for me to just go and spend time with my other nieces and nephews when she starts behaving that way.
I can't even guess what is spurring this behavior. My very, very uneducated guess is that it is all about attention. Her daddy has to be gone for long periods for work and her mom is a doctor and, as such, works a lot of hours too. So when we are together as a family, it can be during some rare periods when they aren't working. It's been so hard on my sister but she has finally been able to hire another two docs for her clinic and this year has been able to take a full two days off a week.
I'm really hoping this is just a phase or that when my sis's schedule is even more stable that it will start to go away. But you have helped me think through my next family visit and some ways I can handle it if things devolve again.
I agree with telling her that is not acceptable behavior. You sound like you are really close to your nieces and nephews, and I bet that they look up to you and respect you and who you are. You might have more influence on her then even her parents would!
It is most definitely attention seeking behavior. She is getting a charge out of the negative reactions/attention. Any reaction you give is reinforcing the behavior. As others have said, just get up and leave. I would tell her one time and one time only you don't approve of that behavior and won't be a part of it. From that point on, just get up and leave and don't address the behavior at all. Completely ignore it. Any attention to it will reinforce it. If the attention is taken away from the behavior by everyone involved, the behavior will disappear eventually. Good luck!
I am in Canada so a diffrent medical system all together, but if it were my child, I would be asking to have a psyc annalasis (but it is free here, with a referal, so not sure if I would or not in your shoes, again we all walk a diffrent walk) (sp?)done if she were lying like that -all the time......I would also have her in therapy right away. This sounds to me like a child screaming for help (but not a "friend" KWIM?) I honestly do not know what to say, other than cyber hugs to you and yours. Do not be angry at her though, at nine, I would say this is one deeply troubled little girl, for whatever reason - but that is just my very humble opinion.
That does sound pretty awful. When I first started reading, I was thinking you'd be talking about her making up stories about herself to make herself look better (I've met several kids like that), but what you describe is much worse than I had imagined. She is definitely in need of some outside help if that is typical behavior for her. It's screaming of a problem somewhere in her life, imho.
I agree that you should let her know it's not acceptable and walk away when she starts that behavior, but I also think her mother needs to talk to her pediatrician about it and see if they can refer her to someone.
It sounds like this child is in dire need of attention-and also pretty smart. She is probably jealous of the comfortable relationship you have with the others and doesn't know how to get the same thing. You say the kids all delight when you get all of you "in trouble with their moms." My guess is DN sees how much everyone enjoys this and wants to be a part of it but doesn't know how.
I might try making a deal with her to spend some special time alone with her so long as she keeps the stories in check-you might even specifically say-no gossip.
You might also consider having a long sit down with your DSis. It really sounds like this child needs lots of positive attention and has no idea how to get it and probably sees herself playing second fiddle to your Dsis's practice. I'm glad your Dsis hired a couple of colleagues but she needs to commit to her DD. It will be too easy for her to fall back into her old ways. When you are a professional you can always find more to do.
It doesn't sound like a phase to me - it sounds like seeking attention by doing negative things (as others have said). Sorry you have to deal with this and that her mom doesn't seem to realize the extent of it. to all involved