DEAR AMY: My brother has fallen upon hard times. He and his daughter have moved in with my parents while he gets back on his feet. The issue is his 5-year-old daughter (the child's mother is not in the picture). She is the most rude, disrespectful child I know. I have four children, and while they are not perfect, they do not hit their grandparents, tell me or my wife they hate us or use foul language like this girl does. She has absolutely no discipline and my brother does nothing about it. My parents choose to divert her attention instead of telling her no! Whenever my family spends time with my brother and niece, my wife and I have to spend several days correcting our children's behavior from what they have learned from her. My niece is causing extreme tension in the family. She needs discipline. How should we handle this?
DEAR BOTHERED: Without positive mentoring and good role models, this child is a raging whirlwind. Her behavior is a reflection of her life so far. She is practically begging for attachment, stability and loving discipline.
So give her some. You and your family can demonstrate positive, pro-social behavior. Urge your kids to play nicely with her and make sure an adult steps in with patient and firm correction the minute she acts out. Notice and praise her for any (even minimal) positive changes. Spend one-on-one time with her. Do not give up on her.
She needs to be taught how to be a child. She has experienced the loss of a parent and the loss of her home. The adults who are raising her are letting her raise herself without consequence; they are not offering positive alternatives.
Your brother needs basic parenting instruction and support. He would benefit from a professional parenting class. Help him be a better dad and urge your parents to help by introducing consistent, appropriate and compassionate consequences when she acts out.