DEAR AMY My 13-year-old niece, "Heather," is a beautiful girl. I love her but I don't like her. She has a bad attitude toward everyone. She lies constantly and is extremely disrespectful and obnoxious. My 13-year-old daughter continues to be a target of Heather's bullying and verbal abuse. Her behavior has become so bad that my family and I do not want to be around her. However, we're expected to attend family events, and if we decide not to attend a family function, I'm blamed for being anti-social. I thought Heather was going through a phase and would eventually outgrow it. Her attitude and behavior have worsened. When I try to address my concerns with Heather's parents and grandmother (my mother), I always receive the same response: "It's just Heather being Heather." When I continue to push the issue, an argument ensues and I'm told to stop overreacting. How do I get Heather's parents and grandmother to understand how serious the situation is?
DEAR AUNT Heather's parents and grandmother will not change their approach to her because either they don't see her behavior as a problem, don't care about your discomfort or don't dare upset the tyrant in their midst.
If you don't like your niece's behavior, tell her: "Heather -- enough. I'd like you to find a nicer way to speak to me." Then do your best to ignore her, because your family members do have a point: It is foolish to step up the drama with a 13-year-old.
If she is bullying your daughter, you must make sure she doesn't have the opportunity by not leaving the two alone together.
An obnoxious 13-year-old should not be running the family show. If other family members put you down because you object, you'll have to understand that bullying behavior doesn't happen in a vacuum. Mainly, you should feel sorry for this girl. She's going to have a bumpy ride.