Post # 1
Going anon for obvious reasons.
I feel like a horrible human being here, so please be kind.
My sister has three daughters, 12, 10 and 6. In the last year she has left her (now) ex for a variety of reasons including abuse (of her) and infidelity. He’s basically an all-around asshole. Because she’s now a single mom she spends a lot of time with us and our kids, and we’re happy to help any way we can. My two oldest nieces are amazing with our two kids and I’m particularly close with one, who basically comes to me for everything a 12yo doesn’t want to tell her own mom.
The problem is the youngest. I hate even typing this, but I don’t like her. I love her, she’s my neice. I would do ANYTHING for her. But she is a mean mean kid. She is purposely cruel and unkind to our kids all the time, making them cry and then basically delighting in it. She has very few friends, and I know this behaviour likely has a lot to do with it. She’s in many ways a bully. My sister knows this, it’s not new information she acts this way, and all the kids are in therapy on an ongoing basis. I think she picked up a lot of traits and behaviours from her dad, and being the youngest she only kinda saw the worst years of their relationship. To her, that’s normal.
But how do I deal with it? I hate feeling this way, but I find myself relievd when they come over and she can’t be there. I feel like I have to shield my kids from her, because she seems to enjoy upsetting them. I mean stuff like she’ll tell our oldest she’s going to give him one of her toys, then she’ll bring it over and make him jump through hoops to have it before ultimately telling him “too bad, i’m keeping it”. Then she’ll laugh in his face. It’s planned, purposeful cruelty to him. It’s harder because as the kid closest in age to our kids she’s the one they really look up to, and I worry to that she’s modeling negative behavour that I don’t want them to pick up.
I try to step in, and bring it to my sister’s attention, but I also feel like she has so much going on that I don’t want to pile on to her stress. But I also don’t want my neice to grow up to be this person. I feel like if she does she’s going to have such a lonely life, because who will want to be around someone who behaves this way? Who wants to be friends with a bully? And seeing them less isn’t really an option, we babysit a lot for court dates, appointments etc, and there’s not really other family close by.
Post # 2
- Wedding: April 2017 - City, State
That’s so tricky. I wish I had good advice but all I can think is that you have to protect your children first and foremost. I’m glad your sister has her children in therapy and it sounds like she’s doing so she can to give them more stability and a kinder, more loving environment. People get up in arms when you say you don’t like a kid but honestly, it’s not a stretch to not be fond of a kid who is hurting your children, even if you know that kid is likely going through a lot of turmoil and well. Honestly I think the only thing you can really do is keep intervening when she behaves badly and explain that her behavior is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated. Maybe you and your sister can work together to come up with an effective strategy for managing her behavior. Full disclosure,I don’t have kids yet (got one on the way right now) so please take my advice with a grain of salt. Best of luck to you and your sister!
Post # 3
She sounds pretty horrible, OP. I can understand why it would be challenging to like her. It sounds like your niece is her family’s “Identified Patient”. I’ve been talking a lot about this recently, but the book The Deepest Well by Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris is really really good at explaining the impact of adverse childhood experiences on kids (and on adults as well). It’s also great at explaining why compassion is so helpful and necessary in these circumstances and ways to develop resilience and healing practices.
That said, it’s impossible to be genuinely compassionate to someone who is acting like an asshole to your child, even when it’s another child who has been having a hard time. Especially if you don’t feel like you can do anything. Personally, I would interrupt her EVERY. SINGLE. TIME she was engaging in these behaviors with my kids. I would not allow her to deliberately upset my kids or my household just because her father is an asshole- that’s allowing his toxic ripples to impact your home. I’d have a series of other things she could go do instead. I’d also have an Auntie conversation with her and just say, “Hey, that’s not an acceptable way to treat your younger cousins. They love you and they look up to you and it bums me out to see you being unkind to them and making them sad. It also makes me really angry and I feel protective of them. You need to find another way to play with them or you need to take a break.” And I would just keep interrupting those behaviors. She’s probably mad as hell, though, and she needs an acceptable place to get all of that out of her system. She should join a martial arts class in addition to being in therapy. Something where she can be really physical and push herself and exert that intensity while also developing some self discipline.
When my SIL was going through her divorce from her waste of skin ex, I called her once on the phone and her daughter (who was about 7 at the time) was SCREAMING like a fucking lunatic in the background for the entire converation. It was so goddamn obnoxious and ridiculous that I spoke directly to her about it the next time we all go together (I did ask my SIL if she would be okay with it). I let my niece know that I understand that it’s scary and upsetting when parents are divorcing (I’ve been through it- I definitely know) but that I did not ever want to hear her screaming at her mother like that again and that it was unacceptable. I also made sure to let her know that she was loved and if she needed someone to talk to about it, I was there.
Post # 4
You cannot have a mean child around your children, even if your sister and your other niece become collateral damage. Maybe things will change for the little girl after a year or two of therapy, but–you can’t let your own children be brutalized and terrorized in the meantime.