My 8 year old niece (actually my cousin's daughter) is really quite spoiled. Her parents constantly bribe her to get her to do what they want.

We sometimes take vacations together. On these vacations, she insists on specific rewards just for going out.

My wife and I refuse to participate in this behavior, and we don't want to give her any presents. Yet if we don't, she demands a present, and then pitches a fit until her parents get her one instead.

We're not thrilled about exposing my 3 year old son to this behavior, but it seems unlikely we'll be able to avoid it forever (and we don't want to cut that part of our family our of our lives; my cousin and his wife are actually quite nice).

How can we mitigate the girl's behavior, and it's impact on my son? Is there a way to turn this into a positive lesson for him?

  • 3
    First, I'd suggest that you not give in, as it'll just teach your son that what your niece is doing works. That having been said, I've always been of the opinion that I have no right to tell another parent how to raise their kid except in extreme situations (this is not one), so while you shouldn't give in, I'd say it's not really your place to tell your cousin how to treat it. You can however ask that they take care of it away from you and your son to prevent him from being exposed to it and thinking of trying the same thing since it apparently works for her.
    – Doc
    Jun 10, 2014 at 19:35
  • @Doc I'm certainly not going to tell them how to raise their kid; I agree with you 100%. I was only referring to how I will interact with her, if at all, while she's misbehaving, and how to communicate with my son.
    – user420
    Jun 10, 2014 at 19:55
  • This is a nice example of the effect 'positive reinforcement' can have.
    – henning
    Jun 15, 2017 at 6:32

1 Answer 1


You might consider communicating to her how the going out or performing a specific activity is the treat, and that not all gifts are objects, but experiences.

Still, she's 8 and this isn't something you can change in her. However, she is old enough to recognize that different adults will treat her differently, and react to her actions differently. Often the cure for this type of behavior is treating her the way you treat your son, over a long period of time, so she comes to understand your relationship with her.

If you only ever visit her once or twice a year for a few hours or days at a time, there's little you can do other than take her behavior and preferences into account in your planning.

Lastly, if you spend time trying to understand her interests, you may be able to come to a middle ground where you feel ok giving a gift she's willing to accept for a given behavior. For instance, you might read to her at night, and get her interested in a particular long book. Then use an extra few pages/chapter of reading as a treat. Also, you might turn activities, gifts, or meals you were already planning on into a treat.

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