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I live in the USA, my son lives in the Netherlands. He has two little girls aged 5 years and 6 years respectively. My adult daughter, who doesn't have children herself, is visiting them at this time.

My daughter shared a few details of these little girls' behavior. She told me these little girls scream at her and cover their ears when she talks to them. They are apparently very mean and ugly toward her. She did however mention that on the few occasions that she has been alone with them, they mind her and are quite sweet. So, I believe she will have the survival skills to deal with them.

She also said that the 5-year-old throws tantrums and when her mother tried to console her with a hug, she proceeded to kick, bite and scratch her mother. Apparently, both parents don't think this is a big deal. In the meantime, my daughter found out that their maternal grandmother has refused to babysit them. They have a long weekend planned in Germany and my daughter told them she will not go because she can't stand their behavior.

Their behavior is clearly causing a rift between family. They suggested that my daughter babysit them this weekend and see if she can find a bond with the girls. Letting her babysit will probably escalate these little girls' behavior. On the other hand, I can't help feeling they are using her as a free baby sitter, with little regard to the fact that neither of them will take responsibility to check their children's behavior.

When I learnt that the 5-year-old gets away with kicking, biting and scratching her mother it causes me great concern. One thing that I told my daughter strongly is never to question their skills as parents. I did this on a few occasions and the results were not pretty.

Does anyone have suggestions for her survival with these girls until she gets back home to the USA? These are my granddaughters and I am very stressed about what I hear and their emotional health.

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    Does your daughter have her own children? Part of this may simply be unfamiliarity with the exuberance of youth. (I don't think that's all of it, especially since they sound like they're being pretty rude, but plunging headfirst into a kid-oriented household can be a shock.) I am surprised that her brother and sister-in-law think the solution is an extended period of alone time -- it could very well make things worse and stress your daughter out more. – Acire Apr 30 '15 at 11:36
  • I've added your reply to Erica into your question by editing it, which is something you can also do in the future if you need to respond to any comments or improve your question. I would add that your second question "is the bond of motherhood greater than the bond of being a grandmother" should be asked as a separate question (it's fine to ask a lot of questions!) – user11394 May 1 '15 at 4:03
  • The greatest challenge a grandmother faces, I'm told, is to find a way to distract herself from thinking about the mistakes the grandchild's parents are making. – aparente001 May 1 '15 at 7:02
  • The motherhood/grandmotherhood question would be an excellent additional question. Please do ask it :) – Acire May 2 '15 at 22:47
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    Is the mother Dutch? This could get even more complicated if cultural differences are involved. slate.com/blogs/how_babies_work/2013/04/10/… – Brusselssprout May 7 '15 at 10:55
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My daughter shared a few details of these little girl's behavior. She told me these little girls scream at her and cover their ears when she talks to them. They are apparently very mean and ugly toward her.

It's easy to get that impression when you haven't interacted with little kids before. Covering their ears is probably a test of the theory that if they don't hear an order, they're not going to be considered disobedient. They're not deliberately trying to be rude, they're just playing and testing their bounds for allowed behavior and not realizing they're being rude in the process. When you're not in a position of authority relative to a young child, you should always keep their interaction with you entirely at their option. If they want to cover their ears, just shrug and go on to something else. You're just a television programme, and they're allowed to change the channel. All you can do is show them that you're just as eager to change the channel.

Now babysitting is a different story. The parents should make it clear to these kids that they have to listen to your daughter when she is babysitting them. Someone's got to be in charge, and it shouldn't be the kids. They're not old enough to be responsible.

She also said that the 5 year old throws tantrums and when her mother tried to console her with a hug, she proceeded to kick, bite and scratch her mother.

I'm a strong advocate of the theory that you should never console a child who is throwing a tantrum. Doubtless these behaviors result from continued positive reinforcement of tantrum escalation. You and I might consider this a parenting mistake, but it probably won't do the kid much harm in the long run. People grow out of throwing tantrums eventually.

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  • Ha, I agree completely, especially with your first comment. Often times I think my 6 y. o.'s behavior is totally crazy...but then I see him with his friends and they act pretty much the exact same way. – Dave Kanter May 13 '15 at 20:18
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Sounds like something is going on this is not normal behavior for children their age. Your daughter could probably fix her relationship with them in a weekend but there's no real point. It will go back to the same if their parents don't keep it up.

As far as not a big deal it is a real big deal. What are they going to do when they are 12 and 120lbs and act the same way?

I'd see a Behavior Analyst and get an assessment. The first step is figuring out the cause of the behavior. Until then you can't fix it.

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    This isn't something that either the grandmother or aunt is likely to be able to do, and it would be a tough topic to discuss diplomatically (depending on the parents). – Acire May 6 '15 at 22:40
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    Exactly. Have they seen a neuropediatrician? This has ADHD written all over it. – Oscar Bravo Jun 19 '15 at 14:01
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I think Atsbys answer covers it really well. I'd just like to point out one aspect.

One thing that I told my daughter strongly is never to question their skills as parents

I agree that questioning someone's parenting skills is is a very effective strategy to permanently damage the relationship with the parent. But you also say that

Their (the childrens) behavior is clearly causing a rift between family.

So I don't see much to work with here. The relationship is already strained. So if your daughter wants to keep in contact with the family, it might be best to start correcting the kids' behaviour towards her. She doesn't have to correct the kids' biting her mom, that's her mom's problem, but she can get the kids to behave in a certain way towards her. If that leads to open conflict with the parents, I don't think there's a way to avoid that.

I doubt it will cause open conflict with the parents, though: Look at it from this perspective: Parents are usually okay with other people such as teachers and coaches disciplining their kids, as long as they think the kids deserve it. Mom might accept having her child bite and scratch her (maybe she doesn't know how to fix that), but that doesn't mean she likes to see her child do that to other people.

Letting her babysit will probably escalate these little girls' behavior.

I don't think so (at least not in the long run). Babysitting the kids will move her into a role of authority with the kids -- the kids will know that mommy and daddy are not here, so their rules will no longer apply, and most kids adapt fairly quickly to new rules if they are clearly stated and enforced. So if she wants the kids to act in a certain way towards her, babysitting them when the parents are not there might be a chance to clearly define their relationship. Mom lets them throw tantrums, kick and bite her, the stern aunt won't tolerate the same behaviour - kids are fine with such differences, but it only works when the kids know who is in charge. They will test the new rules, and your daughter will have to be prepared to enforce them, so she'll have to think beforehand about consequences of behaviour she doesn't want to tolerate.

I firmly believe in never threatening consequences you're not prepared to enact, so your daughter should make sure that the consequences she threatens are not too harsh.

This is especially important because the kids themselves probably don't realize they're behaving badly - it's what they're used to, they don't seem to have been taught otherwise. So dealing out harsh punishments seems unfair. They need to understand that not following aunt's rules will lead to unwanted outcomes, but your daughter will have to find a good balance in what these unwanted outcomes are. For example, throwing a tantrum might simply be met with ignoring the child until she is reasonable again, and then telling her tantrums won't work and restating whatever caused the tantrum.

Obviously this won't correct all the kids' behaviour over a weekend, but it might set the tone for further interactions between the girls and your daughter.

One thing your daughter can't do is generally fix the girls' behaviour towards others, but that's not her job - these are not her kids.

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