Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. My brother has fallen upon some hard times. He and his daughter have moved in with my parents while he gets back on his feet. I am very happy he has the opportunity to do that.

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 myself and while they are not perfect, they do not hit their grandparents, tell me or my wife that they hate us, tell us to “F” off, or use vulgar language like this cousin 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 after correcting our children’s behavior from what they have learned from her. My children are young and impressionable, and some don’t even want to be around her.

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My niece is causing extreme tension in the family. She needs discipline, which she is clearly not getting!

How should we handle this? We are a small, tight-knit family. Everyone complains about her but says nothing.

Bothered Uncle

A. Without positive mentoring and good role models, this very young 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 children 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 any positive alternatives.

This child’s father would benefit from a professional parenting class. Help your brother to be a better dad and urge your parents to help by introducing consistent, appropriate and compassionate consequences when she acts out.

Q. I was recently married to a man with a 10-year-old daughter, whom I adore. I also have a daughter, 12, from a previous marriage.

My daughter has been extremely close to my best friend since birth. She calls her “aunt,” and I love the bond they have. My best friend has met and hung out with my stepdaughter from time to time and my stepdaughter has grown fond of her.

However, my stepdaughter lives with us part time, while my daughter is with us full time, so it’s only natural that my best friend sees my daughter more.


My best friend recently got engaged. She told me that she is going to ask my daughter to be a junior bridesmaid.

My stepdaughter is inquisitive and I am dreading the “why didn’t she ask me?” question.


A. You can explain that your daughter has known the friend since she was a baby. Kids are able to understand that people have special relationships. If your stepdaughter is going to be invited to the wedding as a guest you can help her to find a special dress and share your excitement in enjoying the event together.

Send questions via e-mail to or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.