My friend has two children ages two and four. The girl who is four, seems very oppositional. She literally starts every sentence with "No" when you make a comment or ask her a question. She is and has always been jealous of her brother and antagonizes him to the point of him biting her. Now a new baby has arrived which she has dreaded from the start so she is particularly angry today. She was verbally nasty to me and when anyone asked her today about the baby she refused to answer. My friend is getting quite frustrated with her and I tried to explain the expectation of regression, accidents happening, acting out, lying and just outright non compliance(which has been an issue before baby was conceived minus the accidents) and that she needs to be more attentive as far as communication, including her in baby care etc. I am not around enough to see the full interaction between mother and daughter, but I am out of the obvious tactics for this behavior and because I have noticed the hostile feelings towards the brother after two years of having him around, I am concerned about deeper issues. I forgot to mention that the mother says things like, "I get along better will my son" and ""When the she asks me a mil and one questions while doing housework, I tell her to stop with all the questions, I'm busy". So that may be a clue. They are a very religious couple and are very gentle and sweet. I just want to help her out before she gets too frustrated.
From: Debbie (town withheld)
* Offer to stay with the kids so she can get a break now and then which might have the benefit of giving her breathing-room to have more patience;
* Help her to find a parenting workshop or support group that will increase her range of parenting strategies. Offer to stay with the kids while she attends;
* Spend time at the house and provide a kind of role model for how she can interact with the daughter in more positive ways;
* Have a heart -to-heart with her about your concerns, including whatever you mean about "deeper issues." Do you mean that the daughter has behavioral or temperamental challenges? If so, can you help her to know there are ways to get evaluations and support? (Hint: start with the pediatrician.) Or do you mean that the mom needs professional help for depression or some such?
The problem, of course, is that you don't know what her limits are, or where she will feel you exceed the limits of friendship. This is tricky territory. Some people -- including some readers here, I suspect -- will tell you to butt out. I hold to the theory that parenting is the toughest and most important job we every have as human beings and the one for which most of us receive little or no training. Maybe she needs permission to seek help, including from herself. Maybe you will never forgive yourself if you don't make the effort to be a supportive friend.
And of course, there's this caveat: If you think the children are in danger, don't hesitate to contact your local social services agency.
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