For example: today she came over licking an ice cream cone to where dd was playing and said, "C! Do you want some ice cream? Grandma only has two ice cream cones so you have to have a bowl. Only me and Joe get one." (this type of thing is a very common scenario: she'll show something to dd, then tell dd she can't have it). During lunch: "C is eating really gross. C stop eating so gross you are making me sick!". Getting dressed: "C you have a fat belly! You have a fat belly,C!". dd has also told me that her cousin calls her a baby.
Mostly dd doesn't appear phased by any of this, but sometimes will look at me, confused, or will later retell the story - so I know she is noticing/hearing. If her mom (my sister) is there I usually let her say something otherwise, I will tell her to stop. But it seems to be becoming more frequent and both my sister and I are unsure how to make her stop all this teasing/taunting.
Any ideas? Obviously what we've been doing isn't working. What should we be saying to this 4 year old to make her stop?
I don't have a lot of time here, but my first instinct is not to ask what you should be saying, but what you should be doing. If I were in your shoes, I would not leave my child alone with her. I would make sure an adult is there to monitor their interactions until this is resolved. Can you talk to your sister about this? Does she feel like it is a problem or does she think this type of behavior is ok or even funny? It sounds to me like your niece needs some help learning the power of her words and a bit of empathy. I would also tell your DD that it is never ok to call people names even if they are just kidding and that she doesn't have to play with her cousin if she isn't being nice. My kids know to say "Stop, I don't like that" in a loud voice if they don't like what someone is saying or doing to them. Giver her some simple ways to defend herself and also to alert the adults that there may be an issue. I hope that makes some sense. This is a tough situation. Good luck.
Proud Mommy to my amazing boys (6 and 4) and my precious little girl (18 months).
Like prior post said, I would not be leaving my child alone with this other child. I think put downs and cruel behavior like what you described is VERY damaging to the victim (and the offender, actually). At the first hint of this type of behavior, I would say in a very stern, firm voice, "COUSIN! We do NOT speak to each other in this house like that. What you said to little girl was NOT nice. We do NOT say mean things to each other. You need to tell little girl you are sorry. (Some people disagree with this step, but personally, I think it's important for the offender to acknowledge what they did was wrong by apologizing.) If you say mean things to little girl again, you will not be able to play with her." (To me that's a logical consequence.) If it happens again I would seperate the kids.
Overall, you have to have constant vigilance and swift, firm correction. A 4 year old is well able to understand what is appropriate to say and not appropriate. (I have a 4 year old and 2 year old.) You'll have to always be in immediate earshot of the kids and be able to immediately step in and stop cousin. Personally, I would NEVER allow anyone to go around telling my child they're fat or gross, no matter what the age of the offender.
Plus, you have to wonder where older cousin is getting this from. 4 year olds don't come up with many things on their own. They mostly repeat things they hear.
Let us know what happens.
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I think just saying "stop" isn't working because you and your sister are not explaining to cousin what is wrong with her behavior and why it's not nice.
I wouldn't go hard yet - as a PP said, 4 yr olds don't invent much, and I wonder where cousin is getting this language/behavior. Also though, is cousin the oldest? There may be unresolved "older child" issues where she feels threatened/upset at younger kids taking attention away from parents.
Anyway, whatever the cause, maybe a 3 prong approach will work:
1. As said already, don't leave your child alone with cousin at all until cousin shows real change in her behavior. Be there at all times your child is with her so you can address negativity.
2. Explain to cousin, sometimes in front of your daughter when something has just happened, but maybe other times take her aside, and explain to her that her words are hurtful. Ask her how she would feel if people said mean things about her body/eating/whatever? And ask her if she's trying to make dd feel bad. If she says she is, try to process that with her, why? Does she like having her cousin around? Why or why not? That may help get more at what she's feeling. (Really, these are things your sister should do... would she be willing to talk to her daughter about this?) If cousin wants more attention or doesn't like your daughter being around for regular kid jealousy reasons, maybe have more structured playtime and play games that cousin can excel at and feel good doing, and your dd can also learn from and enjoy. And does your sister ever do things just with that cousin? More one on one time with parents can also help this behavior. Because then she may not feel in competition with your dd.
If cousin continues to say mean things even when she knows it hurts dd, that is the time to get a bit more strict. "Cousin, you know that's not a nice thing to say and we don't say not-nice things. No one can have ice cream if you're going to be mean about it." or "You won't get dessert if you're going to say mean things to cousin". Where talking it through doesn't change the behavior enough, consequences often will.
3. Talk to your daughter about how the things cousin says and maybe explain to her that cousin isn't being nice, and if dd feels bad about being around cousin, maybe you should limit their exposure to each other?