Concerned Sister's picture
Concerned Sister

Help! My niece has taken over my sister's household!

My single sister adopted 2 older children 3 years ago. When they arrived, they were 7 (boy) and 13 (girl). In the past three years we have (as a supportive family) helped her deal with many troubling issues I believe to be related to their upbringing (or lack of), and their years of institutional living back in Russia.
My sister is the most kind, generous, loving person you could ever meet. But, she is loosing herself because of her daughter. She has become "THE ALPHA DOG" of my sister's household.
My niece (now 16) has become demanding, rude and disrespectful.
Examples of the behavior:
1. When asked to help with a task around the house, she will tell my sister that she just spent her saturday morning doing - get this - my sister's chores. She then walks off and goes to her room. My sister complains that the kids do their chores on saturday in 2 hours and she is working on chores all day! They don't offer to help her finish what she has to do.
2. When she is asked to do something, she walks away and when my sister calls her on it, she yells back at her. My sister walks away.
3. When my mother, other sister or I are around and these things occur, we say something to their mother, who looks at my niece and doesn't do anything. My niece then looks at us with this face - I can only describe as a threatening look telling us "back off - she's going to do what I want her to do - not you".
4. She lies, goes places she isn't supposed to be with kids she isn't supposed to be with (i know this is fairly typical for the age, but with the other issues, I am very concerned).
5. This past week my sister had to go out of town and my mother was there to help her get ready - My sister was crying, running around trying to clean the house, do laundry, pack, get the kids ready for school the next day. My elderly mother was there trying to help, but my niece walked past my sister many times (as she is crying) and never asked if she could help, what could she do, never even acknowledged her existance!!! (the lack of acknowledgement is a consistent issue)
6. She will sneak into her brother's room after she gets in trouble and will talk to him (hes 11, and they are not biological siblings) telling him what he should do, why my sister is terrible, or why we (the family) are terrible.
7. While my sister was out of town, my mother was staying with the kids. My niece called my mother and told her that her friend was coming back to the house and that her mother would come get her later. My mother told her no, that her friend's mother would have to pick her up from school - that my mother had plans with the kids after school. She became angry at my mother and yelled at her. My mother told her she could walk home (we were picking her up, but she lives less than a mile from school). Concerned that she wouldn't come home until well after dark, I went back in to the room to get her, and told her to come get in the car. She yelled at me in front of all her friends and band director - when I told her again to just get in the car, she walked away from me and went to her friend (whom she wanted to come home with us). I again told her to come, that it was time to go. She walked away from me and started yelling at me that her friends mother was mad. when i told her that wasn't our problem, she again yelled at me - I approached her to correct her - that she wouldn't speak to me like that and she PUSHED me. I grabbed her arm and walked her to the car. She got home and immediately called her mother - tellingg her mother that grandma and I embarassed her in front of her friends! When we spoke to my sister and told her what happened, my sister said there were 2 sides to the story!!!!!!!Needless to say, my niece was not punished - as my sister is too scared of loosing the children's love dealing with the difficulties of punishment, or dealing with the the attitude of my niece during the punishment period.
My sister now doesn't believe tthere is a problem other than "normal teenage behavior". She refuses to take any action and seems paralized by this childs attitude and control over her.
How do I save my sister???????

2xstepmom's picture

From your description it seems like this adopted child has attachment issues which is very common in adopted children.

Look up Reactive Attachment Disorder to get an understanding of what this child is going through. She will need a great deal of professional help in order to be able to overcome the issues she is going through.

Many older child adoptions are very difficult or fail because of lack of understanding on the part of the adoptive family of the deep issues the child has as a result of not bonding appropriately as infants. Your sister does not need to be "saved", she needs to be educated. The problems you list are all typical of teens, and more so of a teen who has been adopted at 13 years old. Education and empathy are needed in order for this girl's attitude and behavior to change in a positive way.

I have personal and profession experience in this area. Three years ago my good friend adopted a girl at 16 months old from Russia. My friend has educated herself and has her daughter in a long term treatment program. There will always be issues as a result of her daughter's unfortunate beginnings but the situation is slowly improving. Professionally I have seen adoptions fail and families devasted due to lack of understanding and empathy for the child.

Encourage your sister to get help for her daughter. It is amazing to me that these adoptions are begun without the parents being informend about the possibility of Reactive Attachment Disorder and proactive steps taken to avoid the situation you have described in your post.

Let me know if I can be of furthur help and best of luck to your sister, her children and extended family.