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Raising Grandchildren

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My 7-year-old granddaughter and her 10-year-old brother live with us during most of the year. My granddaughter has taken to doing truly childish things. Yesterday, while in the tub, she poured out 2 bottles of shampoo into her bath water and spread a bottle of lotion on one of the tub shelves. She has also started lying about the simplest things.

She's not grooming herself as she did before, and tends to get a little mouthy. We get along fairly well without her mother and the two children from her present relationship -- a two-year-old and a six-month-old. Could this be a good part of the problem?

Normally my granddaughter is a loving, highly intelligent, well-behaved (in public) child. This behavior has us flummoxed. Her brother is horribly jealous of her, and tends to treat her badly at times.

A: More and more grandparents are taking care of their grandchildren these days, and I admire you for being willing to do this.

Your granddaughter is exhibiting some extreme attention-seeking behaviors, and may be testing to see if you really love her. Be consistent with your rules and expectations, as well as with your consequences for breaking rules. Also be sure to give her positive attention when she is behaving appropriately. Children see our limits, consequences, and praise as evidence of our love for them.

Part of what you are seeing may be the ordinary steps to independence we see in most seven-year-olds. At this age they are realizing more and more that they are in control of their actions, and she may be testing the limits a bit.

Does your granddaughter have much contact with her mom and the two younger children? Her immature behaviors could be an attempt to compete with the little ones for attention.

Reassure her that although you do not like her behavior at times, you will always love her and take care of her. Make sure, too, that there are consequences for her older brother when he mistreats her. Both of them may be dealing with feelings of rejection by their mom and they both need reassurance that they are loved.

If these behaviors continue, the school counselor or your pediatrician can refer you to a therapist for additional help.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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