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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I dont know how to handle my 12 yr old neices attitude problem.

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I don't know how to handle my 12 yr old neice's attitude problem. She has a couple issues. One she thinks she should be a pro at whatever she tries, like the first time or maybe even the second time. For example today she went bowling, well she didn't do very well. But she has only bowled a couple times. She was ok with it when everyone was doing badly but when some of us started improving she got mad. Talked badly about herself and quit even trying. And that would lead us to her second problem... if she doesn't win swhe doesn't wqnt to play. I have tried to explain that no one is a pro the first ,second or even third time trying something. That things like bowling, guitar playing ( lessons that she started and quit) take practive, lots of practice. I've tried to give her some advice to help her with whatever activity. She doesn't want to her it. She'll say "i know". I've tried to explain no one wins every time and that the important thins is that you played your best. There's no shame in losing if you gave it your all. Nothing is effective. HOw do we get her through this phase (at least i'm hoping it's a phase ... although it's been an off and on problem for a couple years at least).
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 5 years ago.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.


This is a phase that some children go through. It can start in the toddler years and last into adulthood. It all depends on how it is handled by the parents (and other adults in the child's life).


There are a few possibilities as to why your niece is responding this way.


One, this is part of her personality. Right now that seems like a negative. But when you consider how some CEO's are made or athletes get ahead, there are just some people born with a competitive spirit. At your niece's age, she is too immature to understand how to express it, but with the right guidance she will get it right.


Two, your niece is just going through a phase. At her age, she is right on the edge of adolescence. These days, kids mature earlier so you can almost consider her a teenager. Teens are by nature questioning who they are and measuring their self worth against others. They are fragile in terms of how others see them and if they are good or bad at whatever they try. They don't have any experience to fall back on and almost everything is a competition. Plus the are not mature yet to know how to handle the emotions related to losing. So they act out like a child. Until they learn better coping skills, that is all they know.


Three, what are the messages your niece is getting at home? I don't mean to imply they are bad. But she may feel competitive with siblings who are better at things that she is. Or Mom and Dad may be at the top of their field and she feels overwhelmed by expectations. Sometimes parents compare without realizing that they are doing it. All parents make mistakes. And teens are sensitive to most all things.


With any of these possibilities, it just takes time and some support to help her through. Keep talking to her like you have already done. What you did for her was great. She may respond with "I know", but inside she appreciates the support. She also hears more than she lets on. Also, show her how to lose gracefully. You and the other adults can let her see that when you lose, it's no big deal. Laugh about it, poke fun at each other and generally make light of it. Emphasize the fun rather than who wins or loses. Everyone celebrate at the end together.


If you find over time that your niece does not improve and/or gets worse, consider suggesting counseling. In most cases, this will pass over. But it does not hurt to see if there is an underlying reason for her feelings if she is unable to eventually let go and mature.


I hope this helps,


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