Dear Savvy Auntie,

My nieces are aged 3 years and 6 months. The older one and I are very close, more like best friends than anything else. Since I am a teen auntie, I am the person closest in age to the three year old in the family, and we connect in that way. I spend a lot of time with both of my nieces and have for their entire lives.

Lately, since my youngest niece was born, things have been weird with my older niece. My sister says that I'm being more of a "parent" than a best friend, and it's causing my oldest niece to act out. The thing is, I don't really notice I'm doing anything! I notice that my niece and I fight a lot more, but that's it. She gets mad when I tell her to do something, or tell her no. I can't tell if it's me, or just her terrible-twos carrying over into age three. And it's really hard to fix something that you can't see.

I almost feel that I am overcompensating for my sister being busy with my younger niece--like I need to discipline my oldest niece because her Mom is too busy. But the thing is, she's not. She still disciplines her, just fine. What am I doing wrong? Is it me? And if so, how do I fix this? I want a good, strong, best-friend relationship with my nieces. Lately I haven't had that. Help!

Confused Auntie

Dear Confused Auntie,

You sound so mature, aware, and smart! Your intuition is spot on!
Yes, some children have the “twosies” starting at eighteen months and some continuing until three and a half; it can come and go during this period. However, I think your older niece is reacting more to her sister. Most people think when the baby comes home that the first few weeks are the hardest adjustment for the sibling... this is not true. As the baby develops and attracts more attention, yet is excused from discipline, as they are more capable, as they meddle in the older child’s activities the older child feels more miffed, competitive, and displaced. Think about you and a best girlfriend, if a new adorable girl came to town and your friend said... "oh, I can’t ‘play’ with you, I am busy with my new friend”... how would you feel?
Your older niece is getting extra attention by being contrary and disobedient so try to give her special time and grown up activities that will satisfy some of her need for attention and loving. It will remind her that she is special!
I often wonder how Aunties will go forward with my advice or suggestions; I know you will progress very well. Enjoy your nieces!!

Natalie Robinson Garfield

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