Dear Savvy Auntie,

I live with my 4 year old niece. Lately she has been sneaking out of her bedroom in the middle of the night or early morning. She has been taking our things and purposely ruining them and she continuously lies about doing it. She has dumped a full bottle of perfume on her bedroom floor. Squeezed foot scrub all through her closet. Takes food she knows she cant have and eats it in her room and hides the evidence. She gets on a chair to get to it. And she is always disobedient.

We have tried everything we can think of and nothing is working. Do you have any suggestions, please? Thank you.

Disobediant Niece's Aunt

Dear Disobediant Niece's Aunt,

Your description of your niece’s misbehavior and destructive actions sound like a desperate cry for attention and help. I urge you to get her, and the grown-ups in her home life, to a caring family therapist. In the meantime, try establishing one new rule a week and be clear what the consequences will be if she doesn’t obey. An example is the squeezed foot rub. She must do the cleanup with just a little help from a family member. Sneaking out of her room can be dangerous, so, talk to her about keeping her safe by using a gate that doesn’t allow her out until an adult opens it.

I don’t know what her home life four she is very sensitive to stress, anger, sadness, arguing, and not getting enough caring love. Therefore, add an activity at least three times a week that gives her the message that she is loved, cared about, and respected... read books to her, sit with her while she colors or paints, let her participate in making meals, and play dress up or whatever she likes to play. Give her a complement on a behavior like putting on her own clothes, washing her hands..etc. At least three compliments every day...they will go a long way!
Good Luck,
Natalie Robinson Garfield

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