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Why does my niece keep crying for small things?

Q: My niece is 6 years old with a 1 and a half year old brother. She is a loving, soft, kind-hearted and a brilliant child with very good academic and extra-curricular skills. She loves to play like other children of her age and exhibits extrovert characteristics in nature. However, multiple traits in her need improvement; the most common being - crying. She is very timid and afraid of the dark. She's also afraid of some toys like a radio controlled car. She has attended 10 swimming classes but doesn't go beyond drenching her feet. She cries a lot when she doesn't find her toys. Yet, she doesn't attempt to search for them, instead she starts crying. The funny part is that she doesn't accept that she has seen the object she was searching for. Ignoring her crying for these things helps. But we want to cultivate independence in her. She doesn't want to be pointed out for wrong things. While doing her math homework, if we find faults with her calculations, she starts crying and denies it being wrong. When she is pointed for a wrong note being played on the piano, she starts crying. Hence, she deters from trying anything new. This quality can pose a big problem as it lowers her confidence. The idea that she might do something wrong, inhibits her from trying. She thinks she will do it wrong even before trying. While playing hide and seek with her friend, if she doesn't find her for a few minutes, she gets scared and starts crying. It is tough to get her to do something, as it needs a lot of pampering. At school, when the teacher distributes question papers to students one by one, she fears that she might not get one and starts crying if she's not the first one to get it. My sister and brother-in-law are well educated and ensure that they spend ample time with her. They are very encouraging, supportive, patient and communicative and give her all the attention she needs. Yet, she craves for more and ends up crying in order to achieve the same. Please advise.

A:You seem to be an observant and caring uncle! You have sent a very detailed observation of your niece. She does seem more sensitive and vulnerable than normal. Perhaps her condition started or has been aggravated with the birth of her brother. Sometimes children, who have a new sibling, feel scared that they will no longer have a place in the parents affection. One just has to reassure her about that and keep some time only for her. As you suggest, ignoring her crying helps, but is not always possible. Distracting her at that time could be tried. But more importantly, you will have to develop ways of rewarding her for not crying. Make it a game. Increase the hours of NO CRYING gradually. Explain that if she does not cry at all during the day, some treat will be given (something she likes to do) before she sleeps. Play soft music, preferably classical, while she is winding down. Ask her teachers how they discourage her crying - surely they find it difficult too. The child needs reassurance, but also a firm no-nonsense attitude, once you have assured her. You say that her parents give her all the love she needs. But she seems to feel otherwise. I think that the child and the parents should sit down peacefully together and openly discuss the problem when the have unhurried time. Sometimes verbalization of a problem helps everyone to see it more clearly. Since the child is bright, surely she will follow the discussion and the pros and cons. I am also wondering if the girl feels that too much is expected of her. (Piano, Math etc) It would be better not to focus on her achievements, but to emphasize the fun and enjoyment she gets out of her activities. Let her play the piano, but don't rush in to point out each error. If she has an ear for music, she will realise it herself soon enough. You have not mentioned her health or physical skills. Sometimes, children who are slightly built and low in weight can be pushed down by their playmates and may feel vulnerable. Make sure her protein intake is improved and that COLA drinks are avoided. Parents should be interested in the child even when she is not doing something specific towards a goal. It is in the informal moments that most codes of behaviour are taught and learnt. All the best in your avucular role!

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