My neigh­bours’ bratty teen wants to baby-sit my kid and won’t take no for an an­swer

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Eq -

Q: We have a good re­la­tion­ship with our next-door neigh­bours and talk to them of­ten, even though we don’t hang out in­side our houses to­gether that much. They have a teenage daugh­ter who is rude to them and very bratty. She and her friends con­stantly hang out in their back­yard, where I hear all, and they are just very neg­a­tive peo­ple. (I know teenage girls aren’t al­ways sun­shine - I was one - but this goes above and be­yond.) The daugh­ter is now start­ing a baby-sit­ting “busi­ness” and she and they keep ask­ing if she can baby-sit my three­year-old. They won’t take no for an an­swer. How do I han­dle this?

A: In this case, “no” will even­tu­ally be taken for an an­swer au­to­mat­i­cally, be­cause it has to be. Pre­sum­ably, this teenager is not go­ing to break into your home to play Hun­gry Hun­gry Hip­pos with your child, so you’ve al­ready tri­umphed: She will not be baby-sit­ting for you. The rest is just a mat­ter of how much you want to tol­er­ate the con­tin­ued ask­ing. Af­ter a cer­tain amount of mak­ing your­self clear, you don’t re­ally owe them ad­di­tional re­sponses. In the mean­time, I vote for a “no” that is both firm and kind, with a civil but un­equiv­o­cal change of sub­ject. (“We’re all set for child care - I re­ally don’t want you to waste your time ask­ing any­more.”)

Q: A month ago, my boyfriend got into an ar­gu­ment with my brother and mother. They ac­cused him of hav­ing said some­thing racist. My boyfriend de­nied it and I took his side. For weeks I de­fended him and was try­ing to help smooth things over be­tween them. My mother fi­nally said that we can “agree to dis­agree” about what hap­pened and move on. But now my boyfriend has sort of ad­mit­ted he did say what they claimed, that he was “jok­ing” and he im­me­di­ately pan­icked and tried to cover it up. I’m not sure whether to con­tinue to let this lie or whether I should urge him to apol­o­gise and open up the whole thing again.

A: You seem so ready to for­give him your­self, as if this is just an is­sue be­tween him and your fam­ily. And yet I’m stuck on the fact that he was dis­hon­est for so long (mak­ing the orig­i­nal crime so much worse), is still per­haps not be­ing to­tally hon­est (“sort of ad­mit­ted”?) and stead­fastly put you in the po­si­tion of de­fend­ing some­thing to your own fam­ily that you did not re­alise you were de­fend­ing. You’ve es­sen­tially spent the last month dis­miss­ing your mother’s and brother’s feel­ings and say­ing they were hear­ing things, all be­cause of him.

So, I will sug­gest a raise in the apol­ogy quo­tient: Not only does he owe your fam­ily one, for all of it, but you owe them one as well. And he most cer­tainly owes one to you. Per­haps even more im­por­tant than all of that is this: What will he learn from this, and how will he act dif­fer­ently in the fu­ture? And is he even mo­ti­vated to do so? – Bo­nior, a Wash­ing­ton-area clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, writes a weekly re­la­tion­ships ad­vice col­umn in The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Ex­press daily tabloid and is au­thor of “The Friend­ship Fix.”

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