Teas­ing daugh­ter is rude

Los Angeles Times - - COMICS - Send ques­tions to Amy Dickinson by email to askamy@ tri­bune. com.

Dear Amy: My hus­band and I have a bright, so­cial and en­gag­ing 5- year- old daugh­ter. Our prob­lem has to do with how some fam­ily mem­bers and close friends in­ter­act with her.

Ex­am­ples in­clude peo­ple vis­it­ing our home and telling her that they are go­ing to take her baby brother home with them, which re­sulted in my daugh­ter scream­ing in protest while the other per­son had a hearty laugh.

Then there was the time an adult rel­a­tive came to her birth­day party and re­peat­edly said, “It’s my party and I’m go­ing to cut the cake!” while my daugh­ter pro­gres­sively got more con­fused and ag­i­tated. This went on un­til she was in tears and the adult started laugh­ing.

We have tried to steer the con­ver­sa­tion else­where, but we want to get the mes­sage across po­litely, but clearly, that we do not ap­pre­ci­ate peo­ple ag­i­tat­ing our child.

What can we do to send the mes­sage po­litely that we would like our child to be treated with re­spect and not teased for fun?

Ag­i­tated Mom

Dear Ag­i­tated: Some adults are able to en­gage chil­dren ap­pro­pri­ately by “kid­ding.” Five- year- olds usu­ally catch on pretty quickly when an adult says, “Hey, wait a minute — that’s MY birth­day cake!” if the adult tele­graphs that this is a kid­ding game. The adult con­veys this with a smile and body lan­guage that sig­nals to the child his in­ten­tions.

Teas­ing a child un­til she is ob­vi­ously dis­tressed is just bul­ly­ing. Laugh­ing at a child you have made cry is dis­gust­ing.

I’m not sure why you are so wor­ried about be­ing po­lite. While this is hap­pen­ing, you should place your hand on your child’s arm and say, “Un­cle Buck is teas­ing you, honey.” If you don’t catch it in time, af­ter you com­fort your child you should ask the adult, “Please don’t tease her. You are the only per­son who en­joys it.”

Dear Amy: One of my old­est and clos­est friends lost her hus­band a year ago to an ag­gres­sive can­cer. Through­out his ill­ness I reached out to her. I of­fered to give her breaks from care­giv­ing so that she could get out of the house. I also of­fered to run er­rands, or just talk.

In­creas­ingly I felt pushed away — she crit­i­cized things I said or how I said them, said some other hurt­ful things, took of­fense at things I did but never re­sponded to apolo­gies, de­clined in­vi­ta­tions and never sug­gested al­ter­na­tives — to the point where I think she doesn’t want my friend­ship any­more.

I won­der if I did some­thing to hurt her that I don’t even know about. My hus­band tells me she is deal­ing with her own is­sues and this mess wasn’t my do­ing.

How can I sal­vage a dear friend­ship, or should I ac­cept that it is over?

Sad and Be­wil­dered

Dear Sad: Peo­ple re­spond along a wide spec­trum to ill­ness, death and grief. Your friend has been through the most ex­treme stress you can pos­si­bly imag­ine. Your gen­er­ous of­fers might have seemed in­tru­sive ( or use­less) to her. Your re­peated ef­forts to apol­o­gize and restart your friend­ship might seem im­pos­si­ble to some­one whose life has fallen apart and who might be ( un­der­stand­ably) de­pressed.

I sug­gest you give her a lit­tle more space. Don’t crowd her. Don’t give up on her. Act like your old self with­out ex­pect­ing her to re­spond like her old self.

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