SUNDAY, AUG. 28, 2011

Carolyn Hax: Observe rude tween, teach him skills

While I’m away, readers give the advice.

On raising a tween who has taken a turn for the rude:

As difficult as you find those moments to be, you and your child are both practicing for higher-stakes separations in the future. One of the key elements that will make those conversations easier is skill – especially your child’s. Rather than responding to his affect in the moment, take an emotional step sideways. Don’t engage; observe. In a level voice, say, “I have no idea what you want right now, and you’re not going to get it by being rude to me. What do you want? Why? How much? When you figure those things out, let’s talk, but bring your best skills if you expect me to listen. You’re 10 now.”

What he really wants in that moment, by the way, is power, and he’s getting it by making his parent go off like a rocket whenever he wants. Please eliminate that reward and help him become more adept at finding his own power. – Virginia

On seeking personal fulfillment through a “bucket list”:

If you really want every year to be “a gift of extraordinary value,” try meeting your responsibilities to others, even at the expense of your own convenience. On my deathbed, I will reflect on a life that was not glamorous and exotic, but I will be surrounded by a loving family, knowing I have done my best to raise decent, loving human beings. – Anonymous’s ex

On being married and feeling a “soul mate” connection to someone else:

Thirteen years ago I was in that position. Whenever I saw the other man, my heart raced. I thought no one knew.

One day one of my students said, with a sly look, “You really like Mr. (blank), don’t you?” It shocked me.

I sat down and projected. What if everyone knew? What if it got back to my family? I imagined my husband’s face. He had done nothing to deserve the hurt it would cause. How would I explain to my girls? They adored their father.

I stopped eating lunch with the other man. I started looking for another job. I started writing my husband little notes thanking him for all the things he does for his family and me. It rekindled what was missing in my marriage. Thirteen years later, I know, without a doubt, that it was the best thing I ever did. Best of all, I can look myself in the eye without shame. – Soul mate

On expectant parents with strong preferences for the sex of the child:

Having children is an education in realizing that what you want is not always what you get, or what works. Perhaps a mother who strongly prefers one sex to another is really expressing her unease with giving over her body, her time, her future to a person she does not yet know. That is what is so astounding about the whole experience. I found I had to accept my role as the responsible one at the same time that it became clear how much was not up to me! Lots of contrary things like that in raising children. – J.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 9 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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