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Annie’s Mailbox: Probing questions can push teen son

Marcy Sugar and Kathy Mitchell Creators Syndicate

Dear Annie: My husband, “Ricardo,” is a naturally curious man. He usually asks questions in a charming manner, showing genuine interest in family and friends.

We have a teenage son. Ricardo often asks him probing questions about his girlfriend, which upsets our son. I totally get that Ricardo is interested and concerned for our son, so often I try to smooth the waves and attempt to let Ricardo know that he is being too pushy. I try to say this in a lighthearted way during the conversation in order to defuse the tension.

This infuriates Ricardo. He says I am undermining his parental authority. Annie, our son is a fine, outstanding young man. He does well in school, has great friends and participates in meaningful activities. It’s not as if he is up to something just because he doesn’t want to talk about his girlfriend. He just wants some privacy.

I only intervene in these conversations when I see the tension rising and my son getting frustrated or angry. Ricardo has told me that I should mind my own business and tell him in private what I think and not do it in front of our son. Is he right? It makes me feel that I’m not being supportive of our son. – Stuck in the Middle

Dear Stuck: You both need a new approach. Grilling a teenager about his social life will backfire every time, and Ricardo should know better. And when you intervene, even with good reason, Ricardo thinks it makes him the bad guy in front of your son. Have a private conversation with your husband and tell him that peppering the boy with questions will simply make him clam up and become resentful. It’s easier to get information when you aren’t trying so hard. (Perhaps he remembers his own teenage years.) The two of you should instead agree upon a silent signal when his questions get out of hand. In return, promise to share what you learn.

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