Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Dear Abby, you judgmental bitch...

In today's* Dear Abby

Dear Abby:

My daughter, "Skylar," just started middle school, and she has fallen in with the wrong crowd. She walks around the house with a chip on her shoulder, wearing what looks to us like boys' clothes. She curses and lies, and she and her new friends have vandalized the girls' restroom four times. Her latest trick is to forge my signature on school papers. I have discussed these problems with the school. They suggested counseling and therapy. What I want is advice on how to discipline Skylar for all the wrongs she has done. How do I guide my daughter down the right path?

Unable to Discipline

Guiding a child down the "right path" involves more than discipline; it involves open communication and the assurance that he or she is loved. If Skylar were my daughter, the first thing I'd do is have her tested for drugs. If she tested positive, I would start her in a rehab program and possibly place her in another school.

If she tested "clean," I'd do exactly as the school suggested and get counseling and therapy for her. In fact, counseling for your entire family would be a good idea, because it appears that Skylar is not the only one who could use some help. Your parenting skills may need to be upgraded.

So your kid is running with the "wrong crowd," you say. A teenager with a chip on her shoulder, you say. Dressing a bit androgynously, you say. And she's mouthing off and engaging in actual bad behavior. Ok, now we've got one that counts for something (pretty late in the list, wouldn't you say?).

And Abby's first response- test her for drugs... sigh. On top of being a judgmental bitch, she has a keen sense of how to alienate children without even trying. I see no mention in the letter that our concerned parent has attempted to TALK to "Skylar." Abby's, once again and without fail, about half right. The parents need therapy on how to be parents- How about sitting "Skylar" down and seeing what's up? Is yours a strict household (with Mom in pearls baking apple snacks?) which might chafe her increasing need for independence? How go things on the grades and other activities front? In short- have you tried to find out who your kid is and what she wants to do? Start there. And then parent and guide. Let her know she needs to straighten up the actual bad behavior (let her be moody, let her dress herself within standards of public decency) in order to earn more trust and a longer leash. Let her know your concerns- talk and ask about drugs without ever using the word "test." Get a gauge on what's going on with your daughter first. By getting to know her. And pray you've developed parenting instincts by the time you get that far in the process.

* I read the Washington Post for my Dear Abby. They seem to publish on a different schedule than the "official" Dear Abby column (which wouldn't matter, except for Abs' archive is much better and frees me from the worries of linkrot). I wonder why? Space constraints? Judgment? Booze? (there are a solid number of liquor stores nearby the Post building)


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