Dear Carolyn: My husband and I have two adolescent children and we are good friends with a couple who also have two adolescent kids. We consider their children extremely rude, entitled and very disrespectful of their own parents and, over the years, to us as well.
Last night at our house, while having dinner, the daughter told her dad to “shut up.” Nothing was said by either parent. This is just the latest misbehavior that my own children witnesseed.
I feel as if we could never reprimand their kids without jeopardizing our friendship. Is it ever OK to say something to the kids? Only if they directly insult or disrespect us?
A: We all make calculations (or should) before speaking up about other people’s behavior, about the severity of the problem, the efficacy of addressing it, the standing we have to intervene, and the possible unintended consequences of stepping in.
Arguments in favor of correcting these kids: You have standing to ask for certain behavior in your home, of adults and children both. You probably also would be an effective voice for civility, since it can be startling to get a wrist-slap from an unexpected source.
Arguments against: Anything your kids witness now is a talking point later, so corruption is a non-issue. It’s also hard to believe you can reverse these kids’ slide toward entitlement – but it’s easy to envision your damaging the friendship with the adults. Even the parents who are grateful for village discipline tend to bristle at it when they’re present to do the job themselves.
But there’s also this: Biting your tongue just to keep these friends strikes me as a cop-out, a what’s-in-it-for-me? expediency when there’s a question of right and wrong to be answered. “Shut up” is so hostile and so inappropriate, and your dinner table is so plainly your turf, that I believe it would have been worth the friendship risk to say, calmly, “Stella, I ask that you don’t use that expression at our table. Thank you.” Let the biscuits fall where they may.
Keep on healing
Dear Carolyn: My ex and I broke up a few months ago. I was finally starting to feel better, then I found out from Facebook he is dating someone else. I’m shocked and hurt. He was telling me the week before that he still missed me.
Is dating a new person immediately after breaking up an awful thing to do, and what does it say about the old relationship?
A: It says nothing about the old relationship except that it’s over, and that’s information you already had.
He can miss you and still date. There’s no relief available to you in these details; you’ll find it only by tending to your recovery and letting him tend to his. I’m sorry.