Low-graphic news index |
Monday, August 20, 2012 - Page updated at 05:30 a.m.
Carolyn Hax: It takes a village to fix a brat
By Carolyn Hax
DEAR CAROLYN: My best friend's daughter, 10, is a little (brat). She never smiles, and if she deigns to speak, it is a one-word answer spoken with hostility. When I walk into my friend's house, her daughter looks me up and down and refuses to say hello. If she speaks, it is by whispering to her mother or a friend.
But of course my friend thinks the sun rises and sets by her daughter. She tries to be "mom of the year." I don't want to ever be around this girl again, and I am going to have to refuse invitations to visit their home.
I broached the subject with a mutual friend. This lady let loose about how this girl bullies her own son. She is questioning whether to remain friends with the mom.
My friend would be devastated to learn we feel this way, yet she gets defensive and refuses to hear any criticism of her daughter. Do I just forget the friendship, or is there a way to approach this with my friend and try to do some good?
— Can't Stand Her Kid!DEAR CAN'T: Apparently you've tried to approach this with your friend, and her defenses knocked you back.
And, you've reached the point where you'd consider ending the friendship over the daughter's rudeness.
Add it up: 1 + 1 = liberation. You have nothing to lose here and society has much to gain — not by having a better-worded heart-to-heart with her mom, but by addressing the demon daughter herself, on the spot, with Poppins-like playful restraint (nastiness undermines your point):
• When she looks you up and down, "Does my outfit meet your approval?"
• When she whispers to her friend, "Ooh, a secret! Please do share — you wouldn't want to be ruuuude."
• When she answers you with hostile monosyllables, "Hm. You appear to be old enough to speak in full sentences ... maybe I should try again."
Let her mother hear this. In other words, village up: It's the adults' job to teach snippy children the rules. Pull your societal weight. It's your friend's prerogative to abdicate that responsibility; however, it's also your prerogative to correct children who fail to respect an adult.
DEAR CAROLYN: I have just been "friend dumped." A very close friend of a few years stopped talking to me, and when I asked why, she ended the friendship with an Internet message. She claimed (in literally three sentences) it was because the friendship is unhealthy.
The friendship was unhealthy at times — I have jealousy and fifth-wheel issues — but it was because we lived together, and we don't anymore.
How do I stop obsessing over this and feeling bad?
— The Dropped FriendDEAR DROPPED: Please turn your attention not to the how-could-someone-I-trusted-do-this-to-me-so-easily question but instead to those "jealousy and fifth-wheel issues." What was your part in the undoing? Did your friend ask too much of you, or did you ask too much of (or do too much for) her? Was the silent-treatment breakup about her cowardice, or about your inability to hear bad news without melting down? Or were you smothering her, and this was her way out? What clingy behaviors got you in trouble? What did being roommates have to do with it? What are the chances you'll repeat your mistakes with the next roommate/friend? If you were to trace your insecurities, where do you think you'll find the roots?
I know this veers toward victim-blaming. I also deplore silence as a means of ending relationships except when one party fears for his or her safety.
It's just that being wronged often provides — after time to grieve — useful information for preventing a next time.
Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com
Copyright 2012 Washington Post Writers Group
Low-graphic news index
Graphic-enabled home page