Twice the Advice

Dear Twins,

My neighbor across the hall in our apartment building has a crush on my daughter (she is 12, he is 18), and every Valentine’s Day he gives her a huge gift — like a giant box of chocolates. Last year he gave her an enormous cake that read “To My Valentine.” I want this to stop, but don’t want to hurt his feelings. How can I discourage this? — Overwhelmed

Kerry says: I’d have a talk with him. Tell him that your daughter is far too young to be receiving attention from an 18-year-old. Tell him if he refuses to stop, you will get an order of protection requiring him to stay away from her and he could be arrested if he violates that order.

Jacqueline says: I think Kerry’s being a little much. I suggest you be frank and honest with your neighbor. Tell him that although you appreciate his generosity, your daughter is far too young to be receiving intimate gifts from adults.

Dear Twins,

I hate Valentine’s Day, because of my 25-year-old daughter. She is fat — really fat. She’s never had a Valentine’s date. I feel guilty because I have Valentine’s Day plans with a gorgeous date (I’m divorced), and she’ll be staying home watching my youngest daughter. — Sexy Mom

Jacqueline says: Having your daughter stay in to babysit for you is not looking out for her best interest. Suggest she go out with friends or to a singles’ event and fork over the money for a babysitter. Your daughter will have a higher sense of self-worth being pro-active, rather than sitting in envy of her mother’s love life.

Kerry says: The way you talk about your daughter by calling her “really fat” and referring to yourself as “sexy mom” and your “gorgeous date” makes me shudder. I worry that you might be validating any self-hate she might have. Don’t pity her. If you want to help, ask if she would like to work out with you, and cook healthy, low-fat foods. Be a role model, but don’t shove it in her face.

Dear Twins,

For Valentine’s Day, my 12-year-old, sixth-grade son wants to take a sixth-grade girl, whom he’s “madly” in love with, to the movies, followed by soda and ice cream afterwards at a shop two doors away. Of course we would drive them there and pick them up. Do you think they’re too young to be left alone, or to go out on a date? — Growing Pains

Kerry says: I think that it’s fine, as long as they promise not to stray away from the area, and you pick them up shortly after the movie.

Jacqueline says: I disagree with Kerry. They are far too young to be going to the movies and out to dessert by themselves. A lot can happen in between the time you drop them off and pick them up. Furthermore, if you allow him the privilege of dating alone at age 12, what will it be like when he dates at age 13? 14? Get my drift? A 12-year-old is far too emotionally immature to understand the consequences of his actions.

Dear Twins,

I’ve been called to my son’s school twice now, as he’s been accused of stealing. However, the child accusing him is the neighborhood bully and full-fledged liar. Unfortunately, the principal doesn’t know this. My son, a fifth-grade student, emphatically denies stealing anything, and says that he has been set up. But the principal believes the other child. I believe my son, and I know he would never steal, and certainly not from this bully! How can I prove it? This will go on my son’s record! — Worried

Jacqueline says: Have a meeting with both your son and the principal, together, and iron this out once and for all. Ask the principal his reasoning as to why he believes the other child over yours. Look your son in the eye and tell him there will be consequences at home if he is being dishonest with you. Together, the three of you should come up with a solution.

Kerry says: This is not a major crisis. He’s only in the fifth grade. Make an appointment to see the principal with your son and explain this to him. I’m sure he’s reasonable and will take your point into consideration.

Dear Twins,

Our daughter has always been a model student, but now that she’s in junior high school, she’s hanging out with a “rougher” crowd, and she’s becoming like them. She talks rougher, dresses tough, skips school, and her grades are going way down. Even worse is her attitude toward her father and me. We don’t know how to handle her or how to turn this all around before it’s too late.

— Desperate

Jacqueline says: Your daughter is at the age where the opinions of her peers have more influence over her actions than those of her parents — that’s the bad part. This is most likely just a stage. I would lay down some ground rules: First and foremost, she better respect her parents. Secondly, she must maintain a certain grade average. If she skips school or doesn’t abide by these rules, she will be yanked out of that school altogether.

Kerry says: I agree. It’s your house, your rules. You and your husband need to sit her down and explain the rules that she must follow without exception. If she breaks these rules, ground her good. Period.

Dear Twins,

I am an African-American dad. I have a good job, and my kids have good lives. My 12-year-old son goes to a public school in Brooklyn. The problem is, he talks in that terrible ghetto slang. I can’t stand who he is becoming. I fear he will end up in a low-end job, because he won’t speak proper English. — At My Wits End

Jacqueline says: Not only does slang sound low-class, but it perpetuates a form of segregation. There is a form of inclusion for those who speak standard English and a sense of rejection for those who don’t. That said, your son is a teen and will grow out of this stage. You cannot stop the way he speaks, since you are not with him the majority of the day. Focus on his grades, which are much more important. His slang will cease as he matures and enters the adult working world.

Kerry says: I completely disagree. As I’ve said before, you are the parent, so you are the boss, and what you say goes. Tell him he must speak standard English or he is to be grounded. Continue to ground him whenever you hear it. Eventually he’ll stop, at least around you.

Dear Twins,

I have a daughter who is 17 and absolutely gorgeous, and recently she’s been getting a lot of tattoos — which I hate. She started off with a small heart on her ankle, without my consent, and I almost went crazy. She was forbidden to get anymore. Then she came home with two more, so I grounded her. But then she got another! I’ve explained that she’s ruining her body, and they can’t be removed, but her eyes just glaze over when I talk. She thinks it looks “cool,” but I’m terrified she’ll cover her entire body! — Need Help Fast

Jacqueline says: I’m betting that by the time this gets published, your daughter has added a few more. This is a tough one, because in 10 or 20 years, your daughter most likely will be mad at her hot-headed teenage self. Even I’m still annoyed I double-pierced my ears. But later in her life, she may ask you why you allowed her to ruin her body. Unfortunately, at this point, she doesn’t seem to respect your point of view. Have you tried actually sitting down and talking (without yelling)? Explain (more as a friend than as a preachy mother) that it is her body, but what she is doing to it now will affect her future and the way she sees herself. Is there any adult she looks up to that would be willing to talk to her? I’m afraid you’ll need to do everything short of locking her up until she gets it through her thick, 17-year-old skull that in order to live in your house, she must follow your rules. Period.

Kerry says: I agree with Jacqueline, because this is a tough one. It’s one of those situations where your daughter doesn’t have the foresight to understand that she’s ruining her body. And at this age, it’s almost impossible to reason with her, because she truly believes with a vengeance that you are being controlling, irrational and totally old-fashioned. Be reasonable, consistent and firm. Let her know, in a calm tone, that although you agree that a couple of tattoos may not be the end of the world, you believe she will regret the unsightliness of a slew of tattoos, especially when she’s older, and it looks ridiculous. Tell her when she’s 18 and old enough to live on her own, she can do as she pleases. For now, if she gets any more tattoos, she is grounded for a whole month; this includes no outside time with friends and no car privileges. Mean what you say and follow through. She’ll have so much more respect for you and will thank you when she’s older and wiser.

Dear Twins,

I don’t know who to talk to. My dad goes to weekly poker games on Thursdays, or so he says. I’m 17, and last week I followed him. I wish I didn’t. He did not go to the address he said he was going. A good-looking woman answered the door and they kissed on the mouth, and he quickly shut the door. I am sickened about it, especially about how easily he lied about the game when he got back. I feel so bad for my mom, and I now hate my dad. I want to tell her. What should I do? I’m about to explode!

— Hate My Dad

Jacqueline says: You need to address this to your father immediately, as your mental health depends on it. I would listen to him without judgment. I am not saying what he did was OK — it’s not. But like all of us, your dad is imperfect, and deserves to be fully listened to and understood. He also should be the one to talk to your mom. Hopefully, they can work this out, but be prepared that it might end up for the worse.

Kerry says: I agree with Jacqueline. Talk to your dad and tell him what you saw. Then give him a chance to speak and to apologize. Tell him that you would prefer that he talk to your mother about it, or you will have to. Then try to forgive him. In the end, he had no intentions of hurting anyone. It may just be the love your parents once shared is fading, and it’s time for them to move on.