Apologize to angry stepdaughter

My husband and I have been married 23 years. I have four stepchildren, all in their 40s and 50s.

Dear Annie: My husband and I have been married 23 years. I have four stepchildren, all in their 40s and 50s.

After a big family celebration several months ago, I noticed one of these children, “Trudie,” was no longer emailing mailing or calling.

My husband was unaware of it because she had continued to communicate with him. Recently he told me (in front of his relatives) that Trudie said she no longer wanted to have any contact with me because of the way I “treat her daddy.” When I asked for clarification, he said Trudie referred to what she had observed at that family celebration.

I was hosting that event for over 150 people, 64 of whom were staying all weekend.

I was busy, tired and stressed. I am aware of becoming exasperated with my husband once or twice when I tried to get him to help, but that’s about it. He says he doesn’t remember those times. When I asked the others about my behaviour, they said they only recall having a good time.

My husband reminded me that Trudie can be overly dramatic and has always craved attention. She is often unhappy with someone. Otherwise, though, she is very sweet.

My husband thinks he should tell Trudie that he doesn’t condone her attitude.

But Trudie is not in the best of health, and I would hate to have anything happen while she still carries such bad feelings.

Neither of us wants to contribute to a possible setback. Should I simply ignore this immature behaviour? — Concerned

Dear Concerned: Don’t ignore it, but don’t turn it into a major rift by getting into who is right or wrong. Trudie isn’t likely to respond well.

Dad should explain to his daughter that he wasn’t bothered at all by your “treatment” at the celebration, and you can apologize for unintentionally upsetting her.

Then make her feel important by asking her to forgive you. It’s a small concession for the sake of family harmony.

Dear Annie: Is it sexual harassment when your male boss walks behind you and sings, “Get your bootie” — but only when he’s sure nobody is around to hear him? I shrug it off, but it still bothers me. — Just Curious

Dear Curious: Yes, this is sexual harassment if he does it only when he walks behind a female. (If he likes to sing in the office and does this everywhere, it may be irritating, but it’s not harassment.)

Ask him to stop. If he won’t, start keeping a record — write down the date, time, location and circumstances — and present a copy to human resources or his supervisor. It’s time for him to grow up.

Dear Annie: As a child and adolescent psychiatrist, I must take issue with your answer to “Confused and Annoyed Teen,” who asked if parents remember what it was like to be a teenager.

While I agree it is the parents’ job to protect and teach, many parents confuse discipline with rude insults. (“We would never be that stupid.”)

It is not their job to insult their child. It is their job to help the child learn from the experience.

Sometimes parents, in frustration or misdirection, yell some very nasty things at their children.

Because they are the parents, these things ring true to the child whether fair or not.

This teen needs to sit down with the parents when everyone is calm and say very clearly that, yes, there need to be consequences for actions, but the hurtful things the parents are saying shouldn’t be part of them.

I remember fondly one mother who said to me, “Oh, doctor, my son is so much better now. I did exactly what you said.” “What was that?” “I stopped yelling at him.” — Caroline Fisher, M.D., Ph.D.

Dear Dr. Fisher: You are right that some parents, in their efforts to discipline, belittle their children. Thank you for saying that there are better, more effective ways to get the point across.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.

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