Dear Annie: I need your advice. My very musically gifted high school senior appears to want to go to college and major in music performance. But he is refusing to visit colleges. He won't discuss why; he just gets very belligerent when the subject comes up and won't expand on any reasons. Should I let it be or make the contacts for him and force him to go? -- Music Man's Mom
Dear Music Man's Mom: It's possible that your son is afraid to leave home -- which would show his intelligence; it's a big scary world out there. Courage arises not when we suppress our fears but when we find something so worthwhile we temporarily forget them. So do what you can to help him find exciting possibilities. There are many amazing colleges that specialize in music, which you can research together. See whether any schools within a short driving distance have solid music programs. In the end, though, this is his search process, and he should take the lead. It's the first step he'll take as an independent adult, and it's healthy for him to take ownership of the decision.
Dear Annie: I read your advice column every day and love it. I am 64 years old and have been very happily married for 45 years.
I read about the grumpy old dad whom "Hurt Daughter in New Hampshire" has to deal with. I am part of a local association mostly made up of older men. We tend to be grumpy. Why? We hurt. We have health issues. We see changes in the world around us that we don't appreciate. We didn't realize that retirement was going to make us feel unneeded. We are not attractive anymore. Many have been hurt from previous failed marriages and relationships, so they don't trust anyone anymore.
This is what I have learned about how to stop a grumpy old man in his tracks and, if not change, at least realize how he's acting. I first empathize, telling him I feel his pain, and then I encourage him to not take his pain out on other people. That friendliness and kindness breeds more of the same. But grumpiness and meanness will only make things worse.
When that doesn't work (and it usually doesn't), then I go at him by confronting his hypocrisy: "You are angry with everyone else for all kinds of things, but by being that way, you are acting like a spoiled brat who needs discipline. Get over it! You are a grown man who knows how to act maturely and friendly. Show love even if you don't feel it. Change or get used to being rejected."
This works for most guys. It's the language they understand. They will probably dislike the one who says it to them, but everyone else around them will begin to see the change and appreciate it. I do not let my pain and discouragement affect my actions. -- Father, Grandfather, Husband, Pastor
Dear FGHP: Empathy and honesty are great virtues and useful tools. Thank you for your tips.
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