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A Prying Parent and a Persuasive Son

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: I ask my fifth-grader obsessively about her day -- who did she eat lunch with? Who did she hang with on the playground? Where was Girl X? Who did Girl Y hang out with? She has always talked openly with me about everything, but she is starting to keep things to herself. I know that is supposed to happen, but I really love details. How do I satiate my own need to know while still respecting the privacy I know she needs? -- Nosey Parker

Dear Nosey: You are in for a long adolescence. Younger children tend to be more forthcoming about their day-to-day adventures. But as puberty ensues, they drift away from the home front and move closer to a private life.

There are several reasons your daughter may be blowing you off. First, she honestly doesn't care or notice who sits with whom and who plays foursquare on the playground. What may seem fascinating to you might be trivial and boring to her. Second, she interprets your questions as an intrusion. Maybe she is having social trouble and your questioning comes dangerously close to her fault line. She doesn't want to go there with you. Third, you've plum worn her out. She's sick of the third degree, and really, who can blame her?

Whatever the reason, clearly you need to change your tact. When parents push for intel, kids often clam up. But when parents take two steps back and act indifferent, kids open up on their own. Try to listen more than pry. Take your cues from what your daughter brings up. Also, try to talk while having dinner, playing a nice game of Blokus or driving in the car. While doing another activity, your daughter might be distracted enough to open up.

Dear Family Coach: My son is incredibly persuasive and stubborn. He comes up with an idea and doesn't like to take no for an answer. I try to stand firm when I'm against his idea. Recently, in feeling badly for my son, my husband said we need to say yes to something. Against my better judgment, my son is now getting a hoverboard. This is better than the dog he wanted or the tunnels he wanted to build through the walls. But I'm not happy. Did I have to give in? -- No-No

Dear No-no: You did not have to give in. In fact, it's the giving in that's the problem. Your son isn't incredibly persuasive. He's just a smart cookie. He has learned from experience that relentlessly proposing outlandish ideas occasionally wears you down enough for him to get what he wants, or at least some compromise. He is banking on the fact that you might feel badly for him. I imagine you and/or your husband are wondering at some point, "What if all of this saying no is hurting him somehow?"


He got you. There's nothing harmful in repeatedly saying no to dangerous or unreasonable proposals. Hang tough next time.

There is some good news. Your son is an idea man. He comes up with the big ideas. Most of them aren't necessarily any good. But he isn't discouraged. He's resilient, and one of those big ideas might just work out for him. The trick here is to foster his industriousness while setting reasonable limits. If you do stand firm and only give in to the ideas that make sense for your family, your son will more easily begin to accept no as an answer.


Dr. Catherine Pearlman is the author of "Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction." To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2018 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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