Dear Annie: Normally I’m good at minding my own business, but when I see how my granddaughter, “Susie,” manipulates her mother (my daughter), I feel the urge to say something.
Susie is almost 12 and seems to be testing the limits in ways I would never have tolerated. She sasses her mother and dominates the conversation at the dinner table. When told to clear away her dirty dishes, she instead goes to the cupboard for a snack. Her discarded clothes are in every room of the house. When told to get ready for school, she turns on the TV. The bathroom floor is cluttered with whatever she tossed there. She even “forgets” to flush the toilet!
My daughter, with incredible patience, sees this behavior as typical for her age. I see Susie as a brat testing her power. Her father says little and makes himself scarce. I’m concerned that a child who should be learning habits that will serve her well in adulthood seems to have no more discipline than a toddler. My daughter, a teacher, insists she knows what she’s doing. So far I’ve kept my mouth shut. What do you advise? — Frustrated Granny
Dear Frustrated: When Susie is in your home, you can instruct her to pick up her clothes, turn off the TV, flush the toilet (heavens!) and clear her plate. Her behavior is not “typical.” It is excessive. While many 12-year-olds will test the limits of what Mom and Dad will tolerate, it doesn’t mean parents should shrug their shoulders and give up. The more the parents accept the more Susie will push. To Susie, if her parents don’t demand anything, it means they don’t care about her. The most you can do is suggest that your daughter discuss Susie’s behavior with her pediatrician, school counselor or a child psychologist for reassurance that she’s handling things in the best possible way.
Dear Annie: My friend “George” has a neighbor who is always watching. This neighbor peeks out from her curtains, apparently thinking no one can see her. If she is sitting outside, she listens in on George’s conversations. If George makes the slightest noise, she will instantly look to see what’s going on.
This neighbor also gossips with the surrounding neighbors. She is incredibly nosey and kind of bizarre. Any ideas about behavior like this? — Canada
Dear Canada: Sure. The neighbor is lonely, curious, bored and gossipy. George is likely one of many neighbors who provide something potentially interesting for her to focus on. She may be annoying, but she also is the same neighbor who will notice if someone tries to break into George’s house. She’s harmless. If you are feeling expansive, the next time you visit George, the two of you could stop by her house and say hello. Bring her some cookies. You’ll make her day.
Dear Annie: “Can’t Wait To Share New Home” said they are about to host their first housewarming party. They asked whether they should register for things they want and include the information on the invitations. You said they shouldn’t register, but if people should ask, they can make suggestions.
Seriously? Aren’t other people supposed to host these parties for you? — Incredulous on Cape Cod
Dear Incredulous. Actually, no. A housewarming is one type of party that you are supposed to host yourself to welcome your friends and family to your new abode and show it off. Registering is inappropriate, as is mentioning gifts on an invitation. But there is nothing wrong with making suggestions to those who ask and who are likely to bring you something anyway.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.