Sangita Patel is Streets of Toronto’s new advice columnist and is an entertainment reporter with ET Canada. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two daughters.
Dear Sangita: My kid is in high school and has a boyfriend I am frankly not a fan of. Nothing horrible. I can just tell he’s not a good fit for her: He’s not attentive. He talks over her, is condescending and speaks very rudely about his own parents in a way I worry will rub off on her. Do I say something? Hope she realizes it on her own? — Begging for a break-up
Dear Begging: I have a teenager right now, a younger daughter who is 13. One of the things I started doing with them, even when they were little at the age of two, if something went wrong or there was something questionable, I would put it in their court. I would say to them, what do you think of the situation? What are your thoughts about what’s going on? So as a mother, you wouldn’t say, “This guy’s not great for you.” It’s more like, “How did you feel when he said this to you? How did it make you feel?” That starts the conversation on their side, right? It makes them realize they have ownership of the situation. I’m never going to go to my kids and say, “I think this is wrong.” It’s more like, “Why do you think this is questionable? Why do you think we need to sit down and talk about this?”
My little one, when she was only about two or three years old, she said, “Well, Mom, I need to get myself a time out.” And she would go sit in the corner by herself and think through it. It works like a charm. I do that now, to this day. And they have ownership of it. So I’m sure this girl knows how rude this boy is being to her, how condescending. Every girl has their instincts; you know how you feel. So as a mother, I think it’s important that you don’t just say, “This is wrong.” It’s more of asking, “Why do you think this might be wrong?”
It is important to understand that you have this incredible ability to speak to your kids. You have the ability to communicate — I don’t talk like this with my kids every day, but you know, when we do talk, there’s that power of communication that we built.
Now, you can’t control what he’s going to say about his parents; he’s allowed to do that. It sounds like you’re worried about the boyfriend, but you’re also worried about how it’s going to reflect on you. As a parent, you just need to worry about how your kids are doing. You just want to get to the bottom of the issue. And that issue is the way her boyfriend treats her and acknowledging that it’s not right. It sounds like you’ve watched him talk to your daughter this way, and if that’s the case, she knows you’ve seen it already. I have a feeling she’s probably brushing it off, saying he’s just that kind of guy. But if you put it in her court to acknowledge it, I think you’ll get a surprising reaction from your daughter.
Dear Sangita: How would you deal with your husband not listening to your advice, but he’ll listen to his sisters? — Ignored and annoyed
Dear Ignored: This is a tough one. This is about breaking old habits. He’s been with his sisters since they were younger. And maybe there was a lot of trust between them, and he listens to his sisters. Maybe the question is who gives better advice on the given topic? Maybe his sisters give him better advice. Maybe he is the great guy that he is because he has great people that he can talk to. Of course, you can’t say not to listen to his sisters; clearly he’s close to them. I would say, give your advice and leave it at that and let your husband actually pick what advice he wants to go with. He has this incredible relationship with his sisters, but he also has this incredible relationship with you, and maybe certain advice would be better from you or maybe some advice better from his sisters.
Though it might not feel this way, it’s habit — your husband turns to his sisters because it’s what he’s used to. You might be feeling left out and feeling like you want your husband to turn to you. But that’s not what a relationship is about. You want your husband to get the best advice. And if that comes from his sisters, maybe that’s the advice he needs.
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