Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: Recently a 10-year-old reported to me that her friend’s daddy had slapped her on her bottom twice and also held her in a way that made her uncomfortable. The child has told him not to touch her or hold her, but he persisted. (The dad has two children.) The child has told me that her parents are friendly with this couple and that efforts to inform her folks about this “toucher” resulted in the father minimizing the events and dismissing them as “nothing.” When she told me, I informed her that no one has the right to touch a child against that child’s will, and if it persists, she’s to seek proper authorities by dialing 911. When she told her father what I had said, he became enraged and called me, screaming at me and also screaming at the child. He “blamed the victim” which is, in my mind, a very traumatic response to the child — who did nothing wrong. I’m deeply hurt and very conflicted about this whole thing and would like your advice. — Protective
DEAR PROTECTIVE: My concern with your advice to this child is that no 10-year-old should realistically be expected to know what the “proper authorities” are or to call 911 in this circumstance.
The child already was doing what she knows she is supposed to do, which is to tell her parents — and when they minimized it, tell another responsible adult (you) about what happened and how she feels about it. If you felt this incident rose to the level of alarm, you should call the police and/or Child Protective Services to report this, so they could investigate and make sure she is safe.
It seems this girl lives in a household where the parents shout first, ask questions later. I hope you can manage to stay close so she knows she always has someone who will take her seriously and do right by her.
DEAR AMY: My wife baby-sits for a 1-year-old toddler. We also have our own toddler. The little one whom she watches is generally a sweet child, but she is sick all the time. We found out yesterday that the baby’s 3-year-old brother (whom my wife does not baby-sit) has pneumonia. Still, their mother was considering taking both children to their separate baby-sitters the next day. This happens so frequently that our whole household is getting sick. I understand that toddlers are germ factories, but it seems pretty discourteous to haul your sick kids around for others to watch while they spread more germs. Secondly (and this may be a side effect of not feeling well), the little one can be very aggressive with our son. Two days ago she bit him hard enough to leave a mark for the remainder of the day. When this behavior happens, my son looks so confused and sad as to why someone is hitting/biting him, which in turn upsets my wife. How would you approach the child’s parents about the health issues and the need for discipline? — Concerned Daddy
DEAR CONCERNED: You don’t “discipline” a 1-year-old child. You teach her. Whenever she is aggressive, she should be taken away from the other child. The adult should make eye contact and tell her, “Don’t hit. Don’t bite. That hurt Jamie.” A 1-year-old may think this is a game of sorts, based on how the adults react to her when she is doing it.
In terms of the health issues, your wife should have a frank talk with the child’s parents. Your wife is responsible for this child for the bulk of the day — she has a responsibility to speak truthfully about her concerns, which should be focused on the health of their child.
DEAR AMY: I wanted to add my comment to the “No Thanks” problem experienced by so many. I was irritated that my granddaughter never bothered to thank me for birthday or Christmas gifts, checks, etc. After her first year in college I still hadn’t received thanks for very generous checks, so I decided enough was enough and for her birthday, sent a nice card. That’s all, just a card. To my amazement, I received an instant response from my granddaughter via email, thanking me profusely for the thoughtful and lovely card. I laughed for an hour. Finally got her attention! — Grandmom
DEAR GRANDMOM: One thing I like about this is that your granddaughter is actually demonstrating that on one level, it is not about the money.