DEAR AMY: Help! Soon, my wife and I will be spending our annual week at the beach with our daughter (single mom) and her 8-year-old son. Also present will be our son, his wife, and their two daughters. My grandson’s social behavior (mostly when he’s with his mom) is, in my opinion, atrocious for an 8-year-old. At the table he pouts, plays with his food, leaves the table, returns, picks food from his mom’s plate, etc. Often, when out in public, he still throws temper tantrums until his mom bribes and threatens, and finally gives in. We know there is an issue with no father figure, but this young man is now 8, and the days of bribing, threats and temper tantrums should be over. Interestingly, when this young man is alone, with me, my son, or both of us, his behavior is exemplary. In anticipation of bad behavior, my son and I want to confront him, in a gentle way, at the first outburst. Would it be appropriate for us to ask to be excused from the group, go to a private room, and just call this young man out? Or, should we just do our best to ignore it? Honestly, if I have to live with this young man and his behavior for a week, this will be the last trip together for us, and we’ve been making this trip for more than 25 years.
DEAR PAPPA: This boy is not a “young man.” He is a boy. He is a challenging child, for sure, but please remember that he is still a child, in challenging circumstances.
You and your son should spend lots of alone-time with him while you’re at the beach. Let him choose some things he wants to do, and also include him in some of the rituals you and your son enjoy during your time together. Basically, bring this boy into the “guy” fold, and demonstrate pro-social, polite and respectful behaviors that he can emulate.
Please understand that even if you’re not aware of it, he is watching you. He may also be testing you, so work very hard to be patient.
Start your evening meals by going around the table, where each person says what the best thing was that day. Praise your grandson’s good behavior in front of other people: “Wow, ‘Charlie’ is such a pleasure to be with! He is such a helper!”
Ask your daughter if she would be OK with you and your son taking him from the table (I appreciate your idea, but my own instinct is that this would not work out well).
Your daughter is the one you and your son should speak with (privately) about her parenting. A lot of parents have been helped using the techniques described in “1-2-3 Magic: 3-Step Discipline for Calm, Effective, and Happy Parenting,” by Thomas Phelan (2016, Sourcebooks). Read this book, and share it with your daughter.
DEAR AMY: Recently, while in a large social gathering, my young child pointed to a woman and teased, “You’re fat!” I was mortified. My child was a distance from me, and I yelled out, “Stop it.” Then, as the kids ran off in another direction, I proceeded as if nothing happened. Later in private, I sat down with my child. We discussed how people come in different heights, different colors, different sizes. He acknowledged it would be hurtful if someone teased him the same way. Sadly, this woman excused herself from the gathering quickly. I’m certain the incident was humiliating. This woman is a valued friend and someone we see regularly. I’ve considered trying to apologize, but it seems like it’d just be a reminder of what happened. Do I keep pretending it didn’t happen? I feel just awful.
DEAR MORTIFIED: Contact your friend. Tell her that your child’s behavior in that moment was cruel and embarrassing. Tell her that you have spoken to him, that he is sorry, and that you assume he has learned his lesson. Say that you value your friendship and that anything that hurts her, hurts you. Ask for her forgiveness.
DEAR AMY: “Concerned Aunt and Cousin” were worried about a niece, who used other people’s photos on social media, claiming them as her own. I am a professional photographer. Thank you so much for underscoring that it is a crime to steal other people’s material.
DEAR BEEN THERE: Artists of all kinds have their copyrighted material stolen. It is wrong, and a crime.