DEAR AMY: My parents emigrated from Taiwan in the ’60s and raised my two sisters and me in the stereotypical “Tiger Mom” style. My mom said that only As in school were acceptable. Bs were never good enough. Hence, my sisters and I made As on every single report card. My sisters and I were forced to play one to two hours of piano every single day, except on Christmas Day, or when on vacation. Fast-forward 30 years, and my sisters and I are all successful physicians in happy marriages and now raising kids of our own. My relationship with my mom is mostly positive, but will always be constrained by cultural and generational gaps. I have a 16-year-old son who is now rebelling against getting As (Bs are good enough), against practicing piano (even though he occasionally loves it), and refuses to read books. He just wants to hang with friends, party or stare at his screen. I see him wasting his potential and not willing to grind it out (like I did). My husband is very successful, but comes from a hands-off upbringing. My mom thinks I can play hard ball and totally take the phone away, unless he makes the As, plays two hours of piano, etc. We have already tried to tie actions to outcomes, but I’m frankly tired of all the fighting and yelling. Your opinion?
DEAR CUB: You can definitely play hard ball if you want to, but you don’t seem to want to.
In my view, if your son has been taking lessons and playing piano for two hours a day for several years, then — unless he is headed to a career as a classical musician — he should be allowed to play whenever he wants to. There: Your son has just gained two extra hours each day to study, participate in sports or theater or get an after-school job.
If he is reading for school, then he is reading. If he is capable of getting As and this is important to you, then you should tie a specific consequence to his grades.
Partying, however, is non-negotiable. Partying is what you go to the mat over.
You should definitely limit screen time, eat supper together as a family (no screens), and yes — listen, as well as lecture.
At your son’s age, friends are important influencers. You are not among his friends. You are his parents. Now it’s time to act like it.
DEAR AMY: I have a wonderful wife and daughter, 26 years old, who lives with us. We have a great marriage and all get along well, but I do have a vexing problem. My daughter suffers from frequent migraines (once or twice a month). The issue concerns her behavior when she is in the midst of one. She sometimes treats me as if I don’t exist. For example, tonight I asked if she would like some dinner, but she did not respond at all. No voice, no body language, no acknowledgment. After I had eaten, I asked her again, with similar results. She never responds to her mother this way. This has happened several times over the years. Most of the time I just back off and let things be. But occasionally I feel very angry. I guess it hurts to feel unacknowledged. I feel like retaliating and treating her as if she does not exist. I understand intellectually what a migraine sufferer goes through. My wife also suffers from them occasionally (although she doesn’t ignore me during an attack); I have 40 years of observation to draw from. Can you suggest a constructive way to deal with this issue?
DEAR UPSET: You seem to have anchored pretty firmly to being upset about something that doesn’t happen very often.
When your daughter is feeling well, you should tell her exactly how you feel when she ignores you. Ask her if she can imagine how this feels, and ask her to be mindful of how she treats others in the household. And yes, if this behavior continues, then respond in kind on one occasion, not to retaliate, but to demonstrate what it feels like to be disregarded.
DEAR AMY: I notice that you mention birth control quite often in your answers. I’m offended by your casual recommendation that people should prevent children from being born.
DEAR OFFENDED: If my recommendation helps to prevent even one pregnancy to an overwhelmed person in an unhealthy relationship who doesn’t want to have children, then it is worth it. Tolerating your offense is the price I’m willing to pay.