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Trying to 'fix' teen ineffective, sends wrong message

While I'm away, readers give the advice.

On persuading an overweight child to tackle the weight problem

B.B.: I've struggled with weight all my life. I was also a foster parent for 20 years. I couldn't reason with these kids, and they'd already been yelled at and shamed enough to last a lifetime. I learned (from family therapists) the value of positive reinforcement and of teaching by example, as well as of setting the mood and attitude in my home. Once they wanted to be part of a group (our family) they would change behavior to be more acceptable to that group. When the behavior begins to change, you reinforce it with compliments and smiles.

I took in those unlovely, badly behaved, needy children and gradually taught them "social skills" so that they were easier for others to accept, and bit by bit they became more lovable and more lovely inside and out. It's a long process — but it works.

Too many parents try to "fix" their children after they are teens, which only teaches them that they are not good enough. By the time they're 20, you can only do two things without harm: Listen endlessly, and set a good example.

On unfaithful spouses

C.: I was recently dumped by a spouse of 25 years for another woman. After he left I found out that he was a serial cheater and a liar, too, of course. The magnitude of the betrayal clobbered me, our children, his new mistress' family too.

Deception cannot be allowed to gain a foothold in a marriage; it festers and breeds more damage. If he had been honest with me from the beginning, his insecurities could have been addressed, and either our marriage would have grown closer or we would have gone separate ways. Both good outcomes. But he took that choice from me, and that was not fair. He repeatedly exposed me to the possibility of STDs — not okay. He stopped communicating, which drove us apart.

No, it is never okay to hide an affair. The spouse has a right to know what is happening in her/his life and her/his body and to make an informed choice, just as he made a choice when he unzipped. If sex is "no big deal," then why not own it?

Two years and much upheaval later, I only wish I had known earlier. My life is so much better without my ex in it. I thought his distance and hostility were my fault. They weren't. He wasted my time, and that is all any of us has.

On being newly single and pursuing love

A.: I, too, am divorced, without dry ink. When my husband finally moved out, the marriage had been dead for years. Separate bedrooms for most of the marriage. So, when we finally physically separated, we had already been emotionally separated for years. There was very little grieving to be done. I felt only relief.

I liken the split to the death of my father; I knew for 10 years that my father was dying. At the end of his long battle, I was sad, but relieved he was free of pain. I had done so much grieving along the way that, at the end, I was done.

That's how I felt about my marriage. I did not need another six months or a year (or whatever other people deem socially appropriate) to grieve or figure out who I am or anything like that. I was ready for a partner and someone in my life almost immediately. I don't care what other people think about it. Other people didn't sleep in the guest room for eight years.

Trying to 'fix' teen ineffective, sends wrong message 06/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 17, 2011 4:47pm]
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