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Ask Dr. Gott 12/21

Parents who try to be friends with kids often lose control

DEAR ABBY: Here I go, sounding like an old fogy, but "Feeling Lost and Guilty" (11/5), who said she and her loudmouthed, snotty son are "best friends," has brought her problem on herself. The No. 1 problem of parents today is that they try to be friends with their children rather than parents. Back when I was his age, parents were parents to their children — not friends. There is a difference!
    She asked how to undo what she has done. She now knows there is a difference between being a parent and being a friend, something she should have realized 14 years ago.
    I see that all too often in parents today, including my own daughter, whose teenage daughters walk all over her because "it's easier and less stressful" to allow it than provide guidance. In cases like this, the cart is down the path and the horse is still in the barn. — DISAPPOINTED GRANDFATHER, EASTON, PA.
    DEAR DISAPPOINTED: You are correct in saying that some parents shirk their responsibility by refusing to be firm with their children as well as responsible role models. However, before painting all parents of children with social problems with the same broad brush, please read on:
    DEAR ABBY: Thank you for advising the mother of "Todd," the teen who doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut, to seek an evaluation. If the boy has a problem with empathy, it could be that he has Asperger's syndrome, an increasingly more common form of mild autism. This is a social disability, often more noticeable in the teenage years, when social expectations are more sophisticated. I should know — I am a school psychologist and also the mother of a 13-year-old with Asperger's. — MOM IN BERKELEY, CALIF.
    DEAR ABBY: It's time that mother, whose son hasn't learned that "discretion is the better part of valor," teach her son "active listening" skills. These include reading body language and nonverbal cues, withholding opinions until all facts are in, and learning to discern when someone actually wants to hear our opinion vs. just wanting to vent. (I have had some really bad employers who could have benefited from that last one.)
    I learned active listening skills more than 30 years ago as a peer counselor in junior high school, and while I was able to adapt some of the skills immediately, others have taken literally decades to sink in. However, this is why we plant seeds. Some bloom right away, while others take time to germinate. — HAPPY ACTIVE LISTENER
    DEAR ABBY: My son has Asperger's, and one of the traits of this condition is the person is very literal in his or her speech and usually says whatever comes to mind. These young people do not understand the social taboo of being brutally honest. (I am not saying that her child has Asperger's syndrome.) We have to try to teach our kids to not say everything that comes to mind in public as well.
    One method that I have found helpful is social role playing. That mother can make up situations and role-play how her son might respond so that the other person's feelings are not hurt. We have to practice with our kids. This is not a "common sense" that is learned just by mimicking what others do.
    These children often do not understand the "little white lies" that we tell in polite society. On the other hand, if you want an honest answer as to whether you look fat, just ask an Aspie! — PROUD MOTHER OF AN ASPIE IN MONTANA

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