Sticky Parenting Situations Solved

In honor of Mother's Day, Peggy Post tackles your most vexing moments, from teens who curse like crazy to parents who pick up their little darlings a couple of hours late.

Q: I'm a working mom with

friends who stay home with the kids. How do I respond to comments like "I didn't have my son to let someone else raise him"?

A: This is one of those touchy topics, with moms on either side often trying to justify their choices. The comment above can slip out before the stay-at-home mom even thinks about it. That doesn't make it OK, but remember: You know you're raising your kids. Can't let the comment lie? Try, "To be clear, I do raise my kids." And don't overlook the value of befriending other working moms.

Q: How should I reply when another mom asks how my daughter did on the SAT? I'm shocked that anyone would even ask!

There's absolutely no need to answer, whether the question comes from a close pal or a competitive neighbor. Just say: "She did fine; thanks for asking," or "Thanks for your interest, but I don't like to share that info, since she's a private kid. I'll keep you posted on her college choice, though." Done!

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Q: People ask me, "How much did it cost to adopt your child?" and "Why did her real (!!) parents give her up?" What can I say to these rude people?

Wow, these questions take nosiness up a notch! Try a redirect: "If you're interested in learning more about international adoption, I can steer you to the agency that helped us find Thalia." If they persist, say, as graciously as you can, "Oh, I make it a rule not to discuss money," or "Actually, I am her 'real' parent." That latter bit of truth might stop the inquirer right in her tracks!

Q: How late can you cancel o

n a babysitter - say, if your child gets sick or if your plans change a couple of hours before she's due to arrive - without having to pay her?

A: Twenty-four hours' notice is standard if you're not going to pay. When it's a last-minute cancellation, call and explain - and consider providing some compensation. Even if there isn't major local competition for good babysitters, why upset one whom you're happy with and rely upon? Try giving $10 or so for a short-notice cancellation; you will surely find it to be a good investment.

Q: My 14-year-old's best pal curses nonstop. I've asked him not to do that at our house, but no luck. Help!

A: The next time it happens, sit down with the friend - right at your kitchen table - and say, "I love having you here, but we have a problem. I've asked you several times to stop cursing. If you can't change your behavior in our house, I'm unfortunately going to have to ask you to leave. Can you work with me to fix this situation?" Then, the next time he curses in your house, send him home as soon as is practical.

If you want to involve his parents, tread lightly. Say: "I'm glad the boys are such good friends, but do you notice that Kevin curses? Can we all work to help the boys avoid bad language?"

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Q: Are those "fill-in-the-blank" thank-you cards acceptable for kids to use or not?

Only for the very young; if your child can write sentences, use blank cards. Suggest a message like, "Dear Aunt Sue, The red truck is so fun. Thanks! Hope to see you soon. Love, Josh."

Q: How do you tell another child's parent that when your child is at his house, he may not play the violent video games that family's kid does - without sounding judgmental?

The best response is to simply have the other child visit your house instead. If you still want to address the issue with the other parent, put the onus on yourself; say, "I have a thing about violent video games for Jimmy. I'd rather he not play them; do you mind? I hope you can understand."

Q: My 13-year-old daughter has a friend whose mom always picks her up from our house late, especially at night. What's your advice?

You could drive the daughter home, but only if you know that a parent or another responsible adult is there to be with her. While unfair to you, it would solve the immediate problem. Another option: Talk to the mother when she finally does arrive. Your script: "We love having Abby here, but we needed her to be picked up by 9 P.M. tonight, and it's a problem that she was waiting here so long. In the future, I'd really appreciate better planning for the end of the girls' visits; I want them to keep spending time together. They really enjoy it."

Q: At a playground recently, a child who was playing very roughly made my 5-year-old son cry. The parent brushed it off and didn't discipline her son. I was too furious to speak. What would have been the proper way to respond?

A: You ask, what's "proper"? I'd say whatever stops the problem as promptly as possible! Don't stand on ceremony for the sake of being polite; when you see rough play brewing, you can say to the other parent, "There they go again. Let's stop the shoving before it gets out of hand" as you head toward the kids. If she doesn't join you, forge ahead, saying, "Hey, no hitting!"

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