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by Abigail Van Buren

Stubborn Tot Plays Hard to Get With Frustrated Grandmother

DEAR ABBY: After 12 years on the West Coast, my husband and I moved back East last year with our 3-year-old son, "Adam." My parents, my husband's mom and our siblings live here, and we wanted Adam to know his family.

The problem is, our son has taken to everyone except my mother. He'll hug and kiss everyone but her. He kisses the others in front of her, but crosses his arms over his chest and says, "No!" or runs away if he's asked to kiss her.

At first, Mom said it was OK because Adam needed time to adjust to her. But it has been a year, and he has barely given her two pecks. She says Adam doesn't like her. But he plays with her and has fun with her. Mom is now hinting that I need to teach him to "respect" her. She has referred to him as a "little brat" to others (in front of me) when he refused to be affectionate. I think she's being childish.

I can't force my son to be affectionate with Grandma, and if I continue to press it, he may never be. What can I do to make Mom feel better? –- ADAM'S MOMMY

DEAR MOMMY: The subject of showing affection to Granny should be dropped. The harder you push your son, the more resistant he will become. Nor should your child be told to kiss anyone else. ("Kiss Auntie Abby! Kiss Uncle Walter!") Yech.

You say Adam enjoys playing and having fun with his grandmother. Has it occurred to you that he has turned his refusal to demonstrate affection to her into another game? Don't push. Let it happen. And please tell your mother not to let a 3-year-old ruin her day. He may be acting like a brat, but she's the grown-up, and she should be able to rise above it.