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Subtlety Doesn't Cut It When Reasoning With 9-Year-Old Daughter

DEAR ABBY: My 9-year-old daughter has several friends whom we love and who are good buddies for her. However, the rules in their homes are different from those at ours. One friend in particular, "Sarah," eats a lot of junk food and watches more TV than we allow. When my daughter asks why she can't have chips and ice cream after school, or why we watch movies only on weekends, I remind her that good food and exercise make her healthy, and with less TV she does better in school.

I'm not interested in critiquing Sarah or her family, who are lovely people we really like. However, I do want to make the connection between unhealthy lifestyle choices and possible consequences because this is a subject we'll keep revisiting as my daughter grows up.

I have been trying to say things like, "Everyone makes their own decisions. This is why we do it this way," but at 9, my daughter sees things as pretty black or white. If our way is right, then their way must be wrong. I'm totally failing at subtlety. Is there a better approach that I could take to talking about this without invoking comparisons? -- LIFESTYLE CHOICES IN SOUTH DAKOTA

DEAR LIFESTYLE CHOICES: Do not attempt to debate this with your 9-year-old. If your daughter argues with you about your parenting style, tell her that different families have different standards and that you are doing what you think is right for yours. Period. If she needs more of an explanation, then fall back on the message you have been sending her, and in time she will understand.

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