DEAR ABBY: I am a single mother of a 14-year-old boy, "Todd," whom I have taught to be honest and open with me. Todd and I are best friends, which is rare to hear these days. He is very smart, active with anything to do with the outdoors, and he also does very well in school.
My problem is, Todd is so open with how he feels that he comes across as being rude, argumentative and disrespectful. He tells me that he's not trying to be, that he's just voicing his opinion and how he feels -- and that should not be wrong. In some ways, my son is right. But trying to teach him that there's a time and place for his opinions has proven extremely difficult.
I am proud to have a son I don't have to worry about in the sense of lying, stealing, running around getting into all kinds of trouble. At 14, you'd expect some kind of misbehavior. But when he does get into trouble, it's because of what he says -- not what he does.
How can I undo what I have done, and teach Todd that everything he thinks and feels should not fly out of his mouth the minute he has those thoughts and feelings? I'm scared he'll get into serious trouble if I can't teach him there's a time and place to voice his opinions. How can I make him understand the difference between what really needs to be expressed and what does not so it doesn't hinder his future? I mean, sharing your true feelings with your boss could get you fired, and telling your teachers they don't know what they're talking about can cause detentions that go on your record.
How can I tell my son to be quiet when all his life I have told him to just talk to me? -- FEELING LOST AND GUILTY IN THE USA
DEAR FEELING LOST AND GUILTY: Explain that honesty is a virtue -- unless it is used as a club to hurt others. Diplomacy is a skill that has to be learned. There is a time and place for everything, and before your son shoots off his mouth he should ask himself three questions: Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it true? Instruct him that he needs to apply that rule to his interactions with his teachers and contemporaries.
If the young man is unable to do that, he could benefit by being evaluated by a licensed mental health professional because he may need therapy or coaching in social skills.