DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my husband and I are at work and our teen daughter is in school, we communicate with her via text message.
I have told my teen that she is at the top of my totem pole, and I respond promptly to her messages (like “Mom, what medicine can I take for my hives?” or “Mom, what time are you coming home?”) -- but that I feel like I am at the bottom of hers. She is more anxious about replying immediately to her peers than to her dad and me.
It is not uncommon for her to respond only in the evening to a text or question I asked in the morning. She has said she will be better, but things have not changed. Is the right way to teach her to do the same to her? That is, ignore her messages for hours?
GENTLE READER: What are you and your husband texting your daughter all day? “The house is on fire”? “You left your term paper on the kitchen table”? “We’re off to Las Vegas until Sunday -- key is under the lilac bush”?
Her own messages that you cite do require answers, and it would be spiteful to ignore them. But if yours are less immediate, Miss Manners is not surprised that your daughter does not treat them as urgent. The unfortunate result may be that when one actually is an emergency, she may ignore it as just part of the day’s bombardment of texts.
It is not disrespectful to you that your daughter’s attention is on her friends during her free time at school. Even the most dutiful and devoted children do not worry about and focus on their healthy parents as intently as parents may do in regard to their children.
Never mind the totem poles. What you should tell your daughter is that from now on, you and her father will not text her at school unless it is something that needs an immediate response, which you will require her to provide.