DEAR HARRIETTE: I bought an expensive gift for my daughter for her 16th birthday, and she took one look at it and burst into tears. I know her hormones are raging, but her behavior was so extreme. I asked her what was wrong. She ran out of the room without saying.
I was so angry and hurt. It took a lot for me to save up and buy her a gift, which, by the way, she said she wanted.
What am I to think about this? How should I follow up? So far, she has been sulking. It has been a couple of days now. I am at my wit's end. -- Deflated, Ann Arbor, Mich.
DEAR DEFLATED: Teenagers are known to sometimes have unexpected emotional reactions. That doesn't excuse your daughter's behavior, though.
Try not to take your daughter's behavior personally. Something is going on with her. Your gift may have triggered a memory or thought that was overwhelming for her.
Reach out to her with compassion. Tell her that it's time for the two of you to talk. Ask her to tell you about her birthday and what it feels like to have turned 16. Get her to talk to you about this pivotal point in her life. When she loosens up, ask her to tell you why she reacted so strongly to your gift.
Let her know that her behavior hurt your feelings and worried you. She needs to be reminded that you are a thinking, feeling person, too. This may help her to come back to center. If she continues to sulk, you may want to seek professional help to dig deeper and learn if she is having any serious emotional challenges.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I bring my lunch to work every day. It helps me to save money, and it makes it easier for me to eat healthfully. The downside is that my co-workers are always looking at my lunch, asking questions about my diet and sometimes even asking to taste my food. I don't like that. I spend a lot of time making sure that I have healthy meals each day -- not to share with others. How can I let them know they need to stop checking out my lunch? -- Private Diner, Grand Rapids, Mich.
DEAR PRIVATE DINER: I have a very different suggestion. Why not inspire the rest of the staff to eat in a healthier way? Suggest that one day you will talk to them more formally about the components of a healthy lunch and make recommendations for what they can bring from home. Some may like it. Others will probably back off.