Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Unsure How to Respond to Mean Girl

DEAR HARRIETTE: I just learned that high school never ends. Years after graduating, one of the “mean girls” in my grade reached out to me. She was asking about my experience volunteering at an organization and wondered if I could recommend her. I haven’t responded yet, and I am unsure if I should even bother. Do I give this mean girl the benefit of the doubt? I haven’t even seen her in years. -- New Leaf, Towson, Maryland

DEAR NEW LEAF: This simple call has clearly unnerved you. Before you do anything, take a moment to observe how you feel after having been reached by a “mean girl” from your past. Ask yourself if you feel comfortable recommending her for anything. This would require you being able to speak to the woman’s character, given that you wouldn’t know about her work ethics.

Finally, do you feel capable of confronting her about her behavior toward you when you were younger? If you do not feel strong enough, interested enough or prepared to stand up to this woman, you should leave it alone. I can tell you, though, that if you are able to have an honest conversation where you claim your power as an adult and do not let her get under your skin, you will have the opportunity to tell her how rude and mean she was during your youth, how you didn’t appreciate her behavior toward you and that you need to know more about who she has become before you would ever consider recommending her for anything. Just be sure to listen after you state your case.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I baby-sit for a child who is afraid of the dark -- so much so that he prolongs bedtime for hours. There have been times his parents have come home, and he is still awake. They are unhappy, and I am unsure of what to do. Their son isn’t well behaved, and has threatened to tell his parents I beat him if I try to keep him in his room. The cash I make from this gig is great, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around if his parents come home to him running around at 11 p.m. Should I explain to them why he isn’t sleeping and why I am not more forceful with him? -- Lights Off, Denver

DEAR LIGHTS OFF: Try helping this child get to sleep with the lights on. Stop fighting him. Whatever his psychological issue is, you are not equipped to handle that, but you can attempt to allow for what he says is an impediment. Sit with him in a dimly lit room that is still illuminated. Read a book with him. Sing songs with him. Figure out fun, quiet things you can do together that will occupy his mind without stimulating him.

If he continues to misbehave, figure out a way to record his behavior without his knowledge. Use your cellphone or another small recorder that is out of his line of sight. Then present the footage to his parents so they can see for themselves how uncontrollable he is. Ask the parents for guidance on how to manage their child better.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)