Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Daughter's Excursion Stresses Reader

DEAR HARRIETTE: My 13-year-old daughter had a sleepover with her friend, and when I called to check in on her, they were headed out to Coney Island. I am out of town, and I was shocked. I asked if she had gotten permission from my husband, and she said she had permission to go “out.” I explained that “out” is different from traveling nearly an hour to a giant amusement park. She said she understood why I was unhappy.

I allowed her to go, since she was on the train on her way, but I’m wondering what kind of punishment she should be given to reinforce that she must ask before taking significant excursions. I know that this friend has an older sister and generally has more flexibility than I feel comfortable allowing my daughter. -- Reinforcing Boundaries, Brooklyn, New York

DEAR REINFORCING BOUNDARIES: The most immediate thing you could have done would have been to tell your daughter to go back home and not go to Coney Island, since she didn’t get permission in advance. That would have startled her into grasping that she had crossed a line without your blessing. Since you did not do that, you can talk to your daughter and explain to her why you were concerned. Be specific: When she spoke to your husband she was vague, which is a type of dishonesty. It is imperative that you know where she is when she is out and about without adult supervision. Finally, if she cannot follow your guidelines, she cannot hang out with this friend unsupervised anymore.

Nephew's Invitations Are Too Much for Reader

DEAR HARRIETTE: My nephew invites me to all of his sporting events. In a way, this is sweet. We love each other and are close. What gets me is that his dad rarely, if ever, shows up for any of these events. When I am unable to attend, my nephew gets upset with me and works to make me feel guilty. I feel like if his dad were more involved, the pressure would be less intense for me. What can I do to get his dad to step up and my nephew to cut me a break? -- Stretched, Dallas

DEAR STRETCHED: It is unlikely that you can influence your nephew’s dad if he isn’t taking responsibility for his son already. If you do have a relationship with him, however, you can make an effort. You can contact him and meet, preferably in person. Tell him how excited your nephew is about his athletics and how much he wants to have his family there to cheer him on. Add that your nephew has been pressuring you to show up every time, but you believe it would mean more to him for his dad to be there.

As far as your nephew goes, manage his expectations by reminding him how much you love him and telling him clearly that you cannot come to every game. Let him know in advance what you can attend. Remind him along the way so that he knows you are connected.

(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.)