Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Dad Keeps Bashing Kids' Lack of Accomplishments

DEAR HARRIETTE: My father has an issue of saying the wrong things at the wrong time. He does not have a filter, and he often comes off as offensive when he speaks. Specifically, he does this with my siblings and me.

All three of us have been having a hard time finding good jobs and getting on our feet. My twin and I have been out of college for a few months. Our brother has been out of school for a little more than a year, and it’s rough right now. I am beginning to doubt myself, and it doesn’t help how my father talks about us.

When my dad talks with others, he will tell them of our failures in life instead of accomplishments, almost as if he is bashing us. This makes me feel as though he is spreading his true feelings of disappointment with where we are in life with anyone who will listen. How can I get my dad to stop talking bad about us? -- Stop Bad-Mouthing Us

DEAR STOP BAD-MOUTHING US: Consult your siblings to learn if they would like to join you in talking to your father. Either with them or independently, sit down with your father and tell him that you are struggling to find work -- even though you are trying really hard to find a job. Tell him that it hurts your feelings when he talks badly about you and your siblings to other people. Admit that you are not feeling very confident right now and ask if he knows anyone who may be looking to hire. Tell him that you need him to spread good news about you and your siblings as that may attract the right opportunity for you. Point out that if he keeps telling people about your shortcomings, it will not help you to succeed. Ask him to support you by singing your praises -- or at least not spreading bad news about you.

DEAR HARRIETTE: A family friend who used to spend lots of time with us basically disappeared a few years ago. Whenever we have invited her to come over, she has made some excuse and hasn’t shown up. We finally got to see her this Easter.

I had a moment when just the two of us were in the kitchen talking, and I asked her what happened. At first, she didn’t want to tell me, but then she said that my mother had said something hurtful to her, basically accusing her of being a taker when in reality she had been the generous one in the situation that was in question. She said she felt judged and hurt, so she walked away. I asked her if she would be able to forgive my mother, who is elderly and sometimes says the wrong thing. I told her how much we miss her and love her and want her to be part of the family again. Do you think I should tell my mother what happened? Should the rest of the family be told the truth? -- Welcome Back

DEAR WELCOME BACK: It’s probably smart to tell key family members what happened so that they are sensitive to your friend if she does decide to come back into the fold. Tell your mother only if you think she will understand and be able to apologize. If she is at the age and state of mind that it may not sink in, let her be. Just do your best to make the family friend feel comfortable.

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