Parents' Hair-Trigger Anger Keeps Teen At A Distance

Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 15-year-old student who reads your column every day, and I hope you can help me.

I want to be closer to my parents. They yell at my siblings and me and call us names. It hurts me very much. If we make a mistake -- even a little one -- or forget our chores, we can expect to be insulted, yelled at, etc. I have learned to tune them out, but I don't understand how such intelligent people like my parents can act this way.

Years ago, I decided to talk to them about it, but that was seen as an act of defiance. My parents, especially my father, can't take constructive criticism and respond with more yelling.

Each of our arguments leaves me upset for days. But I still believe I need to do something. I want to be close to them before it's too late, but I have lost so much respect and trust for them, and they probably feel the same.

Please, Abby, I don't know what to do. I would greatly appreciate your advice, although I know you are very busy. Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. -- HOPEFUL IN NEW YORK

DEAR HOPEFUL: You have my sympathy. Harsh words can leave wounds that last longer than physical bruises. Some parents develop hair-trigger tempers when they are under financial pressure. Others, without realizing it, model their behavior on the way their parents raised them and overreact when their children make mistakes.

Because you haven't been able to get through to your father, talk to a trusted adult relative about the fact that you would like to be closer to your parents but don't know how. If they hear it from another adult, they might be more open to the message.


DEAR ABBY: I am a 26-year-old mother of a 13-month-old daughter, "Lissa." I am a "by-the-book" mom. I'm still breastfeeding and I am strict about what I allow my daughter to eat. She has just barely started to eat table food.

I don't want my child to have bad eating habits, so I try to give her only healthy items at dinnertime. Her dad, on the other hand, thinks it's funny to give her junk, including sugar. When she was only 2 months old, I caught him giving her licorice. The other day, it was soda and ice cream. I don't agree with this, and it's causing us a lot of fights.

When we sit down to dinner, I have Lissa's meal set aside. But before I can sit down, her dad starts giving her things off his plate and then she won't eat her dinner. I have told him I don't like it, but he doesn't understand that I want to teach her good eating habits.

Am I wrong in trying so hard? Or should I just give up and let her eat junk? -- TRYING MY BEST IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR TRYING: Parenting is supposed to be a team sport and I'm more concerned about the fact that Lissa's dad is undercutting you than what's going into her mouth right now. If he continues, in another year or two, your little girl will regard him as a pushover and you as a big meanie.

You may need an impartial mediator to get through to Lissa's father, and the perfect person to do that is your child's pediatrician. Let the doctor tell Daddy that the more she is given sweets, the more she'll crave them.

The only thing about your approach that might be of concern to me is your calling yourself a "by-the-book" mother. A conscientious parent not only goes by the book and is consistent, but she also uses her head and listens to her heart. I hope you will remember that.


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.


What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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