Question: I have been with my boyfriend for over two years. He often complains about my seventeen-year-old daughter. When we’re together she will sometimes tease him or say something that bothers him, and he will get up and leave, then call me and tell me why he left. I have spoken with my daughter and she doesn’t feel that she’s done anything wrong. What should I do? ...Cherise
Answer: You say that your daughter doesn’t feel that she has done anything wrong. What do you think? Is what she said acceptable, or is it not? Her judgment, in this case, means very little. Teenagers almost always think their words and deeds are acceptable, so your daughter’s opinion on the matter will likely not be objective. And what exactly bothers your boyfriend about what your daughter says to him? Is he being overly-sensitive, or do her words have a sarcastic, condescending tone that you are used to, but a childless adult may not be?
And one more thing. You say she teases your boyfriend. Does he reciprocate? And is this teasing in fun or is it mean-spirited? If, for example, she pokes fun at his receding hairline, belly, or occupation, would his commenting in a similar manner about her weight, complexion or scholastic status be embraced as “all-in-good-fun?” And before you say, “but he’s an adult, she’s just a child,” I say, “exactly.” As a child, your child, she should automatically be respectful when addressing him for two reasons: 1) Because he is important to you; and 2) Because he is an adult. You see, if he feels insulted by her words and actions and you do nothing to correct her, he probably feels that you approve of what she says. And he knows he can’t respond in kind, because then he would be perceived as a bully. So he may feel powerless and impotent. He can do nothing but endure your daughter's jabs or leave. And it appears that he regularly chooses the latter.
On the other hand, if your daughter is, in fact, respectful and polite in her dealings with your guy, and he is just over-reacting, then the issue is his. You probably should talk to him at length (and in private) and get to the source of his discontent. If, however, your daughter’s comments are out-of-line, then you need to instruct her on proper etiquette when dealing with your boyfriend and adults in general. And most importantly correct her immediately if she engages in similar unacceptable behavior in the future.
© 2010 David M. Matthews. All Rights Reserved.