Ask Amy: Host wants to establish no-phone zone

May 23, 2012

DEAR AMY: I have four mostly grown children ages 14 to 19. They don’t text at the table because they know it isn’t tolerated in our home.

I have a friend with whom our family often shares meals. Her mostly grown children of similar ages do text at the table, both in her home and at ours.

This is not okay with me in my home. How do I politely and kindly tell my friend that the whole family is welcome but I do not welcome telephones at the table?

If you tell me to just tolerate this rudeness for the sake of the friendship, I will. This friendship is golden. -- Old-Fashioned Mom

DEAR MOM: There is no reason to tolerate rudeness when it could be easily and politely averted.

If you are such close friends with this other family that you regularly share meals, you should also feel comfortable saying to all of the kids, “Guys, let’s put the phones away while we’re at dinner. We’re turning our dinner table into a ‘no-phone zone.’”

Obviously, this household rule would extend only to the confines of your own table. At your friend’s house, she sets the standard.

DEAR AMY: I snooped on my boyfriend’s Facebook account recently and found a drunken message to another girl stating that she was “very cute.”

She was kind and told him he should be ashamed of himself, to which he replied that he was and that he had never done anything like this before.

My heart sank when I saw this exchange. I admit that I should definitely not have been snooping, but regardless — he shouldn’t have anything to hide!

I am torn because I don’t want to admit I was snooping but I feel he should know how much he hurt me. I am so confused. -- Ashamed of Snooping

DEAR ASHAMED: You should definitely tell your boyfriend that you were snooping — this way he can have a heads-up that you will violate his privacy when it suits you and then you’ll blame him for what you find.

You had no reason or justification for snooping other than that you felt like it. He should know that, just as he lacks a certain amount of self-control when he’s had a beer or three, you also lack self-control.

Come clean, throw yourself at his mercy and talk this out. But you should check your self-righteous attitude toward his behavior, because in the scheme of things, what you did could be considered more serious than what he did.

DEAR AMY: I am responding to the letter in your column from “Angry,” the teen being bullied by a teacher at school.

I learned a lesson about bullies that I taught my kids when they were still toddlers. I, too, had weight issues, and I got tired of people deriding me about it. One day I responded, “You are hurting my feelings.”

I said this in a level (but quite audible) tone of voice and maintained eye contact with my tormentor. He/she tried to laugh it off: “I’m just joking.” I repeated in the same tone of voice, “You are hurting my feelings.” Again, eye contact is important.

I’ve never had to repeat this phrase more than three times with anyone. No one who has ever been treated to this response has bothered me again.

I find that bullies hide behind our fear, our shame and our loneliness. This response is polite, and by using a firm, audible tone we expose the bully’s behavior to those around us and show there is nothing to fear.

My then-3-year-old son was yelled at by a childless neighbor for behaving like a 3-year-old. My son looked him right in the face and said, “You’re hurting my feelings.”

My son stood his ground politely until the neighbor apologized to him for yelling (this guy never admitted he was wrong about anything!).

I hope this is helpful to some of your readers. -- Heather

DEAR HEATHER: Anyone being teased or bullied needs to have a voice. You used yours — and gave your children theirs. Good for you.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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