DEAR AMY: My youngest child is in her 40s. She is kind-hearted, a giver and allows others to take advantage of her.
I applaud her attitude of wanting to be helpful, but I know she often resents the person who accepts her help because she’ll text me about it in a way that lets me know she’s not happy. I’ve told her (apologies to Eleanor Roosevelt) that nobody can take advantage of her without her consent, and have encouraged her to say no if she really feels put upon or overextended.
If I react too strongly I risk alienating her (she seems to have no problem bristling at me). Her husband is also bothered by this tendency of hers but seems equally powerless to effect any change.
What also troubles me is the potential adverse effect of her behavior on my 3-year-old grandson, an only child.
She seems to want to be liked, and has many friends, but can’t seem to bring herself to refuse someone a favor when asked. Do you have any suggestions? -- Frustrated Father
DEAR FATHER: Your daughter is a grown woman. You (and her husband) have already tried to urge her toward change by giving her advice and pointing out the obvious.
You sound like good guys who care about her. She vents to you but then discounts your sound, logical and 100 percent correct advice.
I am going to suggest something that might be very challenging for you: It’s time to back away from this problem.
The next time you get a text where she complains about being taken advantage of, you should respond by saying, “Bummer. This sounds tough!” If she further engages you by complaining about being taken advantage of, you simply say, “I’m sorry you’re unhappy, honey. I wish you weren’t so hard on yourself.”
Your daughter already knows how to change this dynamic. Her life will be easier and more joyful if she has some positive energy left over for herself and her family. Being more careful about her commitments will also make her feel better about those times when she does choose to step forward for a friend.
If she doesn’t manage to do this, her son will grow up with a mother whose generosity is always tempered by an undercurrent of dissatisfaction.
DEAR AMY: After a couple of years of searching, I finally found a hairdresser who understands what I want. He gave me the greatest haircut.
However, I noticed that his tools (combs, brushes, hand mirror) were (far) less than clean. When I got home, I found many dark hair clippings on my face. I am a blonde.
How can I bring this up with him without offending? I’d really like for him to do my hair, but yuck! What should I say? -- Bothered
DEAR BOTHERED: The fact that you want to spare this man’s feelings rather than run screaming into the street (or post a negative review on Yelp) says what a nice, lovely and (possibly pathologically) passive person you are.
When someone is in business, he simply has to find a way to provide the kind of service that will keep clients coming back, and lead to positive referrals.
Because you are so nice, you need to think of your comments as helpful — and they will be helpful. Leave a message at the salon and ask him to call you back.
You say, “James, I want you to know that I absolutely love my haircut. You are a dream machine. I’d like to share one serious concern, however. . . .” How he responds to this reasonable feedback will tell you a lot about him.
If this continues to be a problem for your next visit, you will have to find another skilled cutter. This lack of basic hygiene is unacceptable.
DEAR AMY: I’ve contemplated writing to you for advice on a family situation. But your recent suggestion that a meddlesome reader ask herself, “What does this really have to do with me?” is a good starting point for my solution.
So thank you! -- An Unintentional Meddler
DEAR MEDDLER: That’s the whole idea. Thank you.