DEAR MISS MANNERS: My 7-year-old son is a spunky but reasonably polite child. In the past few years, he has repeatedly been distressed by various friends’ parents asking their children, while scolding them in front of him, why they can’t be more like him.

He recently asked me how he can respond when that happens, because it makes both him and his friends feel horrible.

Unable to think of anything he could say or do that would not make matters worse, I told him it’s an ill- judged comment from the parents, rude to everyone involved though perhaps well-meant, and probably a case of “least said, soonest mended.”

Unfortunately, that doesn’t solve the problem. Dear Miss Manners, is there anything a child can say or do to deflect such incidents?

GENTLE READER: What every child wants to hear: that his parents have spotted a better child. That ought to inspire the little ones to change their ways — or, more likely, to want to exchange their parents.

In keeping with their spirit of rudeness, such parents do not seem to realize or care that they are also putting an innocent — and by their own account, well-behaved — child in an untenable position. As you know, a sure way to make a child despised by his peers is to hold him up to them as a model of propriety.

Therefore, your child must — without compromising his manners — say something to establish his solidarity with the maligned child, or by default he seems an ally of the parents. Something along the lines of, “If you’re going to be me, then do I get to be you?” But Miss Manners figures that a 7-year-old can come up with something better.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is sufficient notice to give a 21-year roommate who is like a sister? I am getting married!

GENTLE READER: Guess what? She already knows. Furthermore, it has occurred to her that you will expect to room with your husband, rather than with her.

Miss Manners can tell from your exclamation point that you would not have been capable of keeping your coming marriage a secret from your roommate, who anyway would have seen it coming.

Nor should you have been reticent. It would be insulting to assume that someone that close for that long would think only of herself and not be happy for you. But at the same time, your roommate needs to make plans, and to do that, she needs to know when you are changing your living arrangements. Now is the time, or perhaps past the time, to tell her that.

Miss Manners asks only that you remember to separate bridal babbling from helping her to find another roommate or other quarters, and to show as much interest in the latter as the former.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,, where you can send her your questions.

@ 2011, by Judith Martin

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