No Kid Should Be Heckled by Their Parents. Right?

I was at Lake Huron recently, and I saw two parents bullying their young son who was about 7 years old. He was refusing to jump off a giant boulder into the rocky water 15 feet below. His parents were heckling him about it, saying things like, “Thanks for not trusting me, son!” The boy looked terrified. Admittedly, there were younger kids who were jumping off the rocks. But it made me sick to my stomach to do nothing other than glare at those awful parents. Should I have said something?


Clearly this was not a blue-ribbon day for these parents! But let’s not judge them too harshly based on this single episode — even though it may trigger terrible memories for many of us about being pushed too hard. (We’ve all had bad days and done things we regret, right?)

Still, I sympathize with your desire to help a child in distress. I worry, though, that calling out parents as bullies or criticizing their behavior directly may backfire on the child. In my experience, people respond poorly to unbidden parenting advice. And the last thing we want is for them to dig in their heels.

My advice for next time is to interrupt the drama by inserting yourself into the child’s role. You could say to the parents: “I was petrified of jumping off high rocks at his age. You know what helped? Practicing at lower heights until I felt more comfortable. To this day I’m grateful to my parents for their patience.” Something like that may do the trick without making it worse for the child.

What About Me?

A short time ago, my boss (an executive in a hospital system) pulled me aside and told me she was nominating me for a nursing award. I’ve been a nurse at my hospital for a decade, and I have a great reputation for giving the job my all. Today, an email went out to all employees with a lovely presentation that included a portrait of each nominee for the award and the story of why they were nominated. I was not included! I am trying to be stoic, but it hurts. I enjoyed the prospect of recognition by my employer. I’m not sure how (or whether) to approach my boss about this. Advice?


I’m sorry for your hurt feelings — which are 100 percent understandable. Psychologically, it’s often harder to deal with the loss of things we were promised than those we merely hoped for.

When you’re feeling confident in your ability to have a calm discussion about this, go to your boss and say: “I was surprised that I wasn’t nominated for the award after our discussion. Can you tell me what happened?”

She may have been outvoted or persuaded that this was not your year. Or she may simply have dropped the ball. I know this will be easier said than done, but try to take comfort in your own knowledge that you do a great job — and that your boss merely confirmed it for you. And remember: Next year isn’t so far away!

Intergenerational Relations

I am a teenager, and I’m close with my grandparents who are in their early 80s. My cousin, who is also a teenager, recently announced that they are nonbinary. They chose a new name and told us their pronouns are they/them. My grandparents fully support my cousin and usually get their name right, but they often mess up the pronouns in conversation with me. When I correct them, they look flustered and apologize forever. I hate to make them feel bad. How diligent should I be about correcting them?


Practice makes perfect! I think you should keep correcting your grandparents (gently) so they are less likely to err when they talk to your cousin. I also think you should applaud them for how hard they’re trying to be supportive. (Rewiring long-held linguistic habits takes time.) They sound like terrific grandparents to me. Make sure they know you think so too.

Paying for a ‘Special Experience’

For my birthday, I am organizing a special experience and asking invitees to contribute $70 per person. We are all in our 30s, without children, and make good livings. This cost shouldn’t be a burden to anyone, except one friend who doesn’t earn much and has complained to me before about the cost of such celebrations. I would like to pay for her, but I’m not sure how to handle it. Thoughts?


You may, of course, give any party you like. But I am not a fan of pay-to-play events like yours. You put your friends in the awkward position of feeling like a wet blanket if they can’t afford it (despite your conclusion) or don’t want to spend $70 on your birthday or participate in the event you’ve chosen.

Make sure your invitees know that you will understand entirely if this event is not their bag. As for your friend who doesn’t earn much, be direct: Tell her it would be your pleasure to treat her — but only if she wants to come.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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