Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: In a previous column you advised someone that they should start dating again when they met someone they wanted to date. I'd like to hear more about that.
I've been single for a number of years, mostly because I haven't met someone I want to date, and I'm not very good at the online thing (shy, awkward, etc.). It seems like online dating is better suited to extroverts. I'm perfectly happy with my life as it is, but eventually I'd like a partner. Should I just keep on living and enjoying life, and date when there's someone I want to date, or do I need to make a more concerted effort to date people just to date?
Answer: I think the more comfortable approach for an introvert is to "just keep on living and enjoying life," but in ways that are deliberately geared toward circulating among new people. There's a lot of room between being perfectly happy socializing with your familiar crowd of people (and then staying home for three nights afterward with a good book), and forcing yourself to go on dates just to date.
Instead, think of it as getting out just to get out. All the better if you can gear this out-getting toward an existing talent, skill, interest, or strength of yours. That way, you increase your chances of meeting like-minded people, even just as friends - who often can help widen your social circle.
Even if you don't make any new connections worth cultivating, you'll be smoothing out some of your awkwardness through the extra social practice, made easier by having that shared interest to occupy you and break any ice.
Take all that away and still you have the fact that you're spending time on something that interests you, possibly improving your quality of life in lasting ways.
Question: I grew up in a family where both parents had terrible anger issues - often manifesting itself in physical abuse. Consequently, my husband and I have a very strict no-physical-punishment rule in our home.
However, I find myself not knowing where the line is with my kids in terms of yelling/losing temper. Is it never OK to yell at your kids? I never, ever insult them or call them names, but I do raise my voice, especially when I've had to tell them 10 times to do something.
This may seem like a basic question, but I honestly have no idea, not having a healthy model to base my own parenting on.
Answer: I think of yelling as inevitable but a mistake. I apologize to my kids when I do it: "I'm sorry I lost my cool." Quick and out, unless I need to apologize also for being wrong about what originally upset me. I think raising one's voice, too, doesn't demand an apology the way yelling does. Sometimes a grown-up's got to be heard.
Please also ask your family doctor about good local parenting classes. It sounds as if you've broken your family's abusive tradition, good stuff, but even parents with good role models can use a reliable guide.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.