DEAR ABBY: I've been dating a wonderful woman for two years. She has a son in high school I'll call "Jon." Like many teens I see, he is constantly on his smartphone, his school-required tablet, or playing video games on the TV in his bedroom.
On a recent vacation, I decided enough was enough. Jon had headphones on and was watching videos online while we were at a restaurant. His mother was on her cellphone as I sat there wondering how long I'd wait. Jon's grades have dropped and he doesn't sleep well. I can see he is so connected to his electronics that he's disconnected from people.
Though I don't want to seem controlling, I now feel I have a vested interest in the boy. I care about him and see that the constant stimulation is affecting much of his life. I'm not sure he even knows how to make friends.
Should I push for his TV to be taken out of his room? His mother is excellent at setting her own boundaries, but because of her divorce, I think she's reluctant to set boundaries for him.
- Needs Help in Chicago
DEAR NEEDS HELP: If you haven't discussed your concerns with Jon's mother, you should, because they are valid. If his grades are suffering and he isn't getting enough rest, it's time for her to step up to the plate and start acting like a parent.
When the three of you are having a meal together, the electronics should be put away, and you and your girlfriend should make a point of including her son in the conversation. At his age, he should be informed about and have an opinion regarding current events. As to removing the television/gaming from his bedroom, his mother should warn him in advance that it will happen if his grades don't improve.
Interacting with others doesn't come naturally to everyone. Developing those skills takes practice. Learning to make eye contact, carry on a conversation, and pick up on social cues are skills people learn in person, not by texting. This is a conversation I have had with more than one mental health expert, and it's something parents need to remember when interacting with their children.
Husband's 'help' with the dishes is no help DEAR ABBY: My husband wants to help in the kitchen with the dishes. Call me stupid to complain, but he is causing me more work, and I don't know what to do.
This is the second marriage for both of us, and I am trying hard to be a kinder, gentler wife. When my husband washes the dishes, pots and pans, he misses spots, sometimes lots of them. Also, he is impatient and doesn't want to wait the three minutes it takes for the hot water to get to the kitchen, so he washes in cold water.
I tell him I will take care of the dishes, but then he gets upset with me. How do I handle this without hurting his feelings or his pride?
- Kinder, Gentler Wife
DEAR K.G.W.: Sometimes it's not what we say but how we say it that can hurt someone's feelings or pride. Tell your husband that you love him and know he wants to do this for you, but, respectfully, that his "talents" lie elsewhere. Because he is willing to help, entrust him with the important task of doing the rinsing and/or drying.