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Didi’s Manners & Etiquette: Family Relationships

Thursday, March 26, 2015


March madness etiquette relationship questions about adult children and in-laws came in with a fury to Didi Lorillard this week.

Too Many E-Distractions

Things have gotten out of hand in our house. Everyone has devices in use all the time. How did we get here in this position of losing our sweet family of five to electronics? How do we pull back? 

~Ed, Portland, OR

Go cold turkey. Go online to find a family cellphone contract and printout five copies. Confiscate the devices until every family member has signed their contract. Have a basket or box by the front door, or near the entrance, where there are charger plugs for re-juicing. You hold the cards; if they don't sign, you don't pay their cellphone bills.  


Controlling Son-in-Law

I have a son-in-law who always insists on calling the shots and the decisions he makes aren't ones I always agree with. How should I handle him? The decisions are about how our grandchildren treat us.

~Grandpa, Seattle, WA

It's too bad you cannot talk to him face to face to tell him what you think. You have to assume he is not a listener. You can't go to your daughter. Your grandchildren are picking up on his feelings toward you. At a gentle family gathering try to bring up the fact that "Little pitchers have big ears." Chances are if he stops saying negative things about you in  front of your grandchildren, they will like you more. He may be jostling for a position to put his own parents forward as favorites.  


Hiring a Job Coach

I want to help my son. He recently lost his first big job and he's in a slump. How do I go about offering to help without emasculating him in front of his wife. I don't mean a handout, he's already moved back home and he's been sending out his resume and just attended a job fair. We like having them, but only temporarily because they're having their first baby and my wife and I already downsized into a smallish condo. What if I hired a job coach to help him with his job hunt?  

~A.K., Providence

Take him aside when his wife isn't around and ask him directly: Would you consider letting me hire a job coach to work with you on strategizing? Tell him that submitting his resume into black holes is a crap shoot, whether sent to a corporate website or posted on a job board, because most companies hire candidates through personal referrals. Your son needs to network through friends, acquaintances, and friends of friends. A certified, experienced career management professional should not only be able to doctor his resume, but come up with a realistic game plan. Such a job coach can be found here.  

If your son is too embarrassed to take you up on your offer, tell him he can pay you back, or that it is an early birthday/Christmas present. You're not enabling him, you're merely helping him move on. Leave it up to your son to talk to his wife about your generous offer.


A Politely Meddling Mother in Law

My daughter-in-law is an incredible person, as a mother and wife. I'll even brag and say she works at a B-level job. All this hasn't come without oversights, most of which are the babysitter's fault. My small grandchildren have despicable eating habits. Processed foods, too many carbs, and when I stop by at meal time they're very rarely eating fruit or green veggies. One night their dinner consisted of pasta and sweet potatoes. I don't blame my daughter-in-law, a working mother, because I see different fruit and vegetables in the kitchen fridge. I would like to give the very sweet and otherwise excellent full-time babysitter a lesson in nutrition and the food groups, but I don't know how to politely broach the subject. Any ideas?  

~Evelyn, Boston

The baby-sitter's eating habits are funneling into the children. Change what she eats and your grandchildren will be eating more nutritious snacks and meals. Chances are your son and his wife would welcome gentle help. You are not going to change eating habits with one lesson. It will take a certain amount of commitment of your time for palettes to change. 

Phrase the nutrition lessons as a series of 'table manners lessons' where you stop by the house at mealtime several times a week to reinforce such table manners as sharing that last popsicle. If they like french fries, make carrot fritters and let your grands participate. Showing the babysitter how to make simple healthy alternatives will be worth your time. There are many books online and off with simple nutritious dishes for tots that you can share with the babysitter, and your son and his wife will be eternally grateful. Try Jessica Seinfeld's website doitdelicious.com  to find delightfully easy recipes for healthy children from her book, "Deceptively Delicious."

Oh, and don't forget to throw in such table manners lessons as "No elbows on the table" and "May I please be excused," etc. Mealtimes are the ideal time to teach 'please,' 'thank you' and 'you're welcome,' as well as to improve nutritional habits.


Do you have a dilemma about love, family and life in general for Didi? Go ahead and "Ask Didi."  If your Question is used, we can withhold your name and/or location.


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