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Dear Ann Cannon • I grew up in a large family with loving but no-nonsense parents. Whenever anything hard happened, they'd say, "That's life. Buck up." I feel like that attitude made me the capable person I am today. But now I have one very dramatic child who I feel needs this mantra tattooed on her forehead. I am told I should be more sympathetic to her problems (which she often creates for herself). Call me cold-hearted, but I have little patience for all the whining and ingratitude in society from people who are educated, loved, fed and clothed. How can I teach my daughter to be grateful for her easy life and to deal with tough spots with more strength and grit . . . in other words, to buck up and quit complaining?
Dear Mother • I was very much a "rub some dirt on it and get back in the game" kind of mom, so I understand your frustration. Meanwhile, I have a few observations I'd like to share with you.
1. After years of being a parent and now a grandparent, I've decided that kids come with their bags already packed. Some are natural born stoics. Some aren't.
2. The Universe is supremely aware of this fact and enjoys making sure that parents get at least one kid who doesn't respond the way they do. At all.
3. The Universe is such a joker that way.
I don't think it's a bad idea to help your daughter dial down the drama. But do be aware that the more she senses you withdrawing (which is the natural tendency of a stoic in the face of said drama), the more likely she is to act out to get a reaction from you. My guess is that she equates "big emotion" with "caring." Make sure she feels like she's being heard, even if you're secretly rolling your eyeballs, by saying something like, "It sounds like you're (fill in the blank). I'm sorry. That stinks." And then you can put the onus back on her by expressing your confidence in her ability to work things out.
I have absolutely no idea if this will work in real life. But it's worth a try.
Dear Ann Cannon • How do you handle feuds or bad feelings among your adult kids? Do you just try not to get involved, even if you personally think that one side is being selfish and bratty? It's gotten to the point at our house where one sibling and spouse won't come to family gatherings if another sibling and spouse are coming.
A House Divided
Dear House • OK. Here's the thing they DON'T tell you when you're busy having those beautiful babies. You've signed up to be a parent for the rest of your life! #Congratulations! Of course what is required of you as a parent changes over the years. But still. You never stop wanting the best for your kids. And, quite frankly, you never stop hoping you'll be THAT family the one in a happy Norman Rockwell painting.
Unfortunately siblings don't always get along, which can be especially problematic when they're adults. You can't put them in timeout, no matter how much you want to. And telling them what to do (let alone taking sides) pretty much doesn't work either.
I think I would verbally acknowledge to the parties involved that there's a problem without trying to solve it yourself, because you can't. Maybe as the years go by and everyone matures, your kids will take care of business themselves. Meanwhile, think about throwing this out there: "I would like everyone to come to dinner. I would prefer that everyone behaves like grownups for the space of two hours, but you get to choose."
This may not work in real life either. If it does, let us know.
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