Dear Carolyn: I am happily married to a wonderful man. Recently, his grown son moved in with us, and I’m fine with that. However, his son uses the word “retard” quite often and it bothers me – especially when he uses it with his children, 10 and 4, as in, “Don’t be a retard.”
My husband said I’m being “politically correct” – not a compliment! I believe it is our responsibility to teach our children compassion, and part of that is not using words that put people down for conditions over which they have no control. – PC in CA
PC in CA: Then say so, because you’re right. And don’t back down. Say something every time someone uses that word around you. “I find that word offensive. You’re smearing innocent people, and your own children.”
Make sure the kids hear you. An abridged version is fine for follow-ups.
I hope you also give these kids relief from the casual cruelty dad is teaching.
With all due respect, when your husband defends his son’s right to verbally abuse – yes, I’m not using the term loosely – his young grandchildren, his “wonderful” earns a fat asterisk.
If these two ethical giants protest your protests, then feel free to remind them of this: Teaching kids it’s OK to use a justifiably radioactive word is like sending them out in shackles. Saying it publicly will get them in trouble in school now, hurt their standing among well-raised peers as they mature, and be potentially lethal to them professionally when their time comes to earn their keep.
Tough love, or abuse
Hi, Carolyn: I often discuss difficult but pretty standard problems about shared custody after divorce with a friend whose responses seem unnecessarily harsh – that I just want to “wallow” and “play the victim.” If I protest, I’m accused of not wanting to hear the truth. When I object to the tone of her texts, the friend will continue with angry texts saying I don’t appreciate her being there for me. – Troubled
Troubled: Discuss tone occasionally, and that’s a healthy way to make sure you’re understanding each other.
Discuss tone constantly, and that’s an unhealthy way to keep trying to fix a relationship that’s not working and not responding to your efforts to make it work.
Why do you keep seeking her counsel, knowing she slaps you around?
Discuss your divorce constantly, and even gentle friends sprout fangs, but that’s another column.
Whether her “tough love” is abusive is a moot point anyway; what matters is whether she’s helpful.
If your ex-marriage played out this way or if it’s otherwise your pattern, then consider naming a competent therapist as your new counsel in chief.