Dear Abby: You were wrong to advise “Starting Anew in Ohio” (Nov. 7), the mother of a 10-year-old girl who wanted the bigger bedroom in their new house, to have her kids draw straws. When the girl made the request, her older brother said he didn’t care. The time to have drawn straws was when the girl first made the request, not two months afterward.
The girl is at an age when children can be particularly sensitive about trust issues, and the boy is old enough to know that words have consequences. If the parents reverse course now, the girl will learn that her parents’ promises mean nothing, and the boy will learn that he doesn’t have to worry about what he says because he can always change it later.
These are not good lessons to teach children. That the father would bow to the boy’s request made the situation worse. Maybe he’d think twice if he realized his daughter will now always doubt his word.
Dear Judy: You are not the only reader who told me my answer wasn’t up to my usual standards. In fact, not a single person who wrote to comment agreed with me, and their points were valid. Their comments:
Dear Abby: Your solution won’t keep the peace in that household; it will end it. The daughter will learn her parents can’t be trusted to keep a promise; the son will think he can take anything he wants from his sister because, as the male, he gets his way.
No, Abby, a promise is a promise. And if there’s any lesson more important to teach our children, I can’t imagine what it is.
Dear Abby: This is the time to teach that 12-year-old “young man” to be a man of his word. He made the decision that his sister could have the room. The daughter had the guts to ask for what she wanted. Good for her for asking for what she wants. Now they should draw straws to determine the outcome?
The message this sends to the children is, “If you’re older, you can get what you want. If you make a promise, you can break it.” The daughter should not lose out on what she was promised.
Dear Abby: May I offer a suggestion? The children should be told that each year around the anniversary of their moving to the new house that they will change rooms. It may take some effort and energy, but the benefit would be that both brother and sister get to experience the larger bedroom. It will teach them to compromise.
Dear Abby: Having been through this type of situation as a child, I can tell you it destroyed my trust in my mother. Believe me, this will have far-reaching and unintended repercussions in that little girl’s life. A promise is a promise!
In the Rockies
Dear Abby: Whatever happened to respect for your elders? None of my six nieces and nephews has ever called me “Uncle Sam,” nor have any of their children called me “Mr. B.” When the 5-year-old called me “Sammy,” a name I loathe, I nearly snapped. Am I out of line?
In Sheffield, Mass.
Dear Sam: If “Uncle Sam” is what you prefer to be called, you should have made that clear to your siblings when the nieces and nephews were little. Children are imitative. If their parents call you and refer to you as just plain Sam, don’t blame the children for doing the same. I don’t know how old the kids are now, but it may be a little late for you to start complaining about this.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.