Q: My 12 yr. old calls his 9 yr. old brother names when feeling annoyed with him. My visiting mother voices her disapproval to him, which makes me feel defensive over my son, even though he is wrong. Do you think it is her place to say anything to him?

A: I think if she thinks something is a big enough deal she should talk with you privately about it. Then, if you agree with her, you could follow her advice after she leaves when the child repeats the problem behavior.

I also think that every 12 year old calls his 9 year old brother names. In the best families, the children do it openly and in front of the adults, because they feel safe enough that they don’t have to hide their disagreements.

I’d also want to talk with the 9 year old about how to protect himself, when he needs to talk to adults and when he can handle things on his own, etc.

Have you discussed these things with your mother? Did you say something like: “Talk to me alone about things if you think there’s a problem, but remember I’m the mother here.”

Basically, I just want to say “Congratulations on having a good, normal family!”

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