Ask Amy

Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 1:00am

DEAR AMY: My granddaughter takes swimming lessons at our local wellness center. While doing a stroke, she did not keep her head down, so the instructor told her that if she did not keep her head down he was going to hold her head under until no bubbles came up.

She is only 8 years old!

I really think this is verbal assault.

Saying something to upper management will go nowhere because they all cover one another's backs, so nothing ever gets done.

What should I do?

— Concerned Gram

DEAR GRAM: If you think this comment is a verbal assault (it is certainly bullying, threatening and unprofessional), then why don't you do something about it?

You have an opportunity to demonstrate for your grandchild how grown-ups should react when they are concerned. Your view that it is useless to do anything about this shows her that there is no point in standing up for herself.

You should have spoken with the swimming instructor. You should also speak with your granddaughter about inappropriate grown-up behavior. You could start by asking an open-ended question: "What was going through your mind and how did you feel when the instructor said that to you?" She might reply that it was a little scary to be in the pool and have someone say that.

You could reply, "Well, I'm pretty sure he was trying to make a joke, but did you think it was funny?"

You could then tell her that you would have a word with the instructor to make sure he understood that it's not good to talk like that to kids.

If you don't receive assurances that this will never happen again, find another swimming instructor who knows how to actually teach — rather than intimidate.


DEAR AMY: I began working at my job almost a year ago. When I began here, I had red hair. Soon thereafter, one of my co-workers dyed her hair the exact same color.

Several months ago, I totally changed my hairstyle and went blonde. Last week this co-worker came into work with her hair cut, colored and styled exactly like mine.

She has also taken to dressing in my style, even changing her jewelry and makeup. Should I say something, or should I await the ending of Single White Female?

I'm finding this very disturbing.

— Copied in D.C.

DEAR COPIED: In the creepy movie Single White Female, a psycho roommate takes the idea of flattery through imitation to a whole new level.

I'm not sure that someone imitating your hairstyle several months after the fact is evidence of Single White Female behavior, though doing this twice is a bit much. But even if I suggested that you say something to your co-worker, the old standby from 4th grade, "Stop copying me!" somehow doesn't quite cut it.

You could alert your co-worker to the fact that you've noticed what she's doing by saying, "Wow. Nice haircut."

Otherwise, unless your co-worker really is demonstrating that she is Jennifer Jason Leigh to your Bridget Fonda, you have little choice but to be flattered by her imitation.


DEAR AMY: "Anonymous" was a middle-school student who wrote to you saying that one of her teachers "made her feel dumb."

As a middle-school teacher for more than a decade and a teacher since 1990, I have seen more than a few students who blamed me for a "personality problem" with them or claimed I was "mean."

The truth is I had gone out of my way to be kind, or the student was having challenges with their behavior in class and I was responding appropriately as I would with all students.

Please keep in mind that middle school is a very difficult time for children; and children aren't always aware of their own responsibility in issues with teachers because they avoid looking at their own behavior.

I wish you had also told this student to examine his or her own behavior. That's the best place to start. Believe me — I've done it many times myself.

— Wishing

DEAR WISHING: You're right. Middle schoolers are famously self-conscious, but they don't always see connections between their own behavior and how others treat them.

Send questions to askamy@tribune.com

Filed under: Lifestyles