Ask Amy

Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 11:00pm

DEAR AMY: I am a 21-year-old woman who still lives at home while attending college.

My parents have three younger children between 2 and 9.

While I don't mind watching the kids for my folks when they go out, they seem to think I am obligated to, and they put a lot of pressure on me to change my plans to baby-sit.

Recently, I have had problems with the children being disrespectful and not listening when I ask them to do something.

One sibling has a learning disorder, and I try to be very patient with not only him but with the other children.

It becomes difficult when my mother ignores their bad behavior.

If the kids bug her enough, she will give in to them, even if my father or I have said no. They tear up the house, and she ignores the behavior. Instead of making them clean the mess, she just does it herself while they play.

She tells me her parenting style is her own business, and to stop trying to turn her children into "soldiers" with all my rules. But if she expects me to watch her children on a regular basis, it is my business.

I am completely fed up and don't know how I should handle this.

— The Third Parent

DEAR PARENT:
As an adult still living at home — and as a family member — you are obligated to help at home.

Unfortunately, your parents aren't doing you or your siblings any favors by leaving things so open-ended. They are also undermining you by not giving you the ability to impose limits and enforce clear consequences when the kids misbehave.

You and your folks should sit down together and work out a baby-sitting schedule; your parents should agree to respect the schedule, and you should agree to be available.

You should explain to your parents that when they don't introduce some limits and consequences with the younger kids, they limit your ability to take good care of them while they're with you. This affects your authority with them — and it is a very important safety issue. Taking care of three young children is a huge task, made more challenging when you have no authority over them.


DEAR AMY: I find my hair-cutter very attractive. I think she might be interested in me, though I'm not really sure. I frequently misread people's signals.

The other day I put an ad on Craigslist with her name and workplace in the title, asking her to get in touch.

I'm pretty sure she saw it, but there was no response.

Now I don't know what to do. Did she not respond because she was creeped out?

Should I go back when it's time for a haircut?

If I ask her out and she says no, then it would be really uncomfortable for both of us, and I would be reluctant to go back, even though I go just to talk to her.

— Prospecting For an Angel

DEAR PROSPECTING:
The Craigslist posting was ill-conceived and, yes, a little creepy.

If you are interested in someone, you should express your interest personally — and not in a public posting revealing the person's name and workplace.

Look at your behavior from her perspective, and then dial it way down.

Wait until your next appointment, make no reference to the Craigslist posting, be low-key and start over.


DEAR AMY: You advised the teenage "Non-Believer in Louisiana" to share his atheism with his religious friends.

My older sister did exactly what you prescribed.

One night, during a sleepover, she revealed her insights to her friends. No problems. And then their parents learned about their discussion, and then her boyfriend's parents too.

It was awful.

On the upside, she finished her doctorate just before she turned 26 and is again friends with most of those who denied her at 16. She bears no grudges and is more enlightened than anyone I know.

— Proud Brother

DEAR PROUD:
The path to enlightenment — and authenticity — is seldom straight, narrow or easy. I wonder if your sister has regrets.

Send questions to askamy@tribune.com

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