Dr. Joy Brown Discusses a Family's Problem
Brown: What do you do if you've really made somebody angry with you? All right, if you've done something that in retrospect you shouldn't have done, that-an apology is certainly the place to start, but saying to somebody, "I want to make this right," and saying "What will it take to make it right?" is a second-tier response. The first-tier response is, "These are some of the things I've thought about. Tell me which would work for you, and if not, I'd really like to know." Just going to somebody and saying, "Look, what can I do?" even if your tone of voice is not sarcastic, it's usually not as effective as saying, "I want to make it right. This is what I've thought about, if it's not good enough, tell me some suggestions that you may have. Because what you don't want to do is be angry at somebody forever, on either side of it, and you don't want somebody angry with you forever. So, apology-start, but "I want to make this right. " I'm Dr. Joy Brown. As you know, I'm here every day, Monday through Friday. We talk about whatever it is that's on your mind; whether it's an issue with your mom or your kid, whether you're having trouble with somebody you just met who hasn't called you back, or somebody who won't quit calling you. Whether you're talking about finding a new job or trying to figure out how to leave the job you've got. Whatever it is that's on your mind is what we talk about around here.
Renee, you're on the air, I'm Dr. Joy Brown, hi.
Renee: Hi, how are you?
Dr. Brown: Good.
Renee: Good. My issue is with my kid. He's twelve, and it may actually not be an issue, I don't know, but for you to tell me. He-I read him stories, we read like the Harry Potter books and stuff together, and the last-I don't know, maybe two months, he has been-it's kind of getting cold where we live, and you know, we get under the covers and read stories. The last couple months, he kind of has-
Dr. Brown: Wait, wait, wait.
Renee: What's up?
Dr. Brown: You get under the covers with your son and read stories?
Renee: No, I'll be reading-we like, get in bed and I'll-yeah. We'll be in my bed, and I'll be like-
Dr. Brown: He's probably a little old for that.
Renee: Well, so he informed me.
Dr. Brown: Well, but hadn't that occurred to you? I mean, twelve-year-old, is-
Renee: Well, he's just turning twelve, he's still eleven.
Dr. Brown: Well, but I-no, he's not though. I mean, for four- or five-year-olds, everybody hauling into bed and sort of reading stories on Sunday morning is one thing, or reading the newspapers or something, but I think once the kid-once a child is aware of sexual dimorphism, which is usually about five years old, when kids start school-is time not to do that anymore.
Dr. Brown: So we're seven years past that.
Renee: Okay, well that's-yeah. Okay, I hear you.
Dr. Brown: What's the question here?
Renee: Well, he started to refuse. He's just like, "I don't want to." It didn't even occur to me. I'm like, "Well, why?" you know? And finally, he said, "Do you really want to know?" and I said, "Yeah, I guess," and he said, "Because I get an erection." And I said, "Okay, well, stay under the covers," and I kind of just went on to read, and he started to explain to me why, and then I could tell he got kind of flustered. Dr. Brown: What was his explanation of why?
Renee: Well, he couldn't really form a sentence, he was really embarrassed, and he was like, you know, heat, and he said, "Energy,"- Dr. Brown: I think he did an extraordinarily good job for a twelve-year-old. I think, Renee, you've got to understand that your son is a much more grown up child than you're willing to accept, and he did a really nice job, that perhaps he shouldn't have had to do. I think you need to say to your son, "Listen, you did a really nice job, from now on you can read your own stories, and you and I can talk about things in the living room." Okay?
Renee: Okay, yeah.
Dr. Brown: But this is-you're seven years past when the show stopped.
Renee: Yeah, and what I did was, I took pause for a while, we got out of bed. We were just sitting there, and we got up on the couch, and I said, "Well, let's sit on the couch," and I started reading to him, then I took pause for a little while, and I stopped and I looked at him and said, "You know, you're perfectly normal, and I really appreciate your telling me that. " Dr. Brown: Good for you. I mean, think about it, think about the roles reversed. Presumably, at twelve you would not have gotten into your bed with your dad under the covers to read.
Renee: No, I don't think that I would have.
Dr. Brown: I don't think you would have.
Renee: Right, but I didn't have a dad when I was twelve, so.
Dr. Brown: Well, but you've got a son who's-is there a dad around on premises?
Renee: No, no there isn't.
Dr. Brown: Renee, you've got to be careful about that. You've got to make sure that you neither infantilize your son, because he's twelve, not five-but you also need to make sure you don't make him your sort of minor date.
Dr. Brown: You need to have clear guidelines about-I mean, if one of your neighbors said, "My husband was in bed-I came home from the PTA and my husband was in bed with my twelve-year-old, reading a story," you'd call Child Protective Services. There's no difference between Dad being in bed with a twelve-year-old daughter and Mom being in bed with a twelve-year-old son.
Renee: Sure, and you know what, it hadn't even-
Dr. Brown: I know, but you're going to have to, and the fact that there's not a dad on premises, and the fact that you and your son may-I mean, you're not allowed to have candlelight dinners with him, you're not allowed to make him your movie partner.
Renee: We don't, and I've always tried to keep real clear boundaries around that too. I'm conscious of that.
Dr. Brown: Well, be careful-this is the boundary, of being in bed with somebody.
Renee: I understand.
Dr. Brown: So I think you did a nice job-I think your son did an extraordinarily good job, I think you did a nice job about saying this, and maybe go back to him and just say, "Do you know what? Sometimes I think of you as five years old, and that's not real healthy for either of us, so next time I do that, you just remind me." But you also need-that's putting a huge burden on his scrawny little twelve-year-old shoulders.
Renee: Yeah, you're right.
Dr. Brown: But, you know, let him read his own stories for right now. He's a twelve-year-old, and it may be that he'd just as soon read stories on his own that have nothing to do with Harry Potter.
Dr. Brown: Okay? And even if he's reading Harry Potter, he may prefer to do it by himself.
Dr. Brown: All righty?
Renee: Yes, thank you, Dr. Brown.
Dr. Brown: You're welcome.