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Direct Answers - Column for the week of June 2, 2003

I am a father of three teenagers. The older boy and girl are obedient, good at their studies, and helpful around the home. My problem is with my youngest daughter, who is 16.

Wayne and Tamara, she is a beautiful child, and I know she is popular with her youthful friends. But I have been insisting that she obey the rules of my home and also take her studies seriously.

I have a good job, and I spend most of my money on my children. I also give them weekly allowances, most of which I insist that they save. I ensure they are fed and clothed properly.

Recently I had to ground my last daughter because of her rebellious and disrespectful attitude. I lost my temper and slapped her. She screamed that she will run away from home, and I will be sorry. Wayne and Tamara, as a loving father that threat scared me. Do you think I have been too harsh or overly strict with her?


Gene, four years ago you were much as you are now. Four years ago your daughter was a child of 12, and four years from now she will be a woman of 20. For you, the clock is racing forward; for a 16-year-old who wants to act 18 or 20, the weekend seems like an eternity away.

As an adult, you know how important the next four years can be. Running with the wrong crowd, drugs and alcohol, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases could alter her future in a way she will still be dealing with 20 or 30 years from now.

You know a mistake could alter her entire future; she thinks there is plenty of time for everything, including mistakes. Like all teenagers, she believes "it can't happen to me." As an adult, you know it can.

Your daughter needs one foot firmly planted in the day-to-day reality which will build her future, and one foot free to have some fun and enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience of being 16.

Children make mistakes and so do adults. You made a mistake when you slapped her. Sit down with your daughter, admit your mistake, and apologize. Explain to her that your mistake came from your fears. If you do that, you won't be showing her that you are weak; you will be showing her that you are human.

You wrote us out of your love and concern for your daughter. Share that with her. Let her know that you will work to control your realistic fears, if she will help not to set them off.


Foot In The Door

My wife and I are experiencing conflict over the issue of smoking. We are both nurses. I have said I don't want to start trying to have a baby until she stops smoking. She says she will stop when she knows for sure she is pregnant.

We are both well aware of the damage smoking can do to the fetus, even in the beginning phases of pregnancy. She has a smoking cessation program at her job, but lately she says I am just trying to control her. We are far apart on this issue, and I don't see any easy answer.


Ronan, your wife is telling you just how strong her addiction is. Even knowing the risks to her fetus, she is planning to smoke during part of her pregnancy. Her addiction already has a toehold into her pregnancy.

She is being controlled not so much by you as by her addiction to smoking. You are trying to come between her and her cigarettes, so her addiction is pointing the finger at you.

Once she has the stress, emotions, and hormonal changes of pregnancy, it may be all the excuse she needs to continue. The only power you have is to make sure a pregnancy does not occur.


About The Author

Authors and columnists Wayne and Tamara Mitchell can be reached at

Send letters to: Direct Answers, PO Box 964, Springfield, MO 65801 or email:

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