"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
September 12, 2013
A Stake Leader Insults My Daughter
by Cyndie Swindlehurst

Question:

My teenaged daughter is friendly and outgoing. She has recently become friends — just friends—with the teenaged son of our stake Young Women president, who is in our ward.

I didn’t think anything of it until I heard from several people that the stake Young Women president has been telling other women in our ward that my daughter is “trouble.” Apparently, her son and my daughter and several other friends were sitting in a car together after an activity one night. But what’s wrong with sitting in a car with your friends?

I don’t know what to do about this stake leader. I’m pretty new to my ward and stake, and she has lived here for years.

Answer:

You believe the stake Young Women president is gossiping about your teenaged daughter. It could be true. Or there could be more to the story. You should talk to her about it.

As with any difficult conversation, you should start by giving this sister the benefit of the doubt. The conversation should be private, and in person. You might ask to speak with her after church in a quiet classroom.

The conversation could go like this: “Sister Davis, I’ve been hearing that you have some concerns about my daughter’s behavior. I know things can be misinterpreted, so will you please tell me what you’ve said.”

Your tone should be serious, but not angry. Because after this opening line, you are going to listen to what she has to say. She might have information about your daughter’s behavior that you do not. If that is the case, you can say something like, “Thank you. I will ask her about that. And the next time you have concerns about her behavior, please call me. I felt very awkward hearing about your concerns from other people.”

She will likely apologize for not coming to you directly. You will respond calmly, “Thank you for saying that. I will see you next Sunday.”

What do you do if she denies ever saying anything? If you are confident that the people who told you are not embellishing or fabricating or just trying to stir the pot (for example, if they had eavesdropped on this sister’s private conversation with her son), do not accept her denial. Say something like, “I’m sorry, but three different people have approached me about this. I’m very concerned that people think you are saying things about my daughter.”

If you are very unlucky, her claws will come out. She will hurl accusations at you and your family. You will try your very best to keep your temper and not cry. You will say, “None of that is true. But even if it were, it does not give you leave to talk about my daughter.”

There are three things you will not do. One, lose your temper. This might be difficult, but you don’t want to get into a shouting match or call her names. That is not a Christian way to handle a confrontation.

Two, threaten her. Don’t tell her that you are going to tell the stake president or the bishop about her behavior. She is not your child and you don’t need to threaten a consequence to her bad behavior. (And if she really is a gossipy, drama-loving person, she will probably beat you at that game.) However, if her gossip continues, I think you would be justified in talking privately with the bishop about it.

Three, lose confidence in all stake leaders. Stake leaders are people. And even though they ought to behave better than the general population of the world (as should we all), sometimes they do not. You are probably feeling the injustice of this situation. Here is your daughter, condemned by the mother of a young man for doing exactly the same thing her son was doing! How hypocritical! But this injustice is as old as time. Many parents are perfectly willing to excuse in their own child what they condemn in another’s.

This is especially true when boys and girls pair off. There are some people who see a boy’s romantic endeavors as something to be expected and applauded, while a girl who behaves similarly is labeled as “trouble” and “that kind of girl.” This is not fair. But it is reality, and there is nothing you can do about it but try to explain it to your daughter.

You must teach your daughter that behavior that seemed friendly when she was a child seems forward as a teen and will become untoward when she is an adult. Children can rush up to an adult of the opposite sex and hug him. Teens should not. Adults cannot. You are not ruining her innocence or making her grow up too fast by teaching her this: You are educating her on how to behave as a young lady and a grown woman.

So consider whether her behavior actually needs to change. Where you see friendly, do others see flirty? Where you see reaching out to include others, do others see forward? Where you see kindness, do others see romantic interest?

There is a welcome place for flirtation, romantic interest, and even forwardness in the lives of teenagers. But you must make sure that your daughter understands what kind of behavior towards young men is appropriate in what situations. And what kind of behavior will expose her to unkind comments.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!


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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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