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Ask Ellie: No need to match other parents' laissez-faire attitude

You are your child’s best advocate and protector, so you must do what’s right for you and her

Dear Lisi: I need your help. My 17-year-old daughter has been dating a nice guy for over a year. They’re the same age and attend the same school. He spends a lot of time at our house and is always respectful, helpful and a pleasure to have around.

He’s not the problem. It’s his parents. They have an insane laissez-faire attitude to everything. They say yes to everything, have no rules and seemingly no moral compass. It’s been a year of in-house fighting with my daughter because we don’t parent similarly.

No, at 16, you can’t drive across country with your boyfriend. No, you can’t move in to his house while his parents are out of town. No, you can’t go up to his cottage and share his bedroom. Just a few of the arguments we’ve had to endure.

She gets so upset with us; he seems fine with our imposed restrictions. I actually think he appreciates our parenting. But I can’t take it anymore.

Should I be talking to the parents? The boyfriend? Should I be less strict?

Mad Momma

I don’t think your restrictions sound tough at all. I believe I would answer similarly if my 16-year-old daughter made those requests. I suggest you sit down with your daughter and talk it out. You’re not going to be able to address everything because things will come up that you hadn’t thought of, so explain that whatever rules you make now are subject to change.

Ask her if she’d like you to talk to her boyfriend as well. Then you can be the bad guy, and she won’t lose face. I get the impression he doesn’t mind your strict rules.

That should keep things at bay. If you feel more pressure from him or his parents, then you may have to talk to them directly. You are your child’s best advocate and protector, so you must do what’s right for you and her.

FEEDBACK Regarding the roommate unable to stand the body odour of the other roommate (Dec. 15):

Reader – “The writer could not stand the body odour of the other inhabitant of the apartment. You suggested not saying anything to the other inhabitant. I disagree.

“When my daughter was a child, she got a very high fever, was sick for a while, and after that she couldn’t smell anything. She can feel a certain sensation from smoke in the air, but she can’t detect either bad or delectable smells. She showers daily, and when she became a teenager, I told her that she’d have to use deodorant. She’s careful to do so.

“Young kids don’t need deodorant, so if a child loses his/her smell at that stage, this person as an adult, would have no idea that he or she could be offensively stinky.

“I suggest bringing a bottle of vanilla essence or a perfume to this other person and ask what he or she thinks of the smell. The other person may “fudge” an answer, but go further. Then, gently talk about the situation. Ask whether the person has trouble smelling things. The writer can be very kind and explain the problem. It would be good to bring along an unscented hypoallergenic deodorant and ask the person to try it. The writer would be doing that other person a big favour. One doesn’t have to be nasty or blaming about this. I suspect that the person with the offensive stink just can’t smell properly.”

Lisi – I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a sense of smell so that would never have occurred to me. I’m sorry your daughter went through that. Thank you for your perspective. You may be right that the “smelly” roommate doesn’t even realize he or she smells.

FEEDBACK Regarding the couple trying to save money for a house (Dec. 12):

Reader – “This man is not listening to his fiancé, and I’m willing to bet that’s going to be a consistent pattern. I don’t think her statement “we agreed” represents the situation. I think she agreed and he didn’t argue just so she would stop talking. It’s not a matter of getting him to see how much he’s spending. He’s not willing to change his habits. Instead of a financial advisor, they might benefit from a counsellor or therapist regarding interpersonal communication. In my opinion this woman needs to rethink her commitment to someone who treats her this way.

“I know, been there, done that.”

Lisi – I’m sorry you’ve been down that road. That’s unpleasant. You may be right and there’s no harm in seeking professional therapy to ensure they’re on the right track before they get married.

Ellie Tesher and Lisi Tesher are advice columnists based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: or