Ask Amy

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 1:58am

DEAR AMY: I have a friend who is 76. She is a hard worker with a good heart, but when she is crossed she throws a tantrum just like a little kid.

She is quite assertive, even bossy. She is harshly judgmental and does not like to be denied and/or crossed.

What is the best way of dealing with tantrums — are there some general guidelines?

Probably the best advice is not to attempt to deal with or control a person who is having a tantrum.

But how is this best done?

— Befuddled Friend

DEAR BEFUDDLED: When a toddler is having a tantrum, one effective technique is to make a simple declarative statement, i.e., "You need to calm down now" — accompanied by a calm, unflappable attitude.

Once the tantrum is over, water or juice in a sippy cup should be offered, and a short discussion about behavior can commence.

You are correct that it is fairly useless to try to intervene or control a person during a tantrum, but your friend is an adult, so you should explain how her behavior affects you.

Say, "I feel bullied, and I want you to know that I don't like it. I'm giving you advance notice that when I feel you're out of control, I don't want to be around you, so the next time this happens, I'm going to have to leave."

Then you have to prove you're true to your word.

DEAR AMY: I'm a freshman in high school, and I have a pretty distinct group of friends. There are nine of us, plus a couple of new kids we're hanging out with.

We're not popular at all and we're certainly not a clique.

There is one girl though, "Alexa," who always follows us around. Alexa is very socially awkward.

At the beginning, we all decided we were going to give her a chance and be nice to her. We were nice, but none of us really bonded with her.

She is more of an annoyance now. She doesn't take any hints, no matter how obvious. One of my friends started naming the girls we hang out with, and Alexa's name wasn't mentioned, so she went to one of us (the only one who is really nice to her), crying.

She just started hanging out with us and pretending she was best friends with all of us. She talks to us as if she knows us, and sometimes she judges us.

We've tried to ignore her, but she doesn't pick up our hints at all.

What should we do?

— Frustrated

DEAR FRUSTRATED: I have news for you. If you hang out with a group and are exclusive enough that you can "name" all of the members of your circle, then you are a clique.

One of the (many) things I like about the new show Glee (Wednesday nights on Fox) is how it decodes the world of high school cliques. I recommend it for a fresh perspective.

I realize it's challenging to deal with someone who has trouble reading your signals and who likes you more than you like her, but I'd urge you to tolerate this person.

If she does things that annoy or trouble you, then you should tell her.

She may have more to offer than you realize, but you won't know unless you and your friends open the gate to your circle and let her in.

DEAR AMY: I need to weigh in on the question of whether it's rude to knit while socializing.

I regularly attend 12-step meetings, and while I am an advocate of handiwork, I find it incredibly rude when people knit and do needlework during these meetings.

The message that I receive from knitters is that my company is not enough and that what I share, in chitchat or in 12-step meetings, is not as valuable as their current project.

— Put Out

DEAR PUT OUT: Not too long ago, people attending 12-step meetings would be encouraged to smoke cigarettes as a way to keep themselves occupied during the stressful work of recovery. Needlework is a far better solution.

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