Amy: Gift standoff with husband's son, 12

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • Chicago Tribune
  • December 15, 2012 - 3:26 PM

Dear Amy: My stepson is the oldest child in our household. For Christmas he has asked my husband and me for several items that we will not buy. Some of them are too expensive, and some have violent and sexual content. We have explained this to him.

He is old enough, but perhaps not mature enough, to understand our reasons. He argues that our other children get "everything they want."

My husband and I are willing to get the things on his wish list that are reasonable. But when we tell him that, he says he hates living with us and wants to go to his mom's, because he can have what he wants there.

This happens to be true. His mom has told us she plans to purchase several of these questionable gifts. We've tried telling him that gifts don't equal our love for him, but he doesn't want to hear that.

Any advice on how we can avoid a tantrum over gifts not received and "I want to go to my mom's"?

Amy says: Your stepson is not old enough for things he desperately wants, and yet he is not young enough to love Christmas the way his siblings do.

He also has an irresponsible mother who is trying to bribe him for his affection by handing him tools that will only contribute to his challenges.

I want to inspire you and your husband to continue doing exactly what you are doing. Talk to him, be patient with him and lavish your attention on him. His dad, especially, should set aside time just for him during the holiday season.

If he still throws a tantrum on Christmas, do your best to be kind and calm and not let him spoil the day for his siblings. If going to his mother's house is in the cards, then so be it. If not, then he'll just have to tolerate being with you.

And, if he is in the slightest way musical or into music, get him a secondhand guitar (or a version of the video game "Guitar Hero"). Every 12-year-old boy should have a guitar.

Photo proof

Dear Amy: I was intrigued by the letter from a dad who asked if it was acceptable to put tracking devices on his daughters' phones.

An alternative approach is to text your girls at any given time, have them take a photo of themselves at the given event/place and send it to you immediately.

If they cannot produce the photo, then they are guilty! Simple and foolproof!

Amy says: Evidently you don't have teenagers and haven't heard the "My phone ran out of juice" excuse. Your idea is not "foolproof," but it is creative.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

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