Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Headshot2011Embarrassed by grandmother — Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

I have a 16-year-old daughter and one in elementary school. My older daughter has a friend from high school, “Kim,” whose family is from Korea. This girl spends most of her out-of-school time with us, and besides being diligent about homework (a good influence on my daughter), she gets along well with our whole family. I had the two of them in the car as we went to pick up my 9-year-old from school and Kim said, “That’s my sister!” pointing to a girl coming out of the school building. When I asked if the sister needed a ride home, Kim said, “No, that’s our grandmother over there. She walks her home.” Long story short, I had to insist that Kim introduce us to her grandmother before we left. It seems that Kim is embarrassed because the grandmother only speaks Korean. Did I do the right thing?

Raised Right

Don’t miss last week’s column “Detecting a child’s language delay.”

Dear R. R.,

Erik Erikson, noted developmental theorist, would put Kim at the age of identity formation. Age 16 is the time in adolescence when the family’s cultural background and other identifying characteristics are scrutinized. The “crisis” as Erikson termed it, is for the emerging adult to shape an identity for herself that will take her to her future family life, career path, community role, and personal fulfillment. If you can recall yourself at that age, your peer group’s opinion of just about everything you did mattered way more than your parents’, although most of us ultimately take on the bulk of our family’s standards. Teens spend a lot of their time absorbing and testing out the standards of their peers: language, fashion, music, health habits, and values, including how people should treat one another.

I would agree that while forcing Kim to acknowledge her grandmother in front of your daughter may have been painful for her, you demonstrated a value that your own daughter has come to expect of you. Family relationships are significant and a grandmother should not be snubbed. Likely Kim’s grandmother and parents would concur. At the risk of missing an opportunity to do the right thing, and as a role model of living your values, parents of teens may need to embarrass them every now and then.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at [email protected]