Rosemary Herbert

You know you’ve done a good job of raising your kids when your college student gives you cautionary advice. Recently one father of a medical student confided that his son had taken him aside about getting more exercise and eating better. Another said her daughter had given her some very stern advice about online dating.

Both parents took the role reversals in stride. And both appreciated the advice, even though it did not put their own decisions in a good light.

“My son really made me think,” the dad of the med student said. “He’s learning all about good health practices and I know he’s concerned about me.”

“My daughter really gave me a talking-to,” said the mom who is newly trying out online dating. “I realized that I was an absolute babe in the woods about online dating safety. I could tell she was worried about me, and that made me listen up.”

It is often said that young people have little sense of self-protection, and this leads to their taking risks. But these two moms quickly learned that keeping safe was not a priority for them, either, despite the fact that they had long left adolescence behind. The dad who needed exercise kept putting it off in order to accomplish things at his workplace and for his family, while the mother who was a novice at Internet dating was lulled into thinking that the men in her age group would not be likely to treat her aggressively.

“Think about what you would say to me, if I ate too much junk food and didn’t get enough exercise,” the med student told his father. “You would tell me to eat my veggies and get moving.”

“Think about what you would advise if I told you I had met someone online,” the dater’s daughter advised. “You would warn me that no matter how good a guy sounds in e-mails or phone calls, he’s still a perfect stranger. You would tell me not to get into a vehicle with a stranger and you would insist that I drive myself to meet him in a public place.

When a child expresses worries about a parent, it’s always a wake-up call. But these two young people took their pleas one step further.

“I want you around for a long time,” the med student said. “Please take care of yourself the way you would like me to take care of myself.”

“I don’t want anything scary to happen to you,” the daughter advised. “As you date this guy, please think — every step of the way — about how you would want me to act. And be just as careful.”

By asking the adults to examine their own activities with a parental eye, these college students got their elders to stop and think. And they caused them to put the advice into action.