July 02, 2015

Q: My Father-in-Law chews tobacco and kisses my newborn on the lips with it in his mouth! Yuck! I don't like people kissing her on the lips in the first place but add the tobacco and it's downright disgusting! How can I ask him to stop without being rude?

A: Dear Mother of Newborn:

The yucky tobacco-kisses are--from a medical perspective--not likely to do your daughter any harm. And your father-in-law, full of joy with his new granddaughter, is really an asset for your daughter's life. However, I can certainly empathize with your sense of disgust. I think you might try to ask Grandfather in a very sweet, soft, apologetic manner not to kiss your newborn on the mouth--you might get your pediatrician to suggest that this is unhealthy or unsanitary, and you can attribute the request to the "doctor's orders." It is true that framing your request without hurting Grandfather's feelings is a bit of a challenge. You are the mother, and I do not question your right to be disgusted. But Grandfather might be sensitive to criticism (even if you aren't rude at all) and it might be best to avoid paining him when his intentions are only good.

An alternative strategy would be to ask Dad to speak with his father about this. He may be able to achieve a more diplomatic solution.

Follow your heart!

Elizabeth Berger MD Child Psychiatrist and author of "Raising Kids with Character"

Answered by Dr. Elizabeth Berger