Dodging the Powdered Butt Syndrome

Rachel wants to get her parents on board with Dave’s plan. She is 25 and just had a baby of her own. Dave tells Rachel she’s probably going to run into the powdered butt syndrome with them.

QUESTION: Rachel in Indiana wants to get her parents on board with Dave’s plan. She is 25 and just had a baby of her own. Dave tells Rachel she’s probably going to run into the powdered butt syndrome with them.

ANSWER: Typically what you’re facing when you’re trying to talk to your parents about money is what we call the powdered butt syndrome. Once someone has powdered your butt, they don’t really want your opinion on sex or money. It’s never going to really work. There are some rare exceptions where people have an unusual relationship where you could go in. For instance, if you were a professional financial person, your dad might ask you, especially the older he gets.

What I would suggest you do is shut up about it at this point after dropping the hint to your mom, and you and your husband go work this stuff, and you go win. Then, you can have a casual dinner conversation and tell your story—not their story, not condemning them—just saying, “This is what we did. We made these mistakes. Now, we have a game plan together. This information has completely changed our marriage and our lives.”

He will probably drop his glasses down on the end of his nose, nod, and say, “Well, I’m proud of you.” And that will be the end of it. He’s probably not going to ask you. But if he ever asks a question like, “How did you do that?” or “What about this?”, that says he’s nibbling. The whole purpose of doing this is to try to get him to ask a question rather than you giving him statements about him. If you can engage in a storytelling time and get him to ask that question, then you can tell him. Answering questions with someone who didn’t ask is difficult.

If he ever starts talking about it, acknowledge the discomfort of a child advising a father. It lets the weirdness go away then. Earn the right to do that by going and winning a little bit, not just having a bright new idea.

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