Three years ago my eldest son Michael, who was 16 years old at the time, asked my permission to go hiking in the Rockies with four friends for a week. Although the planned trip seemed very challenging for kids his age, I felt that he was mature enough to deal with the difficulties he might face. My confidence in him proved to be well founded. Last week my second son, Garth (who is now 16), informed me that he and his friends were planning a similar trip. Although Garth is a wonderful kid I feel very strongly that he is not ready at this stage for such a challenge. How can I tell him without his feeling that I think that he is inferior to his brother?
Before you take any action, you should be 100% sure that your fears about Garth's insufficiencies are founded on an objective assessment of his personality and not on a subjective need to over--protect him- - a feeling that did not exist with your older son. These sometimes irrational differences in the way you feel and behave towards different children are inherent in most parents and are quite normal. If you are able to recognize them, all the better. If, however, you are convinced that the trip poses a real danger to your son's safety, you are obliged to prevent him from going -- in the most discreet way possible, in order to minimize his pain. When he grows older, he will hopefully appreciate your caring for him.