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Miss Conduct

Back-seat parenting

The difference between giving advice and butting in. Plus, a wedding guest-list do-over.

> In a TED talk, Ken Robinson suggests that some ADHD diagnoses, while not intended to stifle creativity, may in fact do so. I’d like to share the link with friends who are interested in these issues, but some have children on medications, and I don’t want them to feel judged. I do have one young relative who could be very annoying, but not pathological as far as I could tell. He just wanted attention. I’ve always worried that it was more for the parents’ sake that the child was put on medication. I normally resist every impulse to give unsolicited advice. Does this count?

D.M. / Cambridge

Almost anything can be perceived as unsolicited advice, if the other person is determined to do so. Tell some folks that it’s a beautiful day out, and they’ll snap back that they know perfectly well they should be exercising more, but they just don’t have the free time that some people seem to enjoy.

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I’m going to guess that a person who would medicate his or her child for the sake of convenience might be a wee bit thin-skinned. Assuming that’s what’s going on, of course, which is where you come in. You say you don’t want parents to feel judged for their choices — and then offer up quite a bit of judgment on your own extended family. They are your family, so if you feel the need to have a difficult but honest talk about your concerns, it’s your call. But don’t couch those worries in someone else’s words and then, if the Ritalin Relatives react badly, say you were only sharing ideas in the spirit of an intellectual salon. That would be dishonest.

For sharing the link more broadly, why not use social media — Facebook, a blog, or the like? These media, which pull rather than push, say “I’m interested in this topic and would like to discuss it with you!” rather than “I think you need to know about this.” (An e-mail with a link to a TED talk, after all, contains at least one unasked-for piece of advice: that one watch the TED talk.)

> I was engaged a few years ago but things didn’t work out. Now I’m engaged to a different person. For the first wedding, we sent out Save the Dates and asked friends to be in our wedding party before things went south. My new fiance and I want a smaller wedding. Am I obliged to include everyone who was invited or part of the wedding party previously? Should I be concerned that they might assume they’re invited this time around?

S.J. / Boston

No and no. Or, rather, “no” to the first question and “probably not, but honestly nothing people do would surprise me anymore” to the second. Your wedding isn’t like some shelved project that suddenly got the green light. This is an entirely new ceremony reflecting the current state of your romantic, familial, and social life. You don’t have to make like Samantha on Bewitched, playing the same shtick with another guy in the lead, as if nothing ever happened while the audience politely pretends not to notice. (And if there is someone you think might not get it, you can follow up at one of my live chats on Boston.com, at noon on the first and third Wednesdays of every month. Emergency etiquette answers when you can’t wait for Sunday!)

 Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.

NEED ADVICE ABOUT DEALING WITH UNSOLICITED PARENTING ADVICE?Write to Miss Conduct at missconduct@globe.com. And read her blog at Boston.com/missconduct.

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