Dear Ann Cannon • Here’s my problem. My father plays favorites when it comes to his grandkids. He spends a lot of time with my sister’s son — not so much with mine. Maybe it wouldn’t bother me if my son didn’t notice. But he does, and he feels bad about it, especially since he and this cousin are the same age. I tell him that Grandpa loves him, too, because I know he does. Or at least I assume he does. My dad is a good guy and I’ve always had a nice relationship with him, which is why I’m a little surprised by all of this. I always felt like he played fair with my siblings and me when we were growing up. How should I do?

— Protective Mother

Dear Protective • Honestly, you shouldn’t let something like this fester. You ought to talk to your father — especially since you say you have a good relationship with him. How you talk to him is important, of course. Avoid putting him on the defensive by accusing him outright of preferring your nephew to your son. Instead, think about saying something like this: “Dad, right now it feels to me like [nephew’s name here] is getting more attention from you than [your son’s name here]. Am I wrong about this?”

I can’t predict how your father will react. He may be defensive no matter how gently you broach the subject. But at least you’ll be giving him a chance to explain, as well as an opportunity to reflect on what he’s doing and how it affects others in the family. Bringing up a difficult issue is never easy, but doing so can be a catalyst for positive change.

Dear Ann Cannon • So my mother-in-law is a horrible cook. Don’t get me wrong, she’s great at tons of things, maybe most things. But not cooking. Cooking has always kind of been my thing, and I’m pretty good at it. She always wants to bring a dish or dessert when she comes to dinner and I always say yes, because I don’t want to hurt her feelings. But the food is just awful. Do I just keep saying yes and having her side dish crash my culinary party?

― Foodie

Dear Foodie • OK. Whenever my mom and I used to go out to lunch, she’d offer me dinner mints after our meal and I’d accept, even though I don’t like dinner mints. Why? Because I thought it would be rude to refuse. One day I shared my true feelings about dinner mints with her and guess what. My mother was THRILLED because that meant more dinner mints for her! Win!

So what’s my point? I wonder if your mother-in-law offers to bring something because she thinks it’s the polite thing to do. Is it possible that she might not feel that bad if you thank her, then kindly decline her offer and say that you’ve got it taken care of this time? You could give it a try, at least, and see how she responds. Just make sure you don’t let anyone else bring a dish that evening.

If, in fact, declining her offer does appear to hurt her feelings, then go ahead and let her side dish crash your party. So what if she’s a crappy cook? Kindness matters more, right?

Dear Tribune Readers • Last week I ran a question from someone who wanted to know how to handle the person who asks unwanted personal questions. I advised him/her to master the fine art of dodging. Another reader offered this more direct approach: When someone asks me an overly personal question, I respond with “Why do you ask?” This puts the onus back on them, at which point they flounder around with something like “I just wondered.” My response is “Oh.” End of discussion. I walk away or change the subject. Works every time.