Q. My 13-year-old daughter has started demanding clothes I can't afford -- and I'm not wild about her choices, either. I'm tired of arguing with her. Is there a way to work out a compromise?
A. You're absolutely right not to sacrifice common sense by giving in to, "Mom, you don't understand, all my friends have it." First, decide on a clothing budget. Then ask your daughter to write down a list of moderately priced stores she's willing to shop at -- with your approval -- along with a plan for her to earn the extra money for anything that goes over your budget. But make it clear that earning the money doesn't mean she gets to buy whatever she wants. Set up parameters -- how high heels can be, how much belly can be bared (if any) and so on. And if shopping together is torture, send her with someone you trust who she thinks is cool, like an older sister, aunt, or friend's mother.
Q. I'm worried that my son is closer to me than he is to my husband. How can I get them to have a better relationship?
A. Ask yourself why you think this -- is it based on what you see, or what your child has told you? You might define being close as telling each other everything. But your husband and son might define closeness differently (hanging out in the garage, for example). Talk to your husband, focusing on how important he is to your son and how much your son wants a strong relationship with him. Encourage (don't nag!) your husband to set up a standing date with his son every other week. They should do something your son cares about -- if he hates football but loves comics, it's off to the comic-book store they go. Then they can get a soda and just hang out, and your son can talk about his favorite characters. In the end, though, remember that you're not responsible for how close they are.
Q. Should I encourage my daughter to find more socially savvy peers? Her current friends are sweet, but not the real movers and shakers in their school.
A. If your daughter is with kids who accept her and like her for who she is, why would you want her to be with anyone else? If it's not bothering her, ask yourself, is it social status you're after? Be warned: The higher up a girl goes on the girl social ladder, the more she has to conform rather than be herself. This is a risky behavior to encourage because it teaches your daughter to capitulate to girls with more power. You don't want your daughter to submit to others like this, especially because it could be her model for romantic relationships later on.
Q. I signed up to chaperone the sophomore camping trip this fall, thinking it would be a good way to see my son and his friends in action. Now my son is threatening not to go unless I cancel. Should I cancel?
A. It depends. Is your son shy and worried that you'll hover over him to make sure he's social? Does he have good reason to fear you'll spy on him? If so, then you need to give your son some space, including not going on this trip. However, if your goal is to help the school or to develop relationships with other parents, teachers, and kids, go ahead. In response to your son's threats, tell him you'll supervise a different group of kids from the one he's in. And listen to what he's telling you. While parents should never yield to ultimatums, they do need to understand why kids feel so strongly about something in the first place.