Q. My son doesn't want to take honors courses next year because he'd rather be with his friends in the regular classes. Should I let him?
A. I know it seems like your son is sacrificing his education to hang with his friends. But it's not that simple. In our culture boys are constantly being told not to care too much about anything, and taking honors classes definitely fits into this category. So don't talk about how he's ruining his future. Instead, give him an incentive -- think of an honors subject he really cares about and have him write a list of the pros and cons of taking it. Then let him choose. You can force him to take the class, but you can't make him do the work.
Q. My son and daughter-in-law constantly nag their 10-year-old about what he eats and how much he weighs. I know this is not the best way to go about things. How can I help my grandson without stepping on too many toes?
A. You're right. Your grandson doesn't need nagging -- or bribes, for that matter -- but healthy family dinners and people who model eating slowly (so he learns to detect when his stomach is full). And he should engage in physical activities that allow him to achieve his correct weight as a natural consequence of the fun he's having. I realize you can't tell him this, but you can show him. Your grandson, at 10, is a prime candidate for a martial arts class. So why don't the two of you check out a couple of schools and enroll him in one for three months. Ideally, he'll like it so much his parents will pay for the classes after that. I used to teach karate, so just a few words on the kind of teacher (true for any coach) you're looking for: You want someone who encourages hard work, sets clear goals, and demands the kids support one another. And he should never brag about his own exploits or put students down because of their physical abilities or weight.
Q. I have full custody of my 14-year-old, and I'm engaged to a man with full custody of his three teens. How can we help everyone get along?
A. Well, there's nothing like a challenge to start a marriage off on the right foot! I'd call a group meeting where you and your fiance present a united front and each reiterate your love for your children, recognize that this can be a stressful situation, and ask the kids to share their hopes and concerns. Then one of you says, "We want a new family in which everyone feels valued and respected, but it obviously won't work without your help. When someone gets on your last nerve, we want you to speak to the person directly and tell him or her exactly what's bothering you and give possible solutions. And if an issue impacts us all, any one of us can call a family meeting where we'll do the same thing. It may be hard, but this way we can build a family we can all be proud of."Rosalind Recommends
When I speak in schools, parents and teachers always ask about dealing with children who are discipline problems. I believe giving these kids support and understanding helps everybody, which is why I really like Lost at School, by Ross W. Greene, PhD. (Scribner). It gives strategies to help all students have a safe and successful school experience and offers lots of insight into what good teaching really is.
Originally published in the May 2009 issue of Family Circle magazine.