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Consistency & Concert Tickets

Dear Susan,

I have a niece who is 15 & has a very unhealthy homelife. Her step-mother & father think that she is “his” responsibility alone &  the babies are her responsibility.  He refuses to be engaged with her school life at all, and now, the first quarter after receiving a smart phone, she is failing two classes. He does not put limits on her phone use… he can’t be bothered. He will probably take the phone away completely now. 

I am very involved with her, but live two hours away.  She asked me for concert tickets for her 15th b'day, & said she “would keep her grades up." The concert is on a school night two hours away from where she lives. I have talked to her continuously about keeping a B average at school, and that I won’t reward bad grades. To me this is simple in that she is failing, ie: does not get to go.

But I keep thinking about an article of Rosemond’s where he talks about making expectations clear and NOT engaging in constant reward & punishment…

If I take her to the concert under these conditions, I will feel like I am going against everything I’ve ever said to her… good grades bring good things, etc.   Or am I wrong to use this as punishment? I cannot control anything at her house…her father refuses to try anything to improve the way things are. But nothing I’ve tried seems to motivate her or make any difference in what she does.

Dear Worried Uncle,

My advice to you is “stay the course.” She wanted concert tickets. You told her only if she meets your expectation of a B in her classes. If she does not meet the requirement, no concert. Period.

It sounds as if she could use some consistency in her life. Good for you for providing that for her. Also, keep in mind that just because she doesn’t go to the concert doesn’t mean you don’t celebrate her birthday. Your love is unconditional. Concert tickets ARE conditional. So, plan to make her favorite meal or take her to a simple dinner to celebrate her birthday. She’s still your niece and should enjoy her birthday no matter what her grades are. Studies have shown that the most resilient people have one thing in common: at least one caring adult in their lives. I think that’s you. She’s lucky to have you!

Let me know how it goes!


Love or Discipline?

Dear Susan,

I’m a dad to a 7 year old boy and a 4 year old girl. My wife and I are having a difference of opinion I’d like you to help us resolve.

We both love our children very much. My wife is extra loving and doesn’t like to discipline the children for fear they won’t feel loved. I think that when our kids misbehave, we shouldn’t be lovey-dovey and they need to feel that we’re mad. They need to be remorseful and know that love isn’t free.

Who’s right?

Avondale Estates Dad

Dear AE Dad,

You and your wife are obviously loving parents. I imagine your kids know as much, too. And you’re both wrong (sorry).

Here’s why. Love and discipline go hand-in-hand. Children have needs. One of the most basic needs they have (we all have) is to be loved. Love needs to be unconditional. When children misbehave, they need to be taught that they did something wrong and given the opportunity to make it right. Sometimes children are asked to make amends, sometimes children receive a consequence, and sometimes children get punished.

At no time should children be given a “pass” for misbehavior in the name of “love.” Similarly, children should always receive love from their parents even in the face of misbehavior.

Let’s say 8 year old Jimmy breaks a lamp because he was playing ball in the house, breaking a family rule of “no ball-playing in the house.” Jimmy’s parents decide that Jimmy should pay for the lamp by raking the neighbor’s yards until he raises enough money to replace the lamp. They deliver the news to Jimmy and that is that. At bedtime, Jimmy comes downstairs to bid his parents goodnight. His parents give him hugs and kisses and tell him to have sweet dreams.

Jimmy learns that breaking the rules has consequences. He also learns that breaking the rules does not impact the love his parents have for him nor does it impact his belonging to his family. Jimmy might not have even cried when the consequence was delivered to him. That’s okay. We don’t need a pound of flesh from our children when they misbehave. We just need to teach them that misbehavior will result in a consequence.

I hope that you and your wife will make some changes so you can be on the same page in regard to parenting. It makes the journey so much nicer!


Susan Morley, ECE, CARES

Halloween Contract for Tweens | Parent Coach Atlanta

Picky Eater Problem Solved!

Dear Susan,

I admit it.  My child is a picky eater.  I hear a lot about how other moms don’t want to be a “short order cook” for their children but I don’t mind making a separate meal for my son.  He really only likes mac and cheese for vegetables, chicken nuggets or hot dogs for meat and milk to drink.  But I give him fruit juice to make up for the fruit he won’t eat.  When my son gets invited to other people’s houses, I pack something for him to eat.  I don’t expect them to cater to him, of course.

So, here’s why I’m writing to you:  one of my friends refuses to let him eat the food I pack for my son.  She insists that he eat the meal she prepared.  She says if he’s invited to dinner he needs to eat what is offered and to bring his own food to her home is rude.  Help!  Who is right here?



Dear Confused,

First, I think it’s important that you understand that it is VERY important that your son have a variety of foods on a regular basis.  And just so you know, Mac and Cheese is NOT a vegetable (sorry).  Chicken nuggets and hot dogs are not healthy foods.  Further, fruit juice is loaded with sugar and, in general, has little nutritional value.  It is better to eat our fruit rather than drink it.

Second, it sounds like you think that your willingness to cater to your son’s limited palate is a good thing.  It’s not.  To continue this behavior is to deny your son nutrition.  It’s best that you nip your behavior in the bud sooner than later.  And here’s how I suggest you do it:

Tonight at meal time, put one tiny morsel of each food item prepared on your son’s plate.  Don’t say a word, just sit down, say grace (if that’s what you do), and start eating.  When he inquires about his Mac and Cheese and hot dog, simply tell him that you realized that you were wrong to treat him differently than every other family member and that from now on, he’ll be having what is served.  When he asks about the portion sizes (and he will ask), just let him know that once he eats EVERY bite of food on his plate, he may have seconds of anything prepared.  Continue this for a week.  Next week, make the morsels a little bigger.  Then the next week a little bigger and so on.  Eventually, your son will be able to enjoy normal portions of most any meal and you can feel good about providing your son with a healthy diet.

And now for the part you probably don’t want to hear.  Your friend is right (sorry again).  It IS rude to bring your own food to someone’s home when you’ve been invited to dinner!  Not only that, but by preparing food for your son to bring,  you are expecting your friend to cater to your son.  Worst of all, your son has to deal with the inevitable eye-rolling that occurs as soon as he hands your friend his special meal.  So, fix the problem (that you created, I must add) and deliver some flowers with an apology to your friend.  You’re lucky to have her!

Good luck and please let me know how it goes!


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