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home : columns : dear harriette May 26, 2016

6/4/2014 11:32:00 AM
Son and girlfriend don't want to wait to marry

DEAR HARRIETTE: My 20-year-old son is in a serious relationship with his girlfriend. They have been dating for two years now, but they are still in college. They would like to get married, but my husband and I are opposed to it because they are still very young. However, his girlfriend's parents are encouraging them to get married right away. Since they are over 18, we do not have a say, but we really think that they should wait until they graduate from college. We are scared that if they get married now, they may drop out of college and waste everything they have worked for. We do not know what to do. -- Concerned Parents, San Diego

DEAR CONCERNED PARENTS: Since you cannot control their actions, rather than continuing to say no to your son and his girlfriend, take a different tack. Start listening to them. Ask them what their plans are. Find out if they have a strategy for the next few years. When do they want to get married? Do they plan to finish school? When do they want to have children? How will they support each other? Ask, but do not interrogate them.  

Make it clear to them that you are no longer trying to tell them what to do, but you want to understand what they intend to do so that you can do your best to support their success.  

DEAR HARRIETTE: My 12-year-old daughter insists on getting an iPhone for her birthday since all of her friends have one. My husband and I think that she is way too young and does not need an iPhone. Plus, we cannot afford to pay for one. Every time we discuss this with her, it always turns into a huge argument full of screaming and tears. We do not want to give in, but she is being a brat about it and comparing herself to her other friends. At this point, she asks us every day when she is getting her iPhone, and we do not know what to say. We do not want her to feel upset and left out, but we do not want her to think that if she begs for something for long enough, she will eventually get it. How do we teach her these important lessons without getting into another argument? -- Worn-Out Mom, Long Island, New York

DEAR WORN-OUT MOM: Your job as a mom is to enforce your family's rules. Her job as a preteen is to push the limits. You really cannot let her win on every front. What some parents do when their children start demanding expensive things is to tell them to save their money so that they can pay for it. If your daughter gets an allowance, she can save that. If not, you may want to suggest duties that she can fulfill on a regular basis for a particular amount of money. Or you may want to encourage her to offer to do chores for elderly neighbors or others so that she can earn money. She can use gift cards that she receives for her birthday or holidays.

The point is, if she is so inclined to have this phone, require her to be able to pay for it herself.

(Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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