23 Aug 2014
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Patch Instagram photo by jwgartin
Patch Instagram photo by jwgartin

Ask Dr. Mike: Money, Tattoos and Parenting

The doctor tackles an array of topics that many Loudoun residents likely face.

Ask Dr. Mike: Money, Tattoos and Parenting

Divided Over LCPS' Excessive Tardy Policy

Dr. Mike,
What is your position on Loudoun County Public School’s action to take parents to court for their children’s excessive tardiness? My husband thinks it was the right decision; that all parents have a duty and obligation to make sure their children get to school on time. He refers to the two families who have been charged as being “special” since these parents do not appear to feel they have to abide to the same rules the rest of us need to. I see his point but feel that the Loudoun County Courthouse isn’t the forum to settle the matter.  It seems extreme and aggressive on the part of the school system.

O in Loudoun County

As you likely know, the story was recently hot in the media with many being outraged by the county’s decision to take these parents to court over excessive school tardiness. Over the past few weeks, more details have come to light with information that appears to support both sides. I actually agree with both you and your husband. Yes, parents have an obligation to teach personal accountability and respect to their children, and that includes getting their children to school on time.  Excessive tardiness for a child is a very real problem for the child, the teacher and the classroom. On the other hand, I am not sure that the school needed to pound these families with a legal sledgehammer. I would have preferred the school system take more of a stepwise approach involving parent meetings with graduated punishments or consequences for those parents. One thing is for certain, in Loudoun County at least, I imagine many parents are now making a more concerted effort to be on time.  


Balancing Security and Discipline

Dr. Mike,
My husband recently proposed that we arrange trust funds for our three children. We both came from humble beginnings and have acquired the success we now have through hard work and discipline. I am concerned that if we make life too easy for our children by giving them too much, they won’t develop the same work ethic that drove my husband and me to succeed. My husband thinks I am being ridiculous since we both work hard to install good lessons and values in our children. Any thoughts?

A in Loudoun County

Your children are going to internalize your examples and teachings whether they have a trust fund or not. The trust fund in question is not going to shape what sort of adults they become. Rather, the 18 years you spend shaping and guiding them will determine that. A compromise for the trust would be to not let your children know that the trust exists until much later. With this approach, your husband would be able to lovingly give his children the financial security and advantage he did not have as a child or young man, and your concerns about that gift’s impact on their characters would be minimized. As parents, it is normal for you to want your children to improve their opportunities and social station in life. Keep in mind that the financial security you are now able to provide to your children is a positive. Without needing to worry about money, you are in a position to focus your attention on the things that matter most – their emotional, social, academic and behavioral functioning.


To Tattoo or Not?

Dr. Mike,
I am turning 50 years old next week and am thinking about getting a tattoo. My 20-year-old daughter is definitely encouraging it, but I’m just not sure if it would be a mistake. How will I know if I am ready to permanently ink myself?

K in Loudoun County

As a psychologist, I typically encourage my clients to do pursue their interests and adventures. However, the fact that you’re turning to an advice columnist to validate your decision tells me that you are looking for someone to talk you out of it. If you were confident enough to move forward in your decision to get a tattoo, my opinion or your daughter’s opinion would not matter. Perhaps you might want to commemorate your landmark birthday with something less permanent, such as a party, a make-over or committing to running a 5K.


Money and Family Can Be a Tough Mix

Dr. Mike,
For many years, my mother frequently gave my sister and me extra money here and there. My mother passed away last year, and in turn, the money stopped coming in. As an adult, I always enjoyed the surprise checks in the mail, but I didn’t rely on them. My sister, on the other hand, did rely on the extra money to make ends meet. She has now turned to our stepfather for help and this has strained things. Our stepfather has recently started to see someone new and is losing his patience with my sister’s constant requests. I’m happy that my stepfather is moving on, and I understand his new position. However, now my sister is hinting at me more than ever about needing money – being behind in bills and in paying the mortgage. My husband and I live frugally to keep our retirement goals attainable, and I don’t want my sister’s needs to jeopardize things for us.

N in Loudoun County

Your sister needs to learn to stand on her own two feet and adjust her lifestyle to what she can afford without any additional help from family members. This will likely be a tough lesson for her to learn since it seems that a dynamic of dependency has been in place for many years. It does not seem that she was ever expected to pay your mother back, and now this burden of unending giving has befallen your stepfather. If you are not careful, I am concerned that you, too, will likely become part of the problem. The timing of your stepfather’s new relationship affords you the opportunity to discuss the problem with your sister proactively. You could let her know that with your stepfather moving on, he should no longer be expected to supplement her income. If your sister does end up approaching you for money, you could offer her a loan with the clear understanding that you expect to be paid back. You can even address the specifics of repayment (e.g., a payment plan or schedule with an end date). If your sister has personal items of worth or interest to you, you could retain those items as collateral and return them to her once the loan is repaid. Money can ruin relationships, so I caution you to handle your needs and your sister’s situation with respect and love.

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