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Undesirable Music Major and Biking Around Town

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: My son is applying to colleges to be a music major. He has visions of a career on Broadway or in the music business. He's talented, and I've always enjoyed his music. However, I think he isn't good enough to make a career out of it. He says he doesn't mind having little money as long as he can make music. My husband and I think he should keep music as a hobby and find a more practical career. Would it be wrong to threaten to take away his tuition money if he decides to pursue music? --Scared

Dear Scared: Would it be wrong? Emphatically, yes! It would be very wrong to bully your child into a different career path by taking away his ability to pay for college.

Here's how the situation could play out. After you threaten withdrawing your support your son decides to be an accounting major. It's a safe career with lots of jobs. He drudges through his classes while playing music on the side. All seems well. Your son graduates and immediately gets a high paying job at a respected firm. Terrific. Now he gets married, has children and works longs hours. He doesn't play music anymore. There really isn't time. He clocks into a job that he realizes he never enjoyed, and he becomes dangerously depressed. He calls you in tears one day saying his life didn't turn out like he planned.

Now let's imagine a different path. Your son goes to college to pursue his dream. He gets a string of low paying jobs in the music business and supplements his income with part-time jobs. He lives in a tiny apartment with roommates. He falls in love, has a baby and spends the next 10 years playing small gigs at night while being a stay-at-home dad during the day. It's not a conventional life but he's happier than he ever dreamed.

Now tell me, which life do you want for your child?

You are under no obligation to pay for your son's college. However, don't use that money as a bargaining chip to push your child into a practical life. It's not your life to live. Make it clear that after college he is on his own financially then let him follow his passion wherever that may lead.

Dear Family Coach: Our 8 and 10-year-old kids like to ride their bikes on our street. We live in a quiet suburb without much traffic. But the street is limited in distance. At what point should I allow them to explore outside our street and ride further away to nearby playgrounds and parks? --Dad

Dear Dad: There's no time like the present. Children are capable of a lot more than parents generally give credit. The problem is that skills aren't learned overnight. They need to be broken down into smaller manageable steps to reach a bigger goal.

Learning to ride a bike around town isn't all that different than how teens learn to drive. First teach your kids the rules of the road. Then give them supervised practice until they are competent to do it on their own. Talk to your kids about how to ride a bike around the neighborhood. Are there streets to avoid? Do they know how to use hand signals and which side of the road is the correct place to ride? Then dust off your bike and take lots of rides with your children. Assess their skills and ability to make safe decisions. When you think they are ready slowly expand their riding radius.


Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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