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A Cheater and a Gaming Spender

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: My 16-year-old daughter was caught cheating on a test. She was overwhelmed and made a bad choice. Now it seems like it will ruin all of her hard work because it will be reported to colleges. She is beyond distraught, and I'm worried about her. What can I do to minimize the damage here? -- Panic-Stricken

Dear Panic: This is bound to be a difficult time for both you and your daughter. She made a mistake, and that in and of itself is painful. But when that mistake has lasting consequences, hopelessness and depression can creep in. Keep an eye on your daughter for signs of her giving up or not caring anymore about her future. Make sure to get her to a counselor if her depression worsens.

While it may not feel this way, your daughter's life is not ruined. Sure, there may be harsh penalties for cheating. She may face failing the class, delayed graduation or the inability to get into her preferred college. To a teenager this will feel like the end of the world. Teens don't have an extensive life experience to teach them that major failures can be overcome. To comfort your daughter, it's best to provide empathy and validate her feelings. She sounds like she is punishing herself enough on her own. Your role now is to help her plan a path through this temporary disaster.

Think up a few instances when you thought your life was ruined. What helped you move forward, and how did you get through it? Share these experiences with your daughter. Ask your daughter to think about why she felt the need to cheat. What brought her to that point? Then, work on addressing those issues. When it comes to applying for college, she should be honest about her mistake and her growth since. Colleges know kids are human beings who make mistakes. What they want to see is the ability to get up after a failure. Help your daughter get up.

Dear Family Coach: Every year my son is given money for the holidays and ends up spending it all on video games and accessories. It feels like such a waste. This year I'd like to tell him that he can spend half on video games but has to spend half on something else. Does this sound reasonable? -- Careful Spender

Dear Careful: Before I answer your question, could I take a look at your Amazon purchases for the last year? While we are at it, send over a credit card statement for me to review as well. If I were to take a look, do you think I would approve of how you are choosing to spend your money? I feel confident I might make some different choices.

--Sponsored Video--

Maybe you spend too much on Starbucks for the daily venti peppermint mocha. Maybe you are frivolous with buying large ticket items that you pay off slowly on your credit card. Or maybe you treasure sports memorabilia and spend way too much on your collection. The point is that every person manages their money differently because they have varying value systems.

You don't have the right to tell your son what to buy. Let him spend as he wishes. Later, when he wants a pack of gum or a new magazine or the latest gadget, don't give him money for it. Simply say, "Use your holiday money." Inevitably, he will say he has none left. Sigh. Then sit back and let the learning begin. Maybe he will make different choices by next year. Maybe he won't. But that's up to him.


Dr. Catherine Pearlman is the author of "Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction." 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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