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A Square Peg and Walking to School

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: My wife and I are raising three kids. We are a sporty high-achievement family. As parents, we have been instilling the values of hard work and persistence. Unfortunately, my youngest son doesn't seem to be fitting in with the rest of us. Every time I try to work with him it feels like jamming a square peg into a round hole. He is pulling away more and more. What's the best way to help him fall in line better with the rest of us and follow our family values? -- Concerned

Dear Concerned: Frankly, I'm concerned more about you than your youngest. So he doesn't fit in perfectly. That doesn't have to be cause for alarm or reason to have to "work" with your son.

Children are formed from their parents' genes, but that doesn't make them clones. Each child is an individual with his own temperament, desires, abilities and interests. Just because you are a sporty family doesn't mean each kid will automatically be an athlete. Every time you try to push your son to fall in line, you are sending the message that who he is will not be good enough for your family. That's got to hurt him enormously.

Instead of having a narrow focus on sports and high achievement, try to find out more about who your son really is. What are his passions and values? What makes him happy? Maybe there are more similarities between your way and his than you realize. Take the time to meet your son where he is, and for goodness' sake, stop working with him. He's a kid, not a project. Your job is, of course, to help mold him into a well-adjusted adult who will be an asset to the world. However, there are a multitude of ways that can happen. Your way isn't the only way.

If you would like to continue having a relationship with your son, abort your plan to make him just like his siblings and parents now. If you can't find room for him in your singularly focused household, you will lose him as soon as he is able to support himself.

Dear Family Coach: My 10-year-old son's friends all walk to school, and he wants to walk, too. But he is a bit more immature and impulsive than his friends. I don't think he is ready to be trusted to walk independently. Is it wrong to make him wait until he's older? -- Walker's Mom

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Dear Mom: If you don't think your son is ready despite what his friends are doing, it isn't wrong to make him wait. However, it would be helpful to consider why your son isn't ready and what needs to be in place for him to succeed.

Sure, your little guy might be more immature and impulsive than the average 10-year-old. However, those issues are probably not insurmountable. Think deeply about why your son isn't walking when all of his friends are. Maybe your son has a learning disability or an impulsivity disorder, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Maybe he just hasn't been given the opportunity to learn the skills needed to walk independently. No matter the reason, there is a remedy.

Start teaching your son what he needs to know to walk with his friends. Help him memorize the route. Teach him how to ask for help should he get lost. Find him a buddy with whom he can walk. Then shadow him until you feel comfortable. With some conscientious skill-building, I bet he will be ready in no time.

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 2018 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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