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Broken Cellphone and Therapy-Averse Dad

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: I know my son broke his cellphone on purpose so he could get a newer one. He denies it, but I have proof. He needs a phone. But I'm hesitant to get this for him, since it feels like I would be rewarding dishonesty. What should I do? --Mad

Dear Mad: You say he needs a phone. Well, maybe he doesn't. Generations of children survived quite well without a phone in their back pocket. It would be even easier to be in touch nowadays, as nearly every other man, woman and child over the age of 12 has a phone he could borrow.

You didn't say how you know he broke his phone, but I'm guessing you have some evidence. Bring forth your proof, and let him know you will not even consider a new phone until he fesses up. Then wait for it. At first, he will continue to habitually deny. But when he sees that no phone is being purchased, he will eventually think his best chance is to be honest.

When he does admit it, thank him for his honesty, albeit delayed. Tell him that while you can appreciate his frustration in having an older phone, destroying his property isn't a way to get a new one. In order to help him learn that there is a cost to having the latest device, have him pay for it. If he doesn't have any money, tell him to earn some by walking dogs, scooping ice cream, shopping for elderly neighbors or even doing odd jobs around the house. Expect lots of complaining and begging, but hang tough. This is a lesson worth holding out for.

Dear Family Coach: My daughter is having a lot of crippling anxiety. I've tried to help her the best I can, but now it's starting to impact her school and friendships. My husband is completely against therapy. He thinks its hogwash and the therapists just want to pry into our lives. The insurance is his, so I can't sneak her there. How can I convince him this is vital to our daughter's health? -- Scared

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Dear Scared: Some anxiety should be expected in childhood. It's the body's warning system for danger. Most of it comes and goes without much fanfare. However, some teens experience significant anxiety that causes them to avoid people, places and activities. Your daughter is clearly showing signs that her anxiety has reached a dysfunctional level.

You husband needs to be educated. Left untreated, your daughter may turn to drugs and alcohol to ease their symptoms. Poor school performance and social issues may also arise. If going to school becomes too difficult and she falls too far behind, she might decide to just drop out. I doubt your husband wants your daughter to suffer. He probably has never understood therapy or had any positive associations.

I'd recommend contacting two or three therapists who specialize in teens and anxiety. Find one you and your daughter like. Tell the therapist your predicament, and ask if he or she would be willing to just talk to your husband. Hopefully a good therapist can approach your spouse with empathy so he can hear the dangers of ignoring your daughter's mental health without shutting down. If all efforts fail, talk to the school counselor about the possibility of treatment at school.

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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