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A Broken Promise and Nighttime Cellphone Rules

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: My daughter couldn't find her glasses, so she offered to give her brother a crazy amount of money if he were to find them. He suggested that she check her backpack. When she did, she found her glasses. Now, my daughter refuses to pay my son the money she promised him. I feel she should have to pay up because, without her brother, she wouldn't have found them. On the other hand, he didn't exactly find them. They've been fighting about this ferociously. Whose side should I take? -- In the Middle

Dear Middle: You should take no one's side. Stay far out of it. This isn't your battle to resolve, and any meddling you do will backfire almost immediately.

When I was a child, I bet my grandfather in a game of cards. He won, and I refused to pay up. My grandfather said nothing. But the next day, he bet me again that I couldn't run a certain distance in under a minute. I knew I could do it, so I made the bet. Can you guess what happened next? I won the bet, but my grandfather refused to pay me. I immediately learned my lesson.

Now is a time to let natural consequences work their magic on both of your kids. Your son will learn that his sister isn't one to trust when she makes a deal. When he refuses to help her in the future, your daughter will realize that her failure to follow through in the past has caused her brother to avoid helping her out.

Inevitably, one child will be very angry in the short run. This is most likely going to be your son. But if you get involved and mandate your daughter to pay, she will then be extremely angry. You see, you can't win. Let nature take its course.

Dear Family Coach: My daughter has slept in my bedroom for 12 years. I recently decided it was time for her to sleep in her own room. So, as a concession, I agreed to let my daughter have her cellphone in the room at night. However, now I worry it was a mistake because she is on the phone when she should be sleeping. How do I go back on that now? -- Oops

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Dear Oops: Sometimes parents agree to a privilege and then realize their decision was unwise. They know exactly what needs to be done. But they are terribly afraid of the backlash that will ensue when the rules are changed. Children never, ever , want to give up what they may deem as a hard-won right. However, parents must stay strong and do what they know is correct.

You made a bad deal. You were so desperate to get your daughter out (and who could blame you after 12 years?) that you agreed to what is akin to extortion. No child needs her cellphone in her room. If you don't get it out of there, she will soon stay up all hours texting and Snapchatting friends. Nothing good happens on cellphones after 10 p.m.

You must take the phone out of the room immediately. However, you do have a choice. Since you are revoking your part of the deal, your daughter may want to come back into your room. Clearly, she doesn't need to sleep with you. She was just fine with her cellphone, and she will be just fine without it. But if you can't bear to put up a fight, then let her back in. On the other hand, you might offer her another, more appropriate incentive if she is looking for a replacement. But make sure this time it is something you can live with.


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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