DEAR HARRIETTE: I hosted a birthday party for my child recently. It was a mix of adults and children, because I knew from experience that parents would be more likely to bring their children if I entertained them as well.
At one point in the party, I was walking the children down the block after playing soccer. I overheard my 10-year-old son bragging about the properties "he" owns and pointing them out on the street. Although it is true that my husband owns a few buildings in our neighborhood, my son was acting like he was the richest boy in all the land. Before I had a chance to correct him, I saw some of the kids in the group roll their eyes at my son. I felt horrible.
I don't know how my son became so obsessed with money and belongings. How do I start this conversation with him? I fear it might be too late to change him, but I want to bring awareness to him. -- Not About the Money, Tampa, Florida
DEAR NOT ABOUT THE MONEY: In private, ask your son why he was telling the children about you family's properties. Gently probe to find out why he felt the need to show off in that way. Tell him what you observed, namely the children rolling their eyes. Point out that the reason you are telling him about his friends' reaction is so he can understand that when people brag about their possessions -- or really anything that they have -- others do not usually appreciate it.
Explain that it is a blessing for your family to have properties and to have whatever possessions and money you may have acquired, but that this is a private topic for the family to discuss, not to share with friends -- even if the friends brag about their stuff on other occasions. As the host of his birthday party, his job was to make his guests feel comfortable, not to pump himself up.