Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My 8-year-old daughter received an expensive gift -- a smartphone -- from her father a few weeks ago. I understand the importance of communication, but I believe he went a little overboard with this purchase. I confronted him and asked why. His response was that he wants the best for his daughter.

To be honest, the best gift for my daughter, in my opinion, would be for her father to be a stabilizing presence in her life. What is he going to give her next -- an Xbox 360, or maybe a pair of $200 sneakers? -- Annoyed Mom, Brooklyn, N.Y.

DEAR ANNOYED MOM: Because you and your ex are co-parenting your daughter, it is imperative that you come to terms on what you value for her at different ages. This may be hard since the two of you are not together.

Be careful not to scold your ex, which might drive him away. Instead, tell him you want to talk about age-appropriate gifts and what it means to give your child "the best." One reason an expensive smartphone may not be wise for an 8-year-old is that it can be easily lost. It also may offer too much access to the Internet, which could be detrimental to a young child if unsupervised.

Ask your ex if he is willing to talk to you before making big purchases. Indeed, it would be wise to set up weekly calls during which you can check in about parenting in general. If you grow accustomed to talking about your daughter without having it be only when you are angry, you stand a better chance of developing healthy habits that you both agree to implement.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm a returning college student, and I'm having a challenge with the math elements of my microeconomics class. I haven't had to learn a math equation in more than 15 years, and my math skills are rusty.

I told my professor that I was struggling and that I was planning to get a tutor. To my surprise, she advised that I not seek help from a tutor.

I believe she has given me bad advice. I know my academic needs, and I want to do what is best for me and my grades. What should I do? -- College Man, Queens, N.Y.

DEAR COLLEGE MAN: Listen to your gut. If you think you need help, get it. It cannot hurt for you to get a tutor to support you in this class or any other. Especially since you feel rusty in this area, get help, become excellent at math, master this class and prove your value with great work.

Your professor may mean well, but you do not have to forgo support just because she thinks you do not need it.