DEAR HARRIETTE: My son’s seventh-grade teacher contacted me to say she was worried that my son is not reading enough. She thinks this is why he doesn’t do so well in humanities and is a slow reader. He is required to read a certain number of pages every day, which he does begrudgingly. His teacher has asked me to get him to read more.
I want to help, but I’m not a big reader, either. Now I feel guilty that he doesn’t read much because we don’t read a lot in our household. I don’t want to shrug off the teacher’s request, but I think it is going to be hard to change my family's patterns. The moment my husband and I get home from work, we turn on the news and we watch that or some crime show until we go to sleep. How can I get my son to read more -- and even my husband and me, too? I feel like it’s too hard to break old patterns. -- Don’t Love to Read, Pittsburgh
DEAR DON’T LOVE TO READ: You already know the answer: You have to demonstrate to your son what is expected of him. One way to make it easier for yourself is to approach reading as homework for the family. Talk to your husband about the teacher’s evaluation of your son’s reading and her recommendation that he dive deeper into reading on a daily basis. Ask your husband to join you in spending at least one hour each evening reading together. Pick anything you find interesting.
If all of you have the TV off and books open, your son will be more inspired to emulate your behavior. You can even express the truth about how challenging it is at first, since you are accustomed to watching TV. Agree with your son that you will read together each evening. This is the best way to break the pattern -- as a family.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Recently, my family hung out with a family we haven’t seen in quite some time. We had a lovely time together. One thing I noticed, though, was that their youngest child had significant body odor. It reminded me of when my daughter was growing up. She was 9 years old when we had to get her deodorant. No amount of washing was enough to ward off major body odor. I thought I might share my own child’s journey with my friend, but then I worried it could be crossing the line. I feel certain the mom could smell her daughter. They are all clean people. Do you think I should follow up and offer my suggestion? -- Child B.O., Kansas City, Kansas
DEAR CHILD B.O.: You did the right thing, at least for starters. Yes, I’m sure the mom can smell her child’s body odor. Had she asked you for a recommendation, you would have had an entrance. It would be inappropriate for you to follow up and point this out. For many families, it takes a while to figure out how to address the hormonal changes that accompany growing up. Eventually, they will work it out. Give them the space to do this on their own.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)