Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Teen Daughter's Drinking Worries Reader

DEAR HARRIETTE: When I came home from dinner, I noticed about a dozen empty beer cans in the recycling. My teenage daughter was the only one home during this time. She was sleeping at the time of my discovery, and I didn’t want to wake her up. I think she has a serious binge drinking problem, but I don’t know if punishing her would yield positive results.

I haven’t told my wife about my discovery yet, because she would certainly ground our daughter for a longer time than necessary. Should I try to settle this just between me and my daughter? -- Dozen Cans, Milwaukee

DEAR DOZEN CANS: You are about to enter what is likely to be a tough battle to save your daughter. Binge drinking is an escalating crisis in our country, particularly among teens. You are right that punishment may not be the most effective way of helping your daughter. If she did drink a dozen beers at home, there’s a good chance she has been drinking like that in other places. This is dangerous for her physical and mental health.

You can start by speaking to her and letting her know how concerned you are about her, and asking her to let you help her. Tell her that you noticed the beer cans, and you believe she consumed the beer. Ask her what’s going on with her, and gently attempt to get her to talk to you. Do not speak in judgmental tones, as that will not help at all. Read up on binge drinking -- defined as four or more alcoholic beverages consumed at one time -- and share what you’ve read with your daughter. Here’s one helpful site:

Do not leave your wife in the dark. You need to work together to help your daughter. This can be a life-threatening activity. Many binge drinkers die from alcohol poisoning, and it has also been proven that rape, STDs and other violent crimes occur more often when people are intoxicated.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been put in an organizational research group with six of my co-workers. I have done projects like this before, so I started laying out a possible plan of action immediately. As I was attempting to describe what had and hadn’t worked in the past, my colleague "Ronald" constantly talked over me and interrupted. In hindsight, I know that letting my natural tendency to take over was not the best way to start off the group project, but I have experience in this field -- he doesn’t. We will be working together into the spring, and Ronald has already rubbed me the wrong way. How can I save this team project from becoming contentious? -- Butting Heads, Syracuse, New York

DEAR BUTTING HEADS: Invite Ronald to a one-on-one meeting where you ask him to share his ideas about how to move forward with the project. Tell him that you think it’s important for the two of you to be on the same page. Ask him for his input. Laud any ideas that he has that seem helpful. Then add a couple of ideas based on your experience. Do your best not to tout your experience, though, because that will trigger his ego. Tread lightly!

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)