Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Friends Disagree About Disciplining Children

DEAR HARRIETTE: I just got into a heated discussion with a good friend about disciplining children. Typically, I stay away from these kinds of conversations because I know that people have various ways of dealing with their kids, but this was different. She told me a whole long story about how she had physically “handled” her teenage son so that he would listen to her. Then she asked me what I would do if I were in her situation. She asked! So I told her that I do not think that resorting to violence helps to teach kids how to behave. In fact, I think it can help teach kids to resort to violence rather than learn a lesson. She listened, but I could tell she wasn’t going to do anything different. Should I bring it up again? How do I handle this topic moving forward? We are close friends, and we see each other a lot. -- Roughed Up, Dallas

DEAR ROUGHED UP: You stated your opinion clearly when your friend requested it. Leave it at that. You do not have ongoing permission to voice your thoughts about the way that she parents her son. Keep your opinions to yourself unless you are asked again or you witness anything that makes you believe she is putting her son in danger.

Reader Unsure How to Handle Homeless Requests

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently moved to New York City, and everything is so different from my hometown. One of the things that is most troubling for me is I don’t know what to do when people ask me for money. Just about every day as I am going to work or the grocery store or getting on or off the subway, somebody asks me for money. It’s all kinds of people, too, from young people to people who obviously have been on the street for a long time to people with dogs, in wheelchairs, you name it.

At first, I gave something to everybody who asked, but I ran out of change fast. Now I am more mindful, but it’s hard to deny people a dollar when they seem so in need. What can I do to help people without going broke or feeling overwhelmed? -- Want to Help, Brooklyn, New York

DEAR WANT TO HELP: There are thousands of homeless people in New York City, as well as others who have fallen upon hard times for a variety of reasons. Drugs, alcohol and mental illness affect many of them. Yes, they need help. On occasion, your dollar may make a difference. You may want to consider another option, though. Do your research and select a charity that supports homeless people, people with drug and alcohol addiction or people dealing with mental illness. Giving money to a program that is organized to support people in this type of need may be more manageable for you and your gift may be better honored by those who are administering the programs. Just make sure you select a program that has a good rating for using its resources for the people, not the staff.

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