Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Mother-in-Law Takes Discipline Too Far

DEAR HARRIETTE: I found out that my mother-in-law spanked my child. I don't spank my children, and I don't believe in that type of discipline. I asked her to not hit my child, but she keeps finding other ways to discipline, like pinching or plucking his hands when he does something “bad.” I constantly tell her not to use corporal punishment on my son and have given her the ways we discipline him at home, but she thinks they aren't effective.

She is my son’s grandmother, so she thinks she has rights, but she must stop. I need her to respect me and the way I raise my child. How can I get my mother-in-law to stop hitting my child? -- Distressed Daughter-in-Law, Brooklyn, New York

DEAR DISTRESSED DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: It is essential that the ways in which you discipline your children remain consistent among anyone who is allowed to discipline them. Period. That goes for your mother-in-law.

Since your mother-in-law refuses to follow your rules, you may have to limit her interaction with your son. This may seem harsh, but it may be your ultimate recourse. Tell her that if she will not curb her disciplinary tactics, she will not be allowed to be with your son alone anymore. This will horrify her, perhaps enough to get her to stop. If she continues, you will need to follow through until she listens to you.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My boyfriend and I want to move in together, and we both have been saving for a new apartment. We decided that we would save the first and last month's rent before we moved in. I have my portion ready, but he doesn’t. I don’t think he is taking moving in seriously because he has only half of the amount we agreed on. How can I encourage him to save more so we can move in sooner? -- Frustrated, Cincinnati

DEAR FRUSTRATED: Slow down. Moving in with anyone, including a boyfriend, is a huge commitment. Your boyfriend’s inability to have the financial resources required to move in could be a sign that he is not financially responsible or committed in the ways that you are. Consider this a red flag. Stop hounding him, and watch to see what he does. Yes, you want to take the next step in your life together, but you need to be on the same page. Being a quiet observer in this moment will allow you to witness how your boyfriend behaves when it’s time to make a decision.

You may want to give yourself a deadline after which you will speak up about the apartment again. If you need to move, you may also need to consider another roommate. What you should not do is let your boyfriend live with you rent-free. How you start your life together makes a huge difference as to how you design your life.

(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.)