Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Son Is Unmotivated After Lazy Summer

DEAR HARRIETTE: I’m worried about my son’s discipline as he starts off this school year. For the first time, he did not have extracurricular activities this summer. He was supposed to have a job, but he couldn’t find one. He mostly hung out with friends or slept around the house. By the time I figured out how unstructured his summer was, it was too late for me to set him up with activities.

Now that school is starting, my son seems sluggish getting up and being pumped for what will surely be a rigorous academic year. How can I get him motivated? I feel responsible for not keeping him on point during the summer. He is in high school, and these are the important years before he heads off to college. What can I do? -- Get Him Motivated

DEAR GET HIM MOTIVATED: It may take your son a few weeks or a pop quiz or test to wake him up to the rigor of school once more. You can support him by helping to make sure that he is up and out of the house on time. Remind him that his responsibility now is to be a good student and to think about where he wants to go to college and what he wants to do with his life. He had a leisurely summer of fun, and now that’s over.

Don’t begrudge him what is in the past. Instead, help him to focus on what is before him. Though he won’t like it, continue to remind him of his goals. Encourage him to keep them front and center. Hopefully, when he starts getting his grades, he will be able to see what is needed to stay the course.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I overheard two people at my job talking about me like a dog. They were criticizing my personal style and little things about my life -- not my work, mind you. It was petty, but it sounded pretty vicious. I have no idea why they were going for me like that. I keep to myself and do my work. I don’t socialize with them because I have to get home and take care of my family. Most of them are younger and single. I give them their space, which I thought was the right thing to do. Now it seems that my quietness may be causing them to pass judgment. Should I call them out on their comments or take another approach to dealing with them? -- Catty Co-Workers

DEAR CATTY CO-WORKERS: Perhaps they are grumbling about you because you don’t engage them. If you want to make the effort to build bonds with your co-workers, you may want to start talking to them a little bit. Start by greeting them in the morning. A simple “good morning” with a smile and eye contact counts for a lot. You can compliment them on things they are wearing that you genuinely like. Don’t be fake, though. See if little overtures soften their perception of you.

If they continue, you should ask them to stop. Tell them that you have heard their mean comments and would appreciate it if they would pick something else to talk about. If it gets really bad, report them to H.R.

(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.)