DEAR HARRIETTE: My daughter is only 4 years old. She's pretty smart and knows how to read people and sense their emotions. She knows that when I am happy, she can ask for something she wants. If I am not happy, she tends to not bother me, and she plays and entertains herself on her own. I feel like I have a 16-year-old.
I started to catch on to what was happening when I realized that during her favorite afternoon show, she would always ask for a piece of my chocolate candy -- until one day she stopped. I don't always give her one. Out of curiosity, I checked the candy box, and it was empty! When I asked her if she had had any chocolate, she told me she never asked for chocolate today. When I asked her why she didn't ask, she said because there is no more. How did she know that? I checked the lunch box she uses to keep her snacks and found all the wrappers.
How does a 4-year-old lie and create an operation like this? I don't want her to think lying and stealing are OK. Is this something I should be concerned about? -- Manipulative 4-Year-Old
DEAR MANIPULATIVE 4-YEAR-OLD: By age 4, many children have a good sense of how to get what they want. Your smart daughter fits into that mold all too well. What you need to do is talk to her matter-of-factly and let her know your values and expectations for her. Show her the candy wrappers in her box and ask her why she took the candy without asking. Ask her how she thinks you feel about her hiding this from you. Tell her how disappointed you are that she would do this. Tell her that you expect her to tell the truth and not to take candy -- or anything else -- without your permission. Check to see if she understands.
In the future, commend her on things that she does well and point out when she should do something differently. Be consistent.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My wife constantly makes bad decisions and throws money at her problems. She has crashed two of our cars in the past two months. She has broken pieces of her jewelry and has lost her phone a couple times. Her solution is just to buy a new one or to get it fixed. When there are so many different issues at the same time, using money to solve them adds up. We are financially stable, but I worry that if she keeps it up at this pace, it will put us in a bad position.
I can’t keep sitting by as our money is thrown at problems that could have been easily prevented if she had been more careful. I’ve told her that we cannot keep wasting money, but then she reminds me that she is the sole provider in our house and she would rather spend the money than figure out something else. Should I stay with someone that is financially irresponsible? -- Wife Throws Away Money
DEAR WIFE THROWS AWAY MONEY: It sounds like there is a deeper issue afoot. Your wife may be feeling pressured because she is the principal breadwinner as well as indignant that you would say anything about money, given that you aren’t bringing any in.
You two need to talk openly about the pathway to the future. What do you need to ensure that your family will be financially and spiritually happy? What does your wife need to be able to slow down and be more mindful? What can you do to support her and the family more actively so that you share the pressures and burdens of bills, household responsibilities and overall duties?
(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.)