The Washington Post

Should we tell our teenager he can’t play in a band until his grades improve?

(Ben Claassen III/For Express)

My teenage son is smart, but has lost interest in school — he’s been skipping classes and not completing assignments. He’s gotten friendly with other kids that are not great students but really want to start a band. My husband feels that until his grades improve, his music should be taken away. But that’s the only thing he’s motivated about right now, so I think it’s the worst thing we could do. -Stuck Between Them

I understand your husband’s impulse, but making your son miserable — and taking away something that spurs creativity, collaboration and emotional expression — is not a good idea. I know you have to make consequences meaningful, but they shouldn’t cripple him.

But I wonder if this discussion should be looked at apart from the realm of time-outs. Might he be depressed? Is substance abuse a possibility? Or bullying? Try to start a conversation with him, and, as crazy as it sounds, collaborate on some boundaries together — not using taking away his music as the stick, but using building it up as the carrot.

In My Life, But Not My Circle

I am a stay-at-home mom and have worked hard to develop a circle of friends. A college acquaintance just moved into the area and wants to slide right into our circle. But I’ve never been crazy about her — she’s materialistic, jealous and competitive. I’d rather not have her in my group of friends. But she keeps inviting herself to things that I mention. How do I keep her out? -Want to Protect My Circle

If someone keeps inviting themselves to things you don’t want them to attend, and they haven’t been breaking into your iPhone calendar, it’s a sign you’re being too loose-lipped with your plans. When you’re always telling her what you’re up to, it’s reasonable for her to imagine that you wouldn’t hate her company.

Your job is to help her find her own friends, so that you neither abandon her nor have to become bosom buddies. Chances are, she’s got some interests that don’t overlap with yours, so encourage her to cultivate them — suggest volunteer work, listservs, a new yoga studio — and share some of those circle-developing tips.

Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at

Read previous columns:

I’m not happy my fiance and I are moving far away for his job.

When is too soon to tell my boyfriend I’m on antidepressants?

Should I tell anyone I’ve created fake deadlines for a chronically late co-worker?

Dr. Andrea Bonior writes Express' advice column, Baggage Check.
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