DEAR HARRIETTE: My children are my pride and joy. I would do anything for them, and I’m trying to raise them to be the best they can be. Lately, however, I don’t seem to have as good of a grip on things. My oldest child is a very good student, brings home straight A’s and does what’s expected of her. My youngest child isn’t so “perfect.” He wants to do as he pleases, he is satisfied with B’s and C’s and it’s a miracle if something is done out of the kindness of his heart. I don’t mean to compare my kids, but I just don’t see where I went wrong with my second child. I constantly have to stay on top of him just for him to behave and bring home decent grades. He is more interested in singing than school, and he doesn’t see the need for an education. I feel as if we aren’t the closest, and I’d really like to feel connected to both of my children. How do I get him to see that there’s more in life than just music? How do I get him to want to achieve more? – Lost Mother, Los Angeles

DEAR LOST MOTHER: I think you need to adopt another strategy. Talk to your son about his dreams and aspirations. Learn what inspires him. Music doesn’t have to be a dead end. Help him figure out how to make money living his dream. While you may be able to actually do only a little to help him, your interest in his pursuits will be invaluable. Every human being has his or her own interests and abilities. Your job as a parent is to guide his steps.

As hard as it may seem, you must also accept that not every person is a straight-A student, and that’s OK. Try hard not to compare your children; instead, seek to nurture their qualities and help them figure out how to use them to support their lives.

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DEAR HARRIETTE: A friend has gotten into serious trouble recently. I am wondering if I should remain friends during her time of adversity. She was caught shoplifting at the mall where I work. She wasn’t arrested, but the mall cops told her not to come back. People know that we are friends, including the security guards. And she keeps asking if she can meet me after work to hang out, but I don’t want to jeopardize my job. She has already come there a couple of times and waited outside for me, but one of the guards saw her and gave me a look. What should I do? – De-Friend, Columbia, Maryland

DEAR DE-FRIEND: You don’t have to end your friendship, but you do have to draw the line. Tell her that you don’t want to have to stop seeing her, but if she continues to break the rules by coming to meet you at work, you will have no choice. She broke the law. You cannot allow her irresponsibility to jeopardize your job.

— Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to [email protected] or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.