DEAR AMY: My husband and I would like to send our two children to private schools because we believe these are more academically challenging than the public schools in our area. My concern is this: While I want my children to get the best possible education, I worry about the "snob factor" associated with these schools.
The young people dress expensively, and I even know many parents who see drinking, pot smoking and partying as tolerable, if not an inevitable part of high school life. I was surprised to see how many parents not only condoned this behavior, but also condoned their children's cliques and "label-conscious" clothing.
I am grateful that we can provide a good education, but I also don't want our kids to believe that an elitist mentality is acceptable. How do we curb the "snob factor"?
— Not a Snob
DEAR NOT: I shared your letter with Michael Thompson, author of "The Pressured Child: Freeing Our Kids From Performance Overdrive and Helping Them Find Success in School and Life" (2005, Ballantine Books). He responds, "I trust independent schools to offer children a first-rate education by providing demanding academics, teachers with high morale, enriched extracurriculars and small class size. The downside of such schools is that the children in them may take privilege for granted.
"You can send your child to an independent school and keep him or her from becoming a snob by insisting on good family values, by asking your child to work and do chores, and by asking him or her to contribute to their community through service."
No matter what school your children attend, your values at home will always be paramount. The message you should convey is, "Your character is the most important part of who you are."
DEAR AMY: I have been in a relationship with my son's father for 11 years. He is trying to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. All he cares about is his image and he constantly flirts with other women.
Two weeks ago I took my clothes from his house because I no longer felt comfortable in the situation. There was no communication for a week. The following week, I caught him with a 20-year-old whom he is now dating! He's broadcasting on social networking sites that he's in a relationship with her!
How does someone walk away from 11 years and immediately hook up with someone so much younger? I don't really know what to do.
DEAR LOST: You mention your son in the first sentence of your query, and then — poof — he disappears. This child needs to come first for at least one of his parents. I nominate you. Your questions should revolve around what is best for your son. Providing him with the best and most stable life possible will benefit both of you.
Your guy seems to have broken up with you. I don't know why some men seem to periodically trade in their partners for a younger model. This is a question for the ages, sages and evolutionary biologists — not for lowly mortals like me. Your next call should be to a lawyer to establish custody and financial support.
DEAR AMY: "Concerned Parents" were worried about their 5-year-old daughter receiving inappropriate gifts at her birthday party. I am surprised that you didn't suggest the most popular way to "control" the gifts and do good at the same time. When our daughter wanted birthday parties with her friends, we would have her pick a charity such as the local animal shelter or homeless shelter and then request unwrapped gifts that were on the charity's "gift" lists.
This helped us avoid our daughter receiving too many gifts and helped her learn that others have needs that she could help fulfill.
— Wisconsin Mother
DEAR MOTHER: Many parents offered this excellent solution. Thank you all.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.