DR WALLACE: My younger brother is in the sixth grade, and he struggles with his studies and his homework. He gets easily confused and distracted, and then he often won't complete his assignments. He's a good kid and I love him a lot. He means well, but he has trouble staying focused when he has to study all by himself. He's falling behind because he often does not complete his assignments in full.
So now my mother has asked me to do his homework for him because I'm older, I'm a good student and I could easily do it pretty fast for him.
But I feel really uncomfortable with her request to do this! I let her know how I felt and then she directly told me I have to do it! She even said the words, "That's an order, young lady!" to me! Is there anything I can do in this situation? I know for sure this is so wrong on many levels. — Older Sister, via email
OLDER SISTER: You are quite correct that this is a bad idea, and you should let your mother know how you feel and why.
Homework is assigned such that students can grow their study skills and reinforce learning of the subject.
Furthermore, helping a child to study is a parent's responsibility, not a sibling's. Start by asking your mother to help your younger brother with his homework and to find better ways to concentrate and stick with it until it's completed. You can volunteer to sit in with the two of them to help your mother get him pointed in the right direction to start with. I feel this would help everyone to pull together and assist your brother now before he drifts off course and falls behind in school.
Hopefully your mother will step in and become involved to help her son succeed. If she does not, then speak to your brother's teacher and explain that he is not receiving much support at home. Hopefully, your mother will step up and this won't be necessary, but at least you'll have a plan ready if you need to take further action to help your brother.
MY FRIEND HAS POOR HYGIENE!
DR. WALLACE: I've been friends with the same girl for two years now and we get along great. We're both 14 and we laugh a lot and have much in common. She's always been loyal and honest with me about everything we do. I really like her! But my friend does have a problem, and it's with her personal hygiene habits. I'd like to help her but I don't know what to do.
Lately it has been difficult to be around her. She doesn't seem to shower much, and in the summer, I can always smell her body odor. It's kind of gross to be honest!
How do I tell her about this without hurting her feelings and losing her as a friend? — Want to be Gentle, via email
WANT TO BE GENTLE: Let your friend know in the most caring way you can that perhaps she's not aware that her clothes are dirty or smelly and would benefit from a quick wash.
Ask your mother in advance if you can have your friend's clothes washed at your house with some of your clothes (and family clothes, if applicable) to help her out. Let your mom know all about your situation and that your plan would be for each of you and her to take quick individual showers, wash the clothes and hang out with a few snacks until the clothes are cleaned and dried.
If you can accomplish this, you'll have done her a big favor. Be sure to compliment her on how clean and fresh she smells when you girls finish your showers and are back in your freshly washed clothes.
Set it up so that your whole conversation about this is initiated after school or one afternoon in the summer at your house with your mother's advance approval already secured. This way you can get the showers and washing machine involved right away!
Once you've pulled off this "hygiene afternoon" together with her, it will leave the door open for you to tell her in the future, "We might need another laundry day together" if you even notice a return of this issue. Hopefully she'll get your gentle hint and she'll also appreciate that you are looking out for her.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.