Category Archives: Ask Harper

Worried about who’s Dad’s favorite — and why

Ask HarperDear Harper: I’m pretty sure my dad thinks I’m his favorite. I feel good and bad about this but mostly bad. My brother is older than me and Dad is always stricter with him than me and doesn’t joke around with him like he does with me. I don’t know why this is. My brother definitely notices it. What is your advice? — Confused in Colrain

Dear Confused: Sometimes the tone of voice isn’t the major thing. Your dad will still love you as much as your brother even if he yells at him all of the time. I bet if you asked your dad, he would tell you that he loves you and your brother the same.

My mom and I talked about your question. She recommended I look through a book she has called Touchpoints: Birth to Three (Da Capo Press, 2006) by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. I found this about “valuing individuals,” which means seeing the worth in each person:

Parents often wonder how to treat each child equally. The answer is simple: You can’t. Each child is a different personality and needs a different approach. For instance, you might say to one, “You need me to speak softly.” To another, “You always need me to speak angrily.” When they torture you with “You’re always nicer to him than you are to me,” you can say, “You are very different people, which is great. I need to treat you differently. When I speak loudly to you, it’s to make you listen but I am speaking just as lovingly even if it’s louder.”

You might feel better if you talk to your dad. As your brother is older, your dad might be joking around with him in a way that you don’t understand. Your father might have different expectations for you and your brother since you are different ages. For instance, I get to stay up later than my younger brother because I am older. It’s not because my parents like me better; it’s because I’m more mature. I also get to watch movies that have swear words in them whereas my younger brother doesn’t get to watch them as much. People are different and that’s good! If everyone were the same, that would be very bad.

You can’t control everything your dad does. There’s only one person you can control and that’s YOU! Treat your brother kindly and he’ll return the favor. Tell me how everything goes.


Harper Brown is one of The BSE Flow’s advice columnists and its New York bureau chief. Got a question? Write Please include your contact information and name. We won’t print your name if you ask us not to.

‘You are more important to your parents than whatever they got divorced for

HARPERDEAR HARPER: This is very personal so I won’t give my name. I’ve never even seen anyone’s name except yours on these things so maybe that’s how it works. My parents are divorced and I rarely see my dad anymore. This makes me sad. Now my mom wants to marry her boyfriend, who actually is a cool guy and I have a lot of fun with him and his son. I just don’t want to never see my dad again, like if he gets his feelings hurt. That would destroy me. So I don’t know what anyone can say but there it is. — Anonymous

DEAR ANONYMOUS: I know this is tough but you can get through this. Talk to your mom. She can help you set up time to spend with your dad.

Always remember that your dad is in your heart even if you can’t be with him every day. Talk to your dad so he knows what’s going on with you. It’s important to spend time with both of your parents. It’s important that you let them know that.

This is new for ALL of you. It’s going to take some time to get used to it. From what you say, it sounds like your dad might need a little time alone at first before he is comfortable coming over to pick you up. You might need to give him more time to get used to it. Maybe you can tell your dad about your day with a daily phone call or email to keep him involved in your life.

It might be a good idea to ask your school counselor (if you have one) for their advice. I know that you are more important to your parents than whatever they got divorced for. They will want to help you.
I admire your bravery for asking about this. Tell me how everything goes.

Your friend,

Harper Brown is one of The BSE Flow’s advice columnists and its New York bureau chief. Got a question? Write Please include your name and contact information. We won’t print your name if you ask us not to.

Posts on the Web can come back to bite

Ask HarperDear Harper: Thanks for taking my letter. I wanted to know if you have a Facebook or Instagram account. My parents feel that I am too young to have one but they don’t seem to know that everybody in school is on Facebook but me. How can I get them to relax about it? I’ll be careful. — Offline For Now

Dear Offline For Now: I do not have a Facebook or Instagram account because my parents do not think I should. Right now I do not want either. There could be someone in your school who doesn’t have a Facebook or Instagram account. It’s not true that “everybody” has them.

My health teacher, Mrs. Cappotelli, taught us that friends online are not always what they seem. They could be posing as the person they say.  She also taught us to report when something gets bad during games, like if someone sends you something extremely rude.

A couple of months ago I had an experience with someone on my bus who has an Instagram account.  She’s in third grade and I really think that’s too young to have a Facebook or Instagram account. She took a picture of me and posted it on Instagram.  Did she ask if it was OK? No way, José! My mom was upset because this friend hadn’t asked my permission. I told her many times to delete it, but she said there were a lot of “likes” on it so she didn’t want to.

After this, the vice principal had to get involved to ask the girl to remove the picture.

The age limit for Facebook is 13. So if you’re younger than that, I highly recommend you NOT get either Facebook or Instagram because hackers, viruses, and predators like to hunt on chat apps.

I can see why your parents do not want you to have one of these accounts: It’s not what you do, but rather what other people might do to you.

You can afford to be patient. The Internet, and Facebook, aren’t going anywhere.

The major reason I don’t want to have Facebook or Instagram accounts is because what’s posted there never comes off! If you say something rude to a friend online and delete it later, guess what? It’s still out there. It won’t be deleted. Have you ever hear the saying, “Once it’s said, the Web is fed”?

For related safety information, visit and

Thanks for asking my views on this important topic. Please let me know how you and your parents handle it.

Harper Brown is The BSE Flow’s advice columnist and New York bureau chief. Got a question? Write Please include your name and contact information.

How to make friends at a new school

Ask HarperDear Harper: I am in sixth grade this year and I am going to go to Mohawk [Middle School] next year. I don’t know who is going to be in my class and I want to be in class with all my same friends. Some people are probably going different places. This isn’t really a question but do you have advice for me? — Name withheld by request

Dear Name Withheld: When I first came to Jefferson Avenue Elementary School from a private school, I was really nervous myself because I only knew one person. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know more people and I’ve made a lot of friends. I did this just by being friendly and introducing myself to people I didn’t know and by starting to play with them at recess.

You probably won’t have all of the same friends in your class but there’s a high chance there will be someone you know. If you want to know a lot of kids, you should probably go up to someone you don’t know and introduce yourself.   See if there is something you have in common. If you join a club you’re interested in, you can meet other kids who might be interested in the same thing.

I can understand why you might be sad to not see your friends anymore, but you can always try to find ways to hang out outside of school. You can email and call your friends or maybe set up a club outside of school for the people who aren’t in your new school.
There will probably be an orientation for new students where you get to learn where everything is in your school. I bet if you go to orientation you’ll feel more confident.  Remember that you’re not the only one who’s new to the school.

You’re not alone. There will be other kids who might be looking for friends. Be friendly! Be open! Show your best smile! Remember the saying “Fake it till you make it?” (If you don’t remember this saying, ask a grown up!) Sometimes the more confident you act, the more confident you’ll feel.

I’d love to hear if you have more questions after you go to your new school. Write again please!

Harper Brown is one of The BSE Flow’s advice columnists and its New York bureau chief. Got a question? Write Please include your contact information and name. We won’t print your name if you ask us not to.

Limits, rewards help students stay on their game

Ask HarperDear Harper: I am the parent of a BSE student who always prefers to play on the iPhone or computer before doing homework. Also, he never wants to practice his music instrument. How should I make him focus on this stuff? Bewildered in Buckland.

Dear Bewildered: I think that you should put a limit on the time that your child spends on the computer or iPhone. I usually get a break when I come home from school because my mother understands that working six hours at school is very hard. I play on my iPad mini or watch television for up to an hour but if I have a lot of homework I only do 20 to 30 minutes. Then I crank out all of my homework.

Well, I try to. After I finish my homework and cello practice I finish up the last few minutes of screen time. I can use an hour every day either all at once or by splitting up my time.

It might be hard to do this at first but you can tell your child that if he can do this all week then at the end of the week you guys can go out to dinner or he can get a treat or extra time on the iPhone or computer.

For the instrument, your son should do at least 20 minutes of practice every other day. When I practice my cello, I usually have a glass of juice nearby, or some small candy treats. I drink a sip of juice or eat a piece of candy after I complete a song. If you would prefer not to have juice or candy, you can substitute water for juice and Graham crackers or something like that for the candy. The choice is yours.

Good luck! I hope your son stays on task.

Harper Brown is The BSE Flow’s advice columnist and New York bureau chief. Got a question? Write