The skills to pay the bills

September 27, 2018

Dear Annie: I wish I had listened to my mom when she told me to go to college. I was 18 and didn’t want to do it. I really liked working with machines, so I got a job doing that. Also, not everybody went to college back then. Five years later, my girlfriend got pregnant, and I stayed at the same job because I made pretty good money and the company had family medical plans. Now I’m 40 years old, and we have three kids. We need more money, but my company can’t give me more.

I’m really good at my job, but I don’t have as many different skills as people who went to trade school or went to school for engineering. Looking for another job has been hard, and I feel that people who have less experience than I do have gotten the jobs because they have special degrees. So it’s a weird situation. Do I keep going with the job that pays less? Go back to school to get a degree? I would have to get loans, and that doesn’t seem smart because we have a mortgage, cars and all that. What do you think? -- Better Late Than Never?

Dear Better Late Than Never: I am always for getting more education -- but it doesn’t have to mean quitting your job. See what skills are most in demand in your field and what corresponding coursework could help you develop those skills. You may not need to get a whole degree to earn higher pay. You may just need a certificate. I’d also encourage you to look into getting the most out of your current skill set -- for example, by doing freelance work on the side.

Dear Annie: I would like to offer some suggestions to “Desperate in Delaware” and to others who are having difficulties dealing with their children’s frustrating behaviors. As a psychologist, I have found that positive reinforcement always works better than negative. Parents can take control again without screaming. The following token economy is an effective system:

Children are told that they will receive a chip when they behave. The chips can be turned in for rewards. If they are misbehaving, they are told that they will get a chip if they stop the behavior. The children are told ahead of time what behaviors will earn chips. If they continue to misbehave, they should get a timeout.

This is the tried-and-true method of behavior management, and it prevents some very nasty interactions between parents and children. -- Vermont Psychologist

Dear Vermont Psychologist: I appreciate your expert insights, and I agree that a token economy is a really effective and positive method of establishing good behavior in children. Thanks for writing.

Dear Annie: I would like to respond to the woman who is upset about people’s use of her surname. My family name also is Gross. There are thousands of other people with that last name. This is a German name, and I tell people it means great, but it also can be used to mean large, many, impressive, grand and several other things.

It is not possible to change the English language on your own, so the best thing to do is to change your attitude and turn a bad situation into something good. Once you learn a bit about your ancestral heritage and learn the real meaning of the word, you will be proud to hold your head high and say to yourself, “I am great.” -- Proud Gross

Dear Proud Gross: Your attitude is contagious. Thank you.

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