Ask Dr. Love

Learn the common-sense approach to parenting from a recognized pro: the one and only Courtney Love!*

Dear Dr. Love:

My 9-year-old has just been invited to her first slumber party. As a mother yourself, I'm sure you'll sympathize when I wonder just where the years go! Anyway, while I'm excited about my Trisha getting to experience all of the sleep-away fun I remember from my own childhood, I have to admit that I'm a little worried by the prospect, too. Girls are so much more sophisticated these days. Will my delicate little flower be exposed to attitudes and behaviors she's not yet equipped to handle? Or am I just being an overprotective old grump? Help!

— Home Alone

Dear Home:

Welcome to the worrying years :) Seriously, that first sleepover is an important rite of passage for any self-respecting suburban princess. Nothing can equal the thrill of toasting the perfect s'more, of admitting that aching first crush to one's girlfriends, or of draining the host family's hidden reserves of Jim Beam and NyQuil. And while putting a gaggle of inquisitive preadolescents under the same roof opens the door to other, less wholesome opportunities, you can't keep your daughter shielded from real life forever. You said it yourself: Girls are more sophisticated these days, and that includes yours. Loosen up those apron strings, mama! Trust your offspring to know the difference between her friends' bad ideas (like waiting for all the adults in the house to fall asleep, then sneaking out to hang around the topless bar near the airport) and harmless ones (like getting a parent or guardian to drive them there).

And don't forget, slumber parties are a great place to make new friends -- especially older musician types, who can often be found crashing on cots in their nieces' garages. Who knows? Your Trisha could come home the next morning with the makings of an exciting new career as a substitute bassist, songwriter's muse or band-aid if she plays her cards right.

Dear Dr. Love:

My 5-year-old is such a fussbudget! She's come down with a bad case of strep throat, but she refuses to take the medicine our pediatrician has prescribed. Though she's never even tasted it before, she insists she knows it tastes "yucky." How can I get her to open up and say, "aah?"

— Nurse Wretched

Dear Wretch:

Oh, the tyrannical demands of the juvenile palate! For the sake of your daughter's long-term health and sanity, you have to help her overcome her irrational phobia of benign, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals -- like streptomycin, OxyContin and Prozac -- that we all need to stay alive and emotionally balanced. The best way to do this is to lead by example: Don't force your little girl to take a drop of any medicine you haven't already ingested in her presence. Make a game of it. Put on your biggest grin, hold your nose, shout, "Down the hatch!" and pour the healing substance into your gullet like Popeye chowing down on spinach.

Don't get frustrated if it doesn't work on the first try. Just keep repeating the motion over and over until your entranced tyke can't resist joining in. And if your prescription runs out before that happens, just whip out a blank doctor's pad and a copy of your ex-husband's signature and consider it a lesson in creative penmanship.

Dear Dr. Love:

I'm ashamed to admit it, but my 13-year-old son was caught shoplifting. What's a mother to do?

— Mortified Mom

Dear Mort:

Um, eBay?

Dear Dr. Love:

My 7-year-old boy is being persecuted by the den mother of his Cub Scout troop. The old hag keeps issuing him demerit points for meaningless infractions, like wearing an incomplete uniform and showing up a few minutes late for meetings. She says he's diluting the moral authority of scouting. For God's sake, they're only children! How can I get this wannabe storm trooper to lighten up?

— Wolf Protector

Dear Wolfie:

Ever hear of the golden rule? It says that you should treat the world the way you'd expect the world to treat you. So slash the bitch's tires. Coldcock her in the express lane at Safeway. Scrawl "cooter stench" on her aluminum siding in pig's blood. And if none of that works, strongly consider writing a letter of complaint to the scouts' national council.

Dear Dr. Love:

I'm having a devil of a time getting my 17-year-old daughter to learn basic responsibility. I lecture her until I'm blue in the face, but I can't get her to honor her curfew or treat our family possessions with respect. All I hear out of her is, "I'll be home when I get home," "It's not my car, anyway" and "Stop nagging me." If she sasses me one more time, I'm honestly afraid of what I'll do.

— Final Curtain

Dear Kurt:

What we've got here is a failure to communicate! (Recognize that? It's a line from one of my favorite movies, "Xanadu.") Listening to your complaints, it's obvious that you and your daughter have totally different opinions of your relationship. You think she's only interested in weaseling out of her agreements, while she sees you as a cruel prison warden who can never be satisfied.

What you've got to do is help her to a middle ground -- a secure emotional oasis where she can learn to distinguish between worthless excuses ("I don't know why I broke the windows of my ex-boyfriend's house and crawled inside") and legitimate explanations ("Someone shoved more than 10 times my normal dosage of hydrocodone in my mouth."). It's not an easy place to arrive at. God knows it took me some long and lonely years to get there myself. But like any mother, I can only hope that the survival tips I've picked up along the way will make the journey easier for my own daughter, that precious package of pixie dust I call Frances Bean.

Come to think of it, where did that kid get to?

*Courtney Love is not a licensed family therapist.