DEAR ABBY: Please help me to warn your readers about an alarming trend happening in the teenage community: prom babies. I first heard about it while driving my teenage daughter to a lacrosse meet with several of her girlfriends. One girl in the car, "Carrie," said she hoped this year she could have a prom baby. The girls were discussing two former classmates from last year's lacrosse team who had been unable to begin college because they had both become mothers at 17.

Both had deliberately planned to get pregnant on prom night -- hence the term, "prom baby." Abby, both of the girls were studious and hard-working with bright futures ahead of them. One had been accepted to several Ivy League schools. Needless to say, their parents were devastated, and many adjustments had to be made for the new babies.

My daughter later told me that several of her other friends were considering trying to get pregnant near prom time so they, too, wouldn't have to deal with the pressures of going to college. Apparently, parents are less strict about their children's whereabouts on prom night and let their teens spend the night in a hotel or at mixed-gender sleepovers.

I thought this sad trend might be local to our area, but during a class reunion in California I learned the trend may be nationwide. One of my oldest friends, "Dana," confided during the reunion that she had become a grandmother at 43 due to her daughter having a prom baby.

As prom night approaches, please warn parents to talk with their children about the responsibilities of premarital sex and the dangers of a prom baby. -- WORRIED DAD IN ALPHARETTA, GA.

DEAR WORRIED DAD: Your letter was news to me. That a girl headed for an Ivy League college -- or any college, for that matter -- could be so immature that she'd get pregnant so she wouldn't have to go, makes me wonder if she was college material in the first place.

In addition to advising parents to talk to their kids about premarital sex, they should also be reminded how important it is that their daughters be able to communicate honestly and openly with them.

The individuals who should be warned are the young men who will be escorting those young women on prom night. One foolish mistake could lead to a 20-year commitment to support a child before they are emotionally or financially ready for that responsibility. And all because their prom date was afraid to tell her parents she wasn't ready for college? I'm appalled.

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DEAR ABBY: I have a 4-year-old who tends to act up from time to time. I have tried "time-outs" and even soft spanking and have taken his privileges away. Nothing seems to work. However, I have found that smashing one of his small toys with a hammer works well. Do you see any danger in this form of punishment? -- YOUNG MOM IN OKLAHOMA

DEAR YOUNG MOM: I certainly do. Smashing a child's toy with a hammer carries the same message that an abusive husband delivers when he smashes his fist through a wall. It implies, "You're next!" If you continue punishing your child in this way, he could begin modeling his behavior after yours and destroy other people's property -- including yours -- when he's angry.

Take the toy away if that's the only way to get through to your son. Tell him that it will be given to a child who has no toys to play with. But do not destroy the toy in front of your child.

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