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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: What is the proper way to handle a problem with a 4-year-old boy whose parents pay no mind to what he is doing or whom he is annoying? The child is always outdoors early in the morning and also in the evening -- unsupervised. He constantly stops everyone he sees and asks a hundred questions.

He is a nice little boy, and while I feel for him, I wonder how these parents could allow him to roam with no supervision, expecting the neighborhood to entertain and care for him.

I have a 6-year-old son and I never allow him in the front yard unless I am there to watch him. I would never permit him to bother the neighbors. However, when I go out with my son, I always have to deal with the endless questions from the neighbor boy.

It's not fair that when I have time to take my son outside I have to baby-sit this neighbor child. I've asked him where his mother is and have sent him home many times, but he comes back again and again.

It's not his fault, and I hate to be mean to him. I blame his parents. Abby, what am I to do? -- UNWILLING BABY SITTER IN NEW YORK

DEAR UNWILLING: The child may simply be curious, or he may crave attention from an adult.

Instead of asking him where his mother is, check to be sure there is an adult in the home. Introduce yourself to the head of the household and express your concern. A 4-year-old is too young to be outdoors alone with no supervision -- particularly since he approaches any adult who happens to be nearby. If the mother can't watch her child, she should make arrangements for someone else to do it.

Your gesture may be met with some degree of hostility -- but for the sake of the child, you should make it.

DEAR ABBY: I hope you can help me. I'm at my wit's end. I have a daughter, 28, I'll call Susie.

Susie steals everything she sees, mostly from the family. I'll buy things for my personal use, and when she visits my house I have to lock my bedroom door so she won't get into my bureau. She even swipes things from the kitchen. My three older children don't behave that way. They are all trustworthy.

Susie, however, keeps taking what she wants from me and her brothers and sisters. She even stole my youngest son's jeans. We have confronted her, but it does no good.

Abby, can you tell me how we can stop her from stealing from us? -- STICKY FINGERS' MOM

DEAR MOM: Susie clearly needs professional help to overcome her compulsion to steal. If your daughter doesn't respect ownership in her own family, it could lead to thievery outside the home, where the authorities may not be so tolerant.

DEAR ABBY: I am 14 years old and have a boyfriend the same age. We see each other at school and talk on the phone (I am not allowed to date yet). Many times our conversations are about nothing. Can you please help me think of some things to talk about with him? I get embarrassed by the long silences on the phone, but I don't want to hang up.

I would appreciate any help you can give me. -- CLUELESS IN NEW ORLEANS

DEAR CLUELESS: Ask your boyfriend questions about himself, his family, hobbies, pets, etc. It is easy to talk about events at school that you are both familiar with, and friends you have in common.

What about a favorite television program, movie or book? Also, there are many events happening in the world every day. Read the newspaper and ask him what he thinks about something currently in the news.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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