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by Abigail Van Buren

Cops Made Out to Be Bad Can't Do Kids Any Good

DEAR ABBY: I am a police officer who spends many hours in local school programs trying to get children to trust police officers. It breaks my heart and angers me to hear an adult tell a child, "See that officer? If you don't behave, he's going to put you in jail."

The last time I heard a mother say this, she was talking to her 3-year-old son! This child then walked up to me almost in tears and asked, "Are you really going to put me to jail?"

That form of "discipline" is not fair to us or to the child. First of all, it's lying to the child. And someday if the child should get lost he will think, "I can't ask a police officer for help because he will put me in jail -- Mommy and Daddy said he would."

Law enforcement officers are there to help parents and children, but parents using us as threats thwart our efforts to protect these little ones. Please, parents, do not alienate your children from us. -- RICHARD K. TEAR, BALCH SPRINGS, TEXAS

DEAR OFFICER TEAR: I have published a number of such letters in the past, but this important message cannot be repeated too often.

Parents, it is essential that children be taught to respect the law and trust its officers, because not only do they fight crime, they also offer aid in times of crisis.

DEAR ABBY: I have enjoyed your columns for many years but have never written to you before.

For a long time I have been concerned and embarrassed because someone in my family, whom I love very much, is a habitual liar. No matter what we say or do, he can't stop lying. He has told so many outrageous stories about the family that he has been disowned many times, but then given a second, third, fourth chance, ad infinitum. Please advise on what might help. Please don't print my name or town. -- CARING IN SOUTH CAROLINA

DEAR CARING: When people lie compulsively, low self-esteem is often the root of the problem. Your family member may need the help of a psychologist to determine the cause of the problem and eliminate this destructive compulsion. I have been told that antidepressants are somewhat effective, but the cure is psychotherapy.

Show him this column and offer your support if he agrees to seek professional help. Good luck.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are the proud parents of five children, ages 8, 5, 3, and twins who are nearly a year old. My dilemma begins when I take my children shopping. Abby, you wouldn't believe some of the comments I get: "You sure have your hands full!" "I wouldn't want to pay your grocery bills." "Better you than me." "Lady, you have too many kids!"

I'm beginning to dislike going shopping, and now become automatically defensive if someone approaches me.

My question is, should I respond to these insensitive people? If so, what do I say? I don't want to be rude, but I can't tell you how fed up I am with strangers minding my business. Yes, occasionally there is a good comment, but the negative greatly outweigh the positive. -- SEETHING IN OAKDALE, CONN.

DEAR SEETHING: It would be the better part of wisdom to just smile and keep walking.

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