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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I think you missed the boat with "Not Everyone's Mom." In today's world, it does take a village to raise a child, and if "Not Everyone's Mom" doesn't feel up to it, she should opt out.

Rather than bronzing a plaque of rules for parents, "Mom" should deal directly with the children.

1. Don't want kids for hours on end or as dinner/holiday guests? Send 'em home! Children are not psychic. Most aren't sensitive enough to get subtle hints like, "Time to wash up and set the table."

2. Encourage them to help you garden. There is nothing like a sense of ownership to foster pride.

3. Take time to teach. There's nothing wrong with house rules like, "At our house we don't call names," or, "Here we use 'please' and 'thank you.'" Set limits for acceptable behavior. It may take many repetitions to get results. Be patient, but firm.

I have given up my lawn and most of my garden for now. The few short years of childhood are worth more than a few blades of grass. I'm enjoying the sounds of basketball and Rollerblades, water fights and kids selling lemonade. I can grow plants any time, but my kids are young for only a short while. -- ANN ARBOR MOM

DEAR MOM: Many readers wrote offering different approaches to problems with neighborhood children. Read on for one of my favorites:

DEAR ABBY: This is the answer to "Not Everyone's Mom," the mother who set rules for parents of neighborhood children.

Four years ago, a couple with two little girls, ages 3 and 4, moved in next door. Spring was approaching and I could hardly wait until my hybrid tulips bloomed. When the blossoms appeared, they were just beautiful!

I stood admiring them one morning, then left on an errand. When I returned one hour later, someone had picked all the petals off the tulips. The guilty parties left a trail of petals leading to their house.

I knocked on the door and spoke to the mother of the two girls. I pointed out that I wasn't angry, just upset. I asked her not to punish the children, but to explain to them that they were my flowers and they shouldn't pick them without asking me first.

Four years have gone by, and I have not lost another petal. Every year each girl is allowed to choose one flower in my garden that she wants, then I pick them -- and one for their mother, too. In return, my wife and I have two of the most beautiful little friends one could ask for. -- THOMAS GROTHE, LAKELAND, MINN.

DEAR THOMAS: How diplomatic! You deserve a bouquet of tulips for neighborly dispute resolution.

CONFIDENTIAL TO GRUDGE-HOLDER'S SISTER: I suspect your sister subscribes to W.C. Fields' philosophy on anger: "I never hold a grudge ... as soon as I get even with the S.O.B., I forget it."

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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