Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Must Lay Down Law to Kids Who Think They Rule

DEAR ABBY: What's a roommate to do? My roommate, Susie, has five children. They range in age from 11 to 18. Two live with her, and three live with their father. When all five are here for a month in the summer, life is difficult.

The children who live with their father have few rules, no chores, curfews or discipline in their home. When they arrive, they are frequently rude, complaining, unappreciative, and disrespectful to their mother, their siblings and to me.

As a homeowner and single woman, I cringe when the children arrive. I know there will be no peace in my home until they leave. I worry about my pets, swimming pool or trampoline accidents, my belongings and my ability to hold my tongue.

The question: Would I be out of line if I spoke up and said, "This is what's expected of you while you are visiting in my home"?

Abby, there must be other people in situations similar to mine. What do they do under these cirumstances? -- PUZZLED IN ARKANSAS

DEAR PUZZLED: You have every right to tell the children, "These are the rules of the house, and I expect you to abide by them." You might also hand them a list such as the following:

HOUSE RULES

1. If you open it, close it.

2. If you turn it on, turn it off.

3. If you unlock it, lock it.

4. If you break it, repair it.

5. If you can't fix it, call in someone who can.

6. If you borrow it, return it.

7. If you use it, take care of it.

8. If you make a mess, clean it up.

9. If you move it, put it back.

10. If it belongs to someone else and you want to use it, get permission.

11. If you don't know how to operate it, leave it alone.

12. If it doesn't concern you, don't mess with it.

Also, give consideration to increasing your household insurance to cover possible damage.

I wish you the best of luck!

DEAR ABBY: I have been a librarian for 25 years and hope you will help me get an important message out to people everywhere.

Many times when patrons approach me at the library information desk, they preface their requests with, "I know this is probably a dumb question, but ..." Abby, this always distresses me, because the fact is, most librarians love their work -- and if everyone walked into the library already knowing how to find the information they want, we wouldn't be needed!

I always tell my patrons that as far as I'm concerned, there are no "dumb" questions, and if it weren't for their asking for my help, I would be working at something far less enjoyable. So, the message is, "Please ask the librarian. We want to help you!" Thanks, Abby. -- CAROL GOODSON, CARROLLTON, GA.

DEAR CAROL: I'm pleased to convey your message. I am in complete agreement with your philosophy that there's no such thing as a dumb question. What is really dumb is remaining ignorant.

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.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600