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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Recently my brother-in-law called my husband at work to ask for $1,500 because he had fallen behind on his rent for three consecutive months. My husband, growing wiser each year, told him that he would have to speak with me because we make financial decisions together.

"David," we'll call him, is nearing 40 and is an attorney. He has led an interesting life, moving from place to place and trying his hand at a number of vocations, from bartending to medic work to tennis instructor -- all the while exploring any and all professional opportunities. We receive regular e-mails from him regarding all sorts of fun weekends, rafting trips and tennis tournaments. However, his law practice is limping along. He has never been married and has no dependents, nor is he disabled in any way.

For as long as my husband can remember, David has always gotten himself into financial trouble and someone in the family has had to bail him out. Even in his 30s, David has received thousands from one sibling or another or his parents. This is the first time David has approached us for money, as my husband is the youngest in the family.

Though it was a difficult decision to make, we determined that we were not doing David any favors by sending him money. With David's history of poor financial management, we feel we would just be perpetuating the problem. Without lecturing, my husband explained our position to his brother. He became obviously upset and ended the phone conversation quickly. We no longer receive e-mails from him, and he hasn't spoken to us since. Furthermore, the rest of the family is furious with us.

Abby, were we wrong to not send money? -- ANNABELLE

DEAR ANNABELLE: No, you were not wrong. Given the amount of money David has borrowed from family members, I wouldn't have chipped in any more than I could afford to lose.

Although your brother-in-law is no longer sending you e-mails, perhaps you should e-mail him the telephone number for the nearest Consumer Credit Counseling office. You'd be doing him a favor.

DEAR ABBY: "Wiser in North Texas" made a good suggestion for interacting with the 10-year-old boy who didn't listen to his father. I would like to share a lesson I learned from my mother 50 years ago.

My son was a very active toddler, and I didn't realize I was yelling at him until the day my mom was visiting me. She quietly said to me: "Honey, if you yell at children, they stop hearing you. If you speak very softly but firmly, they will stop to listen to you."

My son was my first child. I later had four daughters, and Mom's advice worked with all of them. It is still working for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

My own advice to mothers is this: When you are the most frazzled and frustrated, take the time to imagine yourself as your child -- on the receiving end of your words, and looking up at your angry face. Then ask yourself, "Is this what my child needs from me?" -- GRANDMA IN OREGON

DEAR GRANDMA: That's good advice for the parents of children of all ages.

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-size, 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, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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