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by Abigail Van Buren

Good Laugh Goes a Long Way in Healthy, Loving Relationship

DEAR ABBY: My 10-year-old daughter, "Amber," stays home one or two hours by herself after school until I return home from work. She has rules to go by; however, she has been known to break them.

Amber answers the door when she shouldn't and leaves the door unlocked. She doesn't take seriously the bad things that can happen to her.

I have an idea that may put her in touch with reality. I'm thinking of asking a male friend to go to my house and knock on the door -- which I know Amber will answer. At that time, my friend would pretend to be a pushy salesman. He would insist on coming into the house and waiting for her mother. That's as far as I've gotten.

Is this a bad idea? I don't want to scare her into having nightmares, but I want her to know how important it is to be wary of strangers and to follow the rules. -- CONCERNED KNOXVILLE MOM

DEAR CONCERNED: Yes, it's a bad idea. I know it's tempting, but such a ruse would be dishonest and potentially traumatizing. When your daughter discovers you play "tricks," it might give her a false sense of security. Also, your credibility would be damaged for years to come, and your daughter would always wonder what kind of trick you would pull next -- and I wouldn't blame her.