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by Abigail Van Buren

Toddler Fixes Youthful Sights on Rival for Mom's Affection

DEAR ABBY: I am dating a lovely 29-year-old woman who has a 3-year-old son. We are both very much in love, but the boy is extremely unruly when I am around. My girlfriend is getting tired of having to discipline him all the time. He misbehaves in stores and restaurants and embarrasses us both.

Frankly, it is starting to have an impact on our relationship. She says that he only acts up when I am around. Is there anything I should do so that this doesn't destroy our relationship? -- JASON IN GLENDALE

DEAR JASON: Your girlfriend's son may be only 3, but he's not stupid. He recognizes a rival for his mother's affection, and is doing everything he can at his tender age to drive you away.

I recommend a visit to your local library or the nearest bookstore. Much has been written about "blended families." Also, a short series of sessions with a therapist who specializes in child psychology would give you insight into reassuring the little boy and would be money well spent.