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by Abigail Van Buren

Parents' Public Scoldings Send Kids Wrong Message

DEAR ABBY: Do you think it's right for parents to yell at their kids in front of company? It's always over trivial things. I suspect that our friends feel they must show us they're "on the job" as parents.

The problem with these driven, overly critical parents is that their yelling not only embarrasses the children, but also makes us, the visitors, feel awkward. It sends a message to the children that their parents' disciplinary skills are weak, because they use company as witnesses to humiliate them.

I've been tempted to tell our friends, "How about praising your kids once in a while?" Am I right to keep silent? -- NOT-SO-HONORED GUEST

DEAR NOT: No. Remind them of the admirable qualities you see in their children and urge them to praise them as well as criticize.

If parents must discipline children, it should be done privately. For a parent to yell at a child in front of guests carries the same message as a boss who publicly reprimands an employee. It shows a lack of respect and that the person's feelings don't matter -- hardly a recipe for harmony in business or family.

DEAR ABBY: I belong to a women's group that meets monthly. I have known most of the members since high school. Several of them work in the medical profession. More often than not, the conversation turns to their jobs.

They often discuss patients we all know. I'm gutless and do not ask them to stop -- probably because I don't think they would.

I am employed in a government office. We are constantly reminded not to breach confidentiality. I wouldn't dream of naming names.

Abby, it is important that personnel working in medical offices be reminded of their patients' right to privacy. I am sending my own doctors a letter reminding them to add this topic to their next staff meeting. -- TOO MUCH INFO IN INDIANAPOLIS

DEAR TOO MUCH INFO: That's an excellent idea. It's a topic that belongs on the agenda of any business that deals with sensitive information. A breach of confidentiality could have serious repercussions not only for the client, but for the employer as well.

DEAR ABBY: My mother has been widowed for five years. Less than a year ago, her cousin "Betty" passed away. Mom has become close to Betty's husband, "Boyd." She is trying to keep her feelings a secret, but it is becoming apparent that she is more involved with him than she wants to let on.

I am uncomfortable with the relationship because she and Betty were so close when they were growing up. They were like sisters.

Mom said she didn't want to tell me how close she was to Boyd, because she knew I would not approve of the relationship. I don't. She insists that although it is sad when someone passes on, life goes on.

Abby, am I nuts? How should I feel about this situation? -- UNCOMFORTABLE DAUGHTER

DEAR DAUGHTER: Your mother is absolutely right. You should be happy for her and her new love. They are hurting no one. Please don't rain on their parade any further.

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

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