DEAR ABBY: My family is absolutely out of their minds. I mean it. They're all high-strung with very short tempers. Our dinner table is a battlefield. Everybody is always yelling and screaming at each other, and then the next minute they're sobbing and apologizing like crazy.
My little brother, "Shawn," is in fourth grade and has a real attitude problem. He talks back to Mom and Dad and can be really insulting. When Shawn acts up, my parents totally lose it. They yell at him like there's no tomorrow.
Shawn is smart -- he can cry on cue. When that happens, my parents fall all over themselves apologizing for having upset him. They tell him in calm voices exactly why they got mad and why he was out of line. After that, they ask if he'd like to say "sorry" or "please" more nicely next time. Well, he never wants to, and this gets everyone all fired up again.
After my mom blew a fuse a few days ago, I made the big mistake of telling some of my friends what happened. I've always joked about my family being "crazy," but nobody ever believed me because my family acts nice around guests.
Anyway, all of a sudden my friends are overreacting to stuff I've been saying. One girl said that what my mom does could be considered "verbal abuse." Another friend actually suggested that we see a family guidance counselor.
Abby, even though the fighting at our house gets on my nerves, we all love each other to death. It's not like my parents have ever hit Shawn or me. We just fight. OK? I'm used to it. Are my friends being stupid or what? -- SIXTH-GRADER IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR SIXTH-GRADER: Your friends may be right on target. They're trying to tell you nicely that what's going on in your home is not what goes on in theirs. There seems to be a lot of volatility in your household.
Family counseling could provide your parents with more effective tools to handle their frustration than a non-ending cycle of exploding and trying to make amends, which clearly isn't working with your brother. It could also help you to gain insight about acceptable boundaries of behavior. Please clip this and show it to your mother and father.
DEAR ABBY: May I add one more fact about the custom of placing stones on graves? It is not uniquely Jewish. From time immemorial, it has been done in Ireland, mainly on the graves of heroes or other important individuals.
Some of these "cairns," as they are known, have become massive. Probably the best known -- and possibly the largest -- is Shane O'Neill's cairn on the Antrim coast. Shane was one of the most flamboyant of the old Irish chieftains, and is credited with having invalidated the claim of England's Elizabeth I to have been "the Virgin Queen."
Interesting? -- JOSEPH MCEVOY, SAN CLEMENTE, CALIF.
DEAR JOSEPH: Very -- as a reminder that what some royals have done in the past is no different than what they're doing today.
And people say that history is a "dry" subject. Ha! (If history is dull, perhaps we need to hire some new writers.)
Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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