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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I just finished reading the letter from "Teen Held Captive" who complained about her parents (especially her dad) being too strict.

I went through the same thing with my parents. I'm now 25 and mature enough to understand that their actions when I was 16 were motivated only by the purest and deepest love for me and my siblings, for which I am thankful.

Some of my friends whose parents were too permissive used drugs, drank alcohol, became promiscuous and got pregnant or took risks that carried bad consequences. Because of my parents, I graduated from a university, achieved my personal and professional goals, and have nothing to regret. -- BEEN THERE TOO, AND HAPPY ABOUT IT, GARDEN GROVE, CALIF.

DEAR BEEN THERE: I received a ton of mail in response to that letter. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: My best friend was constantly grounded for a month or more at a time for the smallest infraction. It made her angry and frustrated, which caused her to go crazy with the sense of freedom when she was able to get out from under her father's controlling eye. On her first night of freedom after being grounded, she put herself in a dangerous situation and got herself killed. She was only trying to have as much fun as she could in the short time she had before having to be back under her father's thumb. -- THE FLIP SIDE IN TEXAS

DEAR FLIP SIDE: You have described a tragedy -- and a parent's ultimate fear.

DEAR ABBY: It is unfair to that teen to shelter her to the extent that she'll be completely unprepared for the real world in two more years. Her parents aren't allowing her to learn street smarts or social skills, and she'll be vulnerable because of it.

Studies show that teens who engage in the least drug use or sex come not from the strictest households (and obviously not from the most permissive), but from moderate ones.

Please tell "Captive's" parents to lighten up a little, so she won't have to go through what I did. All they are fostering in her is anger and resentment. -- ASHLEY IN HIGHLAND PARK, N.J.

DEAR ASHLEY: You are right; there must be a sense of balance.

DEAR ABBY: I could have written that letter myself 15 years ago. That girl should sit down and ask her father what it is that keeps him from trusting her. His strict rules have little to do with protecting her; they have more to do with control and distrust.

The girl is almost an adult. Teens need space to make their own decisions and trust to help them make the right decisions. -- BEEN THERE AND LIED ABOUT IT, EVERETT, WASH.

DEAR BEEN THERE: Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs in the world, not only because it is the parents' job to make unpopular decisions, but because after it has become second nature, the parents must then start "letting go" so that as the child matures, he or she can learn to live independently. A word to the wise: When children are not permitted to make decisions and experience things on their own -- within reason -- they are unprepared to make sound decisions.

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