DEAR ABBY: You missed an opportunity with the 13-year-old girl who is dissatisfied with her bedroom and always the recipient of hand-me-downs. Telling her to get a trusted adult to speak on her behalf was tantamount to advising her to recruit someone to help her whine. At 13, she's old enough to be more proactive in making her room the way she wants it.
Her dresser and closet are overstuffed with hand-me-downs that no longer fit? Grab a box, pull out everything that doesn't fit, fold it neatly and put it in the box. These, and the neatly stacked hangers, can be donated to the Salvation Army -- or another group -- and she'll have a lot of new space.
Her furniture is rickety? Can it be glued, clamped, made sturdy again and repainted?
The computer is in the study? Maybe she should clear off her desk and make room for it in her room.
She doesn't like white walls? What if she offered to paint them herself if her parents supply the paint?
She should clear out, refurbish, redecorate and grow up! She complains about her pitiable situation, which she has made no effort to remedy herself, and yet shows not one hint of understanding or compassion for her parents who are working, taking care of multiple children and who have just finished building a new house for them. Has she no concept of how much money and effort that requires?
It's time that girl stopped whining and did something for herself. She could make a tremendous change in her room by her own effort. She may also find that this independent effort may bring her the attention and respect she so obviously wants. -- I DID IT, SHE CAN, TOO
DEAR DID IT: Thank you for offering the girl some other options. It's interesting that you interpreted her cry for help as "whining." I viewed her as a girl who is afraid or unable to speak up for herself because she has been raised to believe that her feelings don't count and her opinions don't matter.
Yes, she could do all of the things you suggested -- but in the final analysis, her parents would have to permit it. That's why I advised her to get an adult relative or close family friend to help her talk to her parents. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I read between the lines of the letter from the girl who wrote that she receives only discarded items and whose father will not paint her room. And yet, she expressed gratitude for having a home. Neglect, favoritism and enforced public gratitude could indicate an abusive, tyrannical parent or parents. While it's hard to know from so brief a letter, that child may be being punished for something that was beyond her control, and be unwilling or unable to express or admit deeper problems.
I know. I was such a child. -- READER IN HOUSTON
DEAR HOUSTON READER: That occurred to me, too. That's why I advised the writer to talk to a trusted adult.
DEAR ABBY: I don't know why that girl's room isn't furnished as nicely as her sisters', but her computer may have been placed in the study for a good reason: the child's safety.
My two children weren't allowed to have a computer in their bedrooms until they were 18. Before that, if they wanted to use the computer/Internet, they had to use the one in the family room, which was situated so the screen was visible to anyone who passed by. -- CAUTIOUS MOM IN ALABAMA
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-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600