DEAR ABBY: Last year, my elderly father fell, suffering a head injury that caused his death. Dad had a chronic illness that kept him housebound during the last year of his life.
Prior to his death, my mother began corresponding with, and inviting, an old high school boyfriend to visit. (He lived six hours away.) This man, "Milton," moved in with Mother while my father was still alive.
Mom has been with Milton ever since, first at her home and now at his winter home down south. My siblings and I are aghast at her behavior. She phones and sends cheery e-mails as if she were on an extended holiday and having the time of her life. Meanwhile, we are still mourning our father's loss.
We have tried to share our feelings with her, but she refuses to acknowledge them. She says she "understands," but we don't think she does. Otherwise, why would she move away from her children at this sad time? -- LOST OUR MOTHER, TOO
DEAR LOST: Your mother may have done it because she went through much of the grieving process long before your father actually passed away. She does understand your feelings, but in an emotional -- and now physical -- sense she has moved on. I don't know the circumstances of your parents' marriage, but if she made your father happy while he was alive, then try to be happy for her now.
DEAR ABBY: I am only 24, but consider myself an old-fashioned parent. My wife and I have three daughters who are the center of our lives. Everywhere we go, we are complimented on how well-behaved our children are. When asked for our "secret," we tell the truth -- we use the belt to keep our children in line. When I was a child, my mom did the same with me, and I know it's more help than harm.
The problem is, as soon as people hear it they assume we simply beat our kids into submission. How can I help people understand that discipline and abuse are two different things? -- JOHN IN SAVANNAH
DEAR JOHN: Abuse and discipline ARE two different things. Abuse is punishment. Discipline teaches -- and helps a child to eventually become self-disciplined. Using a belt on your little girls shows them that violence is acceptable -- and that they can expect it from you, just as you learned it was acceptable from your parents.
There are more effective ways to communicate with children than by hitting them with belts. Grounding them, taking away toys, cell phone and television privileges are effective, nonviolent and preferable means of letting a child know that certain behaviors are unacceptable.
DEAR ABBY: Whenever my husband, "Jim," and I are talking to friends or family and they ask me a question, Jim always answers "for" me. If I am talking with one of my girlfriends, he will jump right in before I have finished my sentence. He does this all the time. I have told him I don't like it, but he won't stop. What can I do to shut him up? -- TRYING TO BE HEARD IN OHIO
DEAR TRYING TO BE HEARD: Obviously, your husband feels that what he has to say is more important than what you have to offer. Because you have told him that it bothers you and have been ignored, enlist the help of friends and family in a team effort. When it happens again, they should immediately respond, "No, Jim. I asked your WIFE that question. Wait your turn." Hearing it may shock him into silence, but he needs it because he has an obnoxious habit.
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