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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Dave," likes to tickle our two boys, ages 7 and 8. He goes too far sometimes and they beg him to stop, but he won't. I have talked about it with my sons and even came up with a phrase -- "No more!" -- when they want him to quit. I have also tried to make it clear to Dave that he needs to stop when they say it. The problem is, he continues even after they say it.

When I try to stop him, he says he's just "playing with my boys" and that I'm interfering. Or, if they say stop, he gets irritated and calls them "sissies."

I know his tickling is hurtful because he has done it to me and left bruises. What can I do to make him stop this behavior? -- NOT TICKLED, NOBLESVILLE, IND.

DEAR NOT TICKLED: I'm not tickled, either, because tickling can be a form of abuse when it's taken too far. And when someone says, "Stop!" regardless of the reason, the person should lay off. Your husband's behavior is sadistic. If he bruised you, one look at the mark he left should have been a clue to him that he went too far.

I hope you realize that the man you're describing is a bully. The boys are not "sissies." They are simply outweighed. Your husband should find a contact sport, channel his aggression elsewhere, and pick on someone his own size.

DEAR ABBY: I am in a touchy situation. I am recently divorced and my 7-year-old daughter idolizes and deeply misses her father. My ex is in prison serving time for molesting my older daughter, who was his stepchild.

Obviously, my younger girl, "Karen," has no clue why her father is in prison. She still thinks that when he gets out, he'll be part of her life. She's too young to hear the truth, but how else can I explain why Daddy will never be part of her life again? I don't want her to resent me for keeping her from her father, but I'm afraid that's exactly what will happen.

Abby, please help me. I'm torn about keeping Karen happy, but also keeping her safe. -- TORN IN TEXAS

DEAR TORN: I know you want to protect Karen, but that may not be realistic. If your older daughter is living at home, there's a possibility that she has told her little sister what happened. Karen IS old enough to understand the difference between acceptable touching and what is not. If she doesn't already know, then for her safety you should have that talk with her.

Your ex-husband will, I hope, be away for a very long time. When Karen brings him up, repeat that to her. She'll be older and fully able to understand by the time her father is ready for release. And by then you will have told her all the facts.

DEAR ABBY: When I see someone with a label sticking out of his or her shirt, blouse or whatever, is it proper to just walk up and stick the label back inside the person's clothing? Should I just tell the person that the label is showing? Or should I ignore it?

I have always appreciated knowing when this has happened to me. What's the correct way of handling this? -- OBSERVANT IN LAS CRUCES, N.M.

DEAR OBSERVANT: To walk up to someone you don't know well and touch him (or her) is extremely presumptuous. If you see that someone needs a clothing adjustment, take the person aside, quietly explain what you have noticed and let the person fix it him- or herself.

P.S. It is OK to OFFER assistance -- which may or may not be gratefully accepted.

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