DEAR ABBY: I'm an "A" student, but my boyfriend, "Rory," has a difficult time in school, so he often comes over for help. We work at the computer in the room my sister and I share so she listens to everything we discuss. She says we are cheating because I'm doing most of his homework for him.
I don't give Rory the answers to questions, but I do give him "hints" and tell him where he's likely to find the answers in the textbooks. I always check that the answers are correct. With his math homework, I tell him each step he needs to take, but he actually does the math himself and then I check for accuracy. If he needs to write an essay, I suggest what he might want to write and help him with some of the edits.
My sister thinks what I do goes far beyond help, and that I'm enabling him to cheat. She feels that while it may help his grades now, I am doing him no favors in the long run. We had a big argument over this. I don't think it's any of her business. I'd really appreciate your opinion. -- HELPING OR CHEATING? SACRAMENTO, CALIF.
DEAR HELPING: Thank you for asking. I'm sure you care deeply for Rory, but sometimes -- with the best of intentions -- a person can do too much. When you suggest topics for your boyfriend's essays, then edit them so the teacher won't see where he needs to strengthen his English skills, what you're really doing is preventing him from learning how to properly spell or construct a sentence. And when you're no longer around to be his filter, it's going to become apparent.
The same goes for math. If you tell Rory what steps to take to solve his math problems, he won't master the concepts or memorize the formulas. Heaven help him if he plans to take a college entrance exam!
While the argument you had with your sister was regrettable, please try not to be so defensive. She was trying to tell you something important, and it couldn't hurt to really listen.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a 13-year-old girl in junior high. I am very shy and self-conscious. When I see skinny girls, I look at myself and feel embarrassed or ashamed. I have a lot of friends who support me. They say I shouldn't worry about my weight and that I don't need to lose any more.
I would like some words of encouragement from you. It seems like nothing can stop the way I feel. I have a boyfriend, but our relationship is long-distance. We talk online and he is as supportive as he can be, but I still feel self-conscious. Please help me with this. -- TEEN IN NEED IN NORTH CAROLINA
DEAR TEEN: The harder we stare at our imagined flaws, the bigger they become. So please stop constantly comparing yourself to others. It's a depressing waste of time. Very few people are completely confident and self-assured at 13, and there are more important qualities to focus on in life than whatever happens to be the ideal of physical perfection at the moment. Your time would be better spent developing qualities that not only make you special, but also will last a lifetime -- your personality, your intellect and your talents.
So listen to what your friends and your boyfriend are telling you. Spend a few minutes every day reminding yourself of all the things you have going for you and the special qualities you have to offer. If you do you'll have less time to dwell on the negative.
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-sized, 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 in the price.)