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by Abigail Van Buren

Mom-To-Be's Choice of Mentor Falls Short on Disciplining Kids

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I were recently matched with a child in an adoption. I'm not experienced with children, but my neighbor "Kara" has two kids around the same age as our future son. I like Kara and really want our child and me to spend time with her family.

The problem is, my husband has forbidden our son to hang out with Kara's children because she and her husband let them run wild. They have broken things at other people's homes so often that some neighbors no longer invite the family over.

Kara and her husband are good with their children, except for enforcing discipline. I'd like to have Kara in my life and have her help me plan my toddler shower. Would it be insensitive of me to tell her how my husband feels and ask if she and her husband can take more steps to keep them under control? I feel bad shunning her without telling her why and giving her a chance to correct it. I'm also trying to think of a way to change my husband's mind. -- PLANNING FOR PARENTHOOD

DEAR PLANNING: While I think your husband's reaction may be a bit extreme, if you are hoping to use Kara as a mentor in raising your future son, you should choose more carefully. This is a woman whose children are so poorly raised that neighbors refuse to have them in their homes.

Parenting is a skill that has to be learned. No one is ever totally prepared for it. Moms and dads learn on the job, and you will, too, by spending time with other parents and reading books. As much as you like Kara, if you tell her what you have in mind, she's likely to become defensive and highly offended, and you may make an enemy.

Because neighborhood kids tend to interact with each other, I wouldn't be surprised if Kara's children manage to find their way to your place. If that happens and they act up, handle it by telling them that while it may be OK for them to behave that way in their home, it is NOT permitted in yours -- and that if they come over, there are certain house rules that must be followed. It would be doing them (and Kara) a tremendous favor.

P.S. As to that toddler shower, ask some of your other friends or relatives to help with the planning. I'm sure they will be more than happy to assist.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Friends & Neighbors | Holidays & Celebrations