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DEAR ABBY

Parents clash over who should discipline their children

DEAR ABBY: I am a single father of three wonderful kids. When my wife and I separated, we agreed to 50/50 custody and a property settlement. Everything went smoothly. A year later I requested, and was granted, full custody of my children. Their mom has visitation, but that’s it.

Shortly after my separation, I met a woman and we became good friends. I waited about a year before introducing her to my children because I wanted to make sure I knew her first.

Although we are not “officially” in a relationship, she has been more than willing to step in and help with the children. In a few instances she has disciplined them because of bad behaviors. It usually entails talking to them about what they did wrong and some sort of consequence — loss of toys or privileges.

When they went to visit their mother and she heard about it, she wasn’t happy. She called me very upset saying my friend had no right to discipline our kids. I see nothing wrong with it, but I am second-guessing myself. Some advice, please? — CONCERNED DAD IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR CONCERNED DAD: If your lady friend’s “discipline” EVER went further than a talking-to, then their mother is right. Because you have primary custody of the children, YOU should be the parent who levies penalties if they misbehave and a punishment is warranted.

DEAR ABBY: I’m a very social person and part of a close-knit friend group, but my boyfriend is on the introverted side. Although he is sweet and thoughtful, he doesn’t have many friends of his own, and he tends to enjoy independent hobbies.

Since learning that my friendships are very important to me, he has made a huge effort with my friends and their boyfriends. In the past, he invited them to movies, reached out and attempted to engage them in multiple ways.

I have watched from a distance, hoping they could forge a connection, but they ignore or avoid him, and he recently shared his worry that they don’t like him. I don’t blame him for thinking that, and I’m starting to feel sad for him and frustrated with my friends. At what point do I talk to them about this? Should I just let the relationships happen organically (if they happen)? Should I interfere at all? — TORN IN TEXAS

DEAR TORN: You didn’t mention how old you are, or how long you and your boyfriend have been involved. I do not think it would be interfering to ask your friends why they seem unwilling to accept him. Their answers might be enlightening.

At some ages, circles have formed and it’s difficult to break in and gain acceptance. If there is something about your boyfriend that makes them uncomfortable, it would be better if you knew what it was. However, ultimately, he should socialize with you and these friends at his comfort level. You may also need to seek out new friends and cultivate relationships together as a couple.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYS

Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale is 93. Actor Robert Duvall is 90. Former talk show host Charlie Rose is 79. Actress-director Diane Keaton is 75. Actor Ted Lange (“The Love Boat”) is 73. Actress Pamela Sue Martin (“Dynasty”) is 68. Actor Clancy Brown is 62. Actor Vinnie Jones is 56. Talk show host/dancer-choreographer Carrie Ann Inaba is 53. Rock singer Marilyn Manson is 52. Actor Shea Whigham (“Boardwalk Empire”) is 52. Actress-comedian Jessica Chaffin is 47. Actor Bradley Cooper, below, is 46. Actress January Jones (“Mad Men”) is 43.

TODAY'S HOROSCOPE

Shake off the past and head into the future with optimism. It’s time to let go of dead weight. Release any doubts you have and concentrate on what you can do to improve your life. Trust the facts and experts, not hearsay and speculative offers.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19) — Abide by the rules to avoid repercussions. Look at every angle of a situation before considering the best way to maintain your position without offending someone who doesn’t share your beliefs.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Accommodating others may be a nice gesture, but don’t let anyone take advantage of you. Participating in a physical activity and sharing something special with a loved one are favored.

PISCES (Feb. 20-March 20) — Reach out to people who share your vision. Inside information will come your way, but before you take action, consider the risk involved. Protect your privacy, passwords and reputation.

ARIES (March 21-April 19) — Try to gain access to information that will help you improve your lot in life. A positive change in a meaningful relationship will unfold. When in doubt, ask questions.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20) — Don’t be tempted to join someone else’s team when you should be leading the way. Believe in your ability to get things done on your own. Now’s your time to shine.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20) — Someone will let you down if you are too trusting. If you want something done, be prepared to do it yourself. An unexpected change will lead to uncertainty. Be creative.

CANCER (June 21-July 22) — An opportunity will require your undivided attention and discipline. If you get along with others, you will make progress. Home improvements are favored, but do the work yourself to save money.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22) — Someone will blame you if something goes wrong. Facts matter, and sticking to the truth will benefit you in the end. A physical challenge will help ease stress.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22) — You’ll encounter problems if you don’t take care of yourself and the ones you love. Problems will arise if honesty is lacking. Fitness and proper diet are encouraged.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 23) — Emotional issues will surface if you get into a discussion with someone demanding. Take a step back and consider what you want. Work hard to maintain good health.

SCORPIO (Oct. 24-Nov. 22) — Reconnect with people you miss. The suggestions you receive will help you perform at your best. Uncertainty regarding a friend or relative will make you take a hard look at your future.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 23-Dec. 21) — You’ll discover an innovative way to use your skills. Making minor adjustments will put you in the running for a position that has plenty of room for growth. Tread carefully when it comes to romance.

NEWS OF THE WEIRD

By Chuck Sheppard

News You Can Use: College student Benjamin LaRose of Millis, Massachusetts, is recovering from third-degree burns he suffered at an outdoor party with friends this fall when someone used hand sanitizer as an accelerant in the fire pit they were gathered around, Boston25 reported. “It was rather sudden how quick it reacted,” LaRose said, “very much like napalm,” catching his leg and shorts on fire and requiring skin grafts to treat the burns. LaRose’s pediatrician, Dr. Lester Hartman, warned of the dangers of using hand sanitizer and then being exposed to open flames: “Alcohol is very volatile and explosive ... and people that are doing a barbecue or even lighting a cigarette or lighting a candle” need to let the alcohol evaporate first. Or, experts say, use soap and water.

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