DEAR ABBY: I baby-sit during the day for a family with three children – a 9-year-old girl who’s in school the majority of the time, a 4-year-old boy who plays well on his own, and a 5-month-old baby girl who requires a lot of attention.

I think of myself as good at my job. I do not tolerate talking back, whining, kicking, hitting or screaming, or time-outs will occur without hesitation. Needless to say, the kids are well-behaved with me.

When the parents come home, however, that’s another story. As I am leaving, I see the children start acting badly and even kick and hit their parents! My concern is that their parents are not doing anything about this behavior. It pains me because these poor children are allowed to act out.

They are great kids, but need a little discipline after I leave the house at the end of the day. I am extremely shy, and it would be hard to confront the parents to show more discipline. Can you help me? – CATHY IN CLEVELAND

It would not be “confronting” the parents to have a private chat with them and explain that their children don’t kick and hit you, nor do they talk back or scream – and the reason is the penalty will be an immediate time-out. Those parents could use the lesson, and you would be helping the family to speak up. Your shyness will lessen when you concentrate on the importance of your message instead of yourself.

DEAR ABBY: There was an accident right behind my house. Many of my friends saw it unfold in front of them. Nobody was killed or seriously injured in the accident. All my friends did the following day was act like it had been a horribly traumatizing experience.

Yet when I was 11 years old, I watched a family friend die only a few feet away from me. I told my friends that my experience was obviously more traumatizing. I explained it like this: They watched four people they didn’t know get into an accident because the driver was high on marijuana. I saw someone actually die.

They insist it’s all the same thing. I say they’re blowing it out of proportion, and they’re calling me insensitive. Are they right? – KYLE IN CONNECTICUT

Perhaps. One man’s trauma can be business as usual to someone else. Assuming your friends had never witnessed an accident, their experience probably was upsetting. What you witnessed was undeniably traumatic.

However, it is not necessary to be right all the time. Rather than alienate your friends because you need to be right, let them heal from their “trauma” and drop the subject.

DEAR ABBY: Can you answer a question about cell phone etiquette? If I’m in a store, and someone near me is having what I would consider a personal conversation, should I leave that aisle, or should the other person move to a location where he or she cannot be overheard to have that conversation? – JOHNNY IN GASSVILLE, ARK.

DEAR JOHNNY: It is amazing how many people using cell phones in public have selective amnesia and forget that they can be overheard. You should not have to move away to avoid hearing what is being discussed. Common sense dictates that it is the responsibility of anyone using a cell phone to safeguard the information being shared.

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

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