Dear Ann:

I can't believe you told "Desperate in the Northeast" to ignore the abusive behavior of her husband, who was screaming at his kids and belittling them during their sporting events. If he were physically hitting them, would you have told her to ignore him? The scars that man is inflicting on his children will be much harder to heal. Abuse is abuse, whether it is emotional or physical. Why didn't you suggest counseling to get the maniac under control?

A Reader in Tennessee

I got royally clobbered for my brainless response to the woman whose husband was behaving like a jackass at his children's sports events. My suggestion that the woman "play deaf" and instruct her children to do the same was off-the-wall. Keep reading for more, while I go get the wet noodle.

From Chico, Calif.: As a sports official, I'm going to penalize you 15 yards for unnecessary ignorance. Psychologists have known for years that parents often display such behavior toward their kids because of their own failure in competitive sports. To tell that mother to "play deaf" during her husband's outbursts was the wrong call. The kids will ultimately hate sports because it will set them up for embarrassment, thanks to their loudmouth dad.

Casper, Wyo.: Sports or no sports, that father is verbally abusing his children. If his wife had any backbone, she would have told him to knock it off.

Panama City Beach, Fla.: Have you ever witnessed a parent going nuts at a child's ballgame? It is humiliating to everyone seated nearby, and the child will never forget the embarrassment. That mother should videotape her husband's performance and show it to him the next day. He needs to get himself under control. If he can't do it, he should be told he can no longer attend the games unless he gets therapy for anger management.

Burbank, Calif.: As a therapist and survivor of childhood abuse, I would be willing to bet that father was the product of rigid, controlling and perfectionist parents, who criticized him constantly. All the signs are there. The man needs help.

Lafayette, La.: I have seen parents like that at my children's games. Young children cannot simply ignore their father's taunts and ridicule, as you suggested. His behavior is destroying their confidence, and he must stop it.

Vernon, N.J.: Coaches are instructional leaders who take their responsibilities seriously. Constant criticism and screaming crushes a child's spirit. The No. 1 priority of any athletic endeavor should be to have fun.

Ashby, Minn.: Your advice stank. Children's sports are supposed to teach teamwork and build character. Kids need their parents' approval. They cannot play deaf when their fathers go ballistic on the sidelines. That immature bozo is living vicariously through his children, and is guilty of child abuse.

South Bend, Ind.: That wife should put her foot down, and tell Hubby to forget about attending games until he can behave like an adult. There's already too much anger in this world. We don't need more.

Madison, Wis.: If those kids played deaf, as you suggested, it would cause their father to become angrier. I can only imagine how he would behave if they "tuned him out." It would add more fuel to the fire. That man needs help.

Dallas: My parents criticized me all through my childhood and adolescence. As a result, I married a man who did the same thing. Instead of becoming the woman I could have been, I became who I was told to be. I felt I had to make my parents proud so they would love me. I am now in counseling to get over the years of abuse. I wouldn't wish this pain on anyone.

(C) 1999, Creators Syndicate Inc.

To find out more about Ann Landers and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.