Dear Abby:

My ex-husband, "Robert," is a police officer. We have two children together. I am now remarried.

When my children visited Robert last weekend, my 8-year-old son, "Danny," got into a fight with his stepsister. They started calling each other names. This happened at Robert's friend's home, and the friend suggested the children drink vinegar as a punishment. They taunted Danny, asking what color shot glass he wanted his vinegar in. He cried and begged his dad not to make him drink it. He said he wanted to come home to me. Robert screamed at Danny until he drank it. When I picked my children up on Sunday night, Danny was distraught. He can't seem to get over that incident.

I called my lawyer, who said that it is borderline abuse. He said to tell Robert if it happens again, we will file a petition for supervised visitation. Robert thinks I'm being unreasonable. He can't believe I would go that far, since he's a police officer and it might hurt his job. I think he should know better because he is a police officer. I failed to mention that Danny has Tourette's syndrome. Stress makes it worse. He is a good boy, and I don't feel he deserved this type of punishment. Am I being unreasonable?

Distraught

I don't know what the children called each other that sent your ex off the deep end, but the punishment didn't fit the crime. In light of the fact that Danny has Tourette's syndrome, there are better ways to discipline him -- i.e., write 100 times "I will not name-call," or write his stepsister a letter of apology.

Perhaps it is unfair to hold a law enforcement officer to a higher standard, but as an adult he should have known better. He could benefit from talking to Danny's doctor or the Tourette Syndrome Association Inc. (888-486-8738) about reasonable expectations. Or he could visit the Web site: www.tsa-usa.org. However, if it happens again, listen to your lawyer.

Dear Abby:

This letter is for "Invited but Can't Always Go," who is reluctant to allow her daughter to attend all the birthday parties to which she is invited because she can't afford to buy the gifts.

I suggest that the girl create a scrapbook of the event. She can take photos and collect memorabilia such as napkins, ribbons and wrapping paper for the scrapbook. She might use pieces of the wrapping paper as borders or corners for the pages, or "frames" for the photos she'll mount inside. She could also have each guest write a special note or birthday wish for the party child and include them. In her card to the birthday child, she should include a note that says her gift will arrive in a week or so. I have done this for shower gifts, and they always become treasured keepsakes.

On the Cheap in Kentucky

Treasured? I'm sure they are priceless! Thank you for a terrific idea.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate