Dear Abby:

My boyfriend of four years, "Harold," and I are starting to discuss marriage and starting a family. I am hesitant because of one thing: We have very different views about disciplining children.

My parents never used violence as a form of punishment, and I don't want to use it to discipline my kids. I think that other methods of discipline work just as well, without destroying the bond between parent and child.

When Harold was young, his father would discipline the kids by hitting them with a belt. Harold sees nothing wrong with this, although the only argument seems to be, "I turned out okay."

This is only partially true. Both Harold and his brother have big anger management issues. I love him and would love to spend the rest of my life with him, but this is a major issue for me.

Do you think this marriage would work, and are there any good compromises we could agree on?

Nonviolent in St. Louis

Your boyfriend may believe that he has turned out okay, but the fact that he has anger management problems proves that he didn't. Before any decisions about marriage are made, Harold should get professional help to get to the root of his problems, which are likely the result of his father's abuse.

You and Harold should enroll in classes on child development and parenting. Some hospitals, high schools and community colleges offer them. Unless the two of you can reach a firm agreement about this subject, you should NOT marry. The marriage would last only until he raised a hand or a belt to you or your little one -- and then it would be history, and rightly so. Children respond far better to praise than to punishment. The only thing that hitting teaches a child is that violence is acceptable.

Dear Abby:

I have a pet peeve I haven't seen addressed in your column before. I use my debit card often at the grocery store. Many times when I'm entering my PIN number into the machine, I realize the person in line behind me is hovering close enough to read it.

Is there any way I can politely ask someone to step back? Or better yet, will you please make people aware that they should give the person ahead of them some privacy? Last week, I asked a man who was looking over my shoulder to please move away. He didn't move, and acted like he didn't understand what I was asking.

Please help.

Nervous in Sunnyvale, Calif.

In these days of identity theft, many people are nervous (and rightly so) about having their personal information stolen. Perhaps the individual hovering behind you did not understand English. However, had I been in your situation, I would have repeated my request in a louder tone. If he or she still didn't move, I would not have proceeded with my purchase until a security guard or the store manager had been summoned.

Dear Abby:

I was the victim of a violent crime. The attacker was caught and sent to prison. I am returning to work after being absent since the attack, and I do not wish to discuss what happened with my co-workers.

What is a good response when I'm asked, "Were you raped?" Thanks for the help.

Survivor in California

Say to the person, "If it were any of your business, you would already know the answer to that question." And then change the subject. There is no end to rude and nosy questions people will ask if you don't stop them in their tracks.

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 www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate