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Dear Abby 10/26
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    DEAR ABBY: I am a single parent of a 16-year-old son I'll call "Joel." His father has always been a part of his life. Abby, my son was once a polite, respectful, hard-working young man. But over the past year, he has changed radically.
    Joel now thinks of no one but himself and his girlfriend. He makes promises to do whatever he thinks will get him what he wants. Then he cuts classes with his girlfriend, chews tobacco at school, refuses to do his homework, and lies about his progress reports and report cards.
    If he doesn't get his way, he becomes very aggressive. He recently put his fist through a picture and the wall. There are two knuckle indentations in my front door that he put there. I take him to a counselor for his aggression, but it isn't working.
    He is over 6 feet tall and weighs more than 200 pounds. He is the only male in my household. His father is having the same problems with him that I am. All he wants to do is spend time with his girlfriend. He will stay with whichever parent allows him to be with her or stay on the phone with her.
    Joel was involved in baseball since the age of 5. He no longer cares to play. This was a sudden change of heart for him. I had him drug-tested without his knowledge. He was clean. I am at my wits' end. I am now on anti-depressants. I was never like that before he became so aggressive.
    His father and I have discussed putting Joel in a teenage camp for juveniles. He's not a bad kid. I just don't know what to do anymore. Restrictions, no phone calls, no cell phone, no TV, not going out to eat, no seeing his girlfriend outside of school — none of these things have worked. I've tried making him get a job, but he refuses. Please help me. — NOWHERE TO TURN IN FLORIDA
    DEAR NOWHERE TO TURN: Send your son away only as a last resort. It appears his hormones have kicked in, and if I had to make a wild guess, I'd say he's sleeping with the girlfriend.
    Reasoning with him, punishing him and taking him to a counselor haven't worked, so be prepared to get tough. The next time he threatens you and destroys your property — and that's what putting a fist through a wall is — call the police and let them handle him.
    There is a support group for parents of hard-to-handle children, and your son qualifies. The group is called BILY (Because I Love You). Contact it through its Web site,, or at P.O. Box 2062, Winnetka, CA 91396, and tell them I sent you.

    DEAR ABBY: I have many male friends whom I regard as "just friends." But from time to time, one of them sees me in a different light.
    What's the best way to politely turn down a date and still maintain a guy's friendship? — JUST FRIENDS IN HAWAII
    DEAR JUST FRIENDS: The mistake many women make in telling men they are not romantically interested in them is soft-pedaling the message in an effort to be kind.
    My male readers have told me that in the long run it's kinder — and less a waste of everyone's time — to say straight out, "I like you as a friend, but I don't want to date you." Or to put it another way, "I like and respect you, but the chemistry isn't there."
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