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DEAR ABBY: "Had It in Arlington, Wash." (8/29) was upset because her teenaged stepchildren didn't give her husband, their father, gifts even though he was generous with them.
    She could change that by inviting them to go shopping with her when she picks out a gift for him the next time they visit. If it's not a gift-giving occasion, that's OK. A "just because" gift is the best kind.
    If their relationship is close enough, she might feel comfortable suggesting they get something for him, too -- even if she has to pay the first few times. My guess is that, unless the kids are selfish, insensitive brats, they'll get the message and want to use their own money. The gifts need not be extravagant, just thoughtful.
    I get some of my most interesting things in flea markets, consignment shops and closeout stores. -- IT WORKED FOR ME, DUNWOODY, GA.
    DEAR I.W.F.M.: You're a smart cookie, who I am sure not only endeared yourself to your husband for what you did, but also his children. And you're not the only smart lady who responded to that letter. Read on:
    DEAR ABBY: You were right on to say that the husband shouldn't punish his children for what amounts to their mother's poor teaching or example.
    I was divorced when my son was very small, and I always helped him get his father at least a small gift for Christmas and Father's Day. His father, on the other hand, never once responded in kind. He seemed to think it was the responsibility of some other man in my life to get me gifts -- first my father (since I moved back home for a short time), then my new husband. Have I pointed this out to my son? Heck, no. Has he noticed? You bet he has!
    We teach our kids by example. What the stepmom could do is talk to the kids and say, "Your dad's been generous to you. Would you like some help in getting him a present for his birthday, to say thanks?" -- KAREN IN SALEM, ORE.
    DEAR ABBY: I could not believe your response to "Had it in Arlington, Wash." You said, "Children behave as they have been taught, usually by their mothers." How incredibly insulting to mothers everywhere. Let me tell you that when I went through a divorce, it was their father who "taught" them such despicable behavior!
    My ex-husband was so bitter, he did not want my children to give me anything -- on birthdays, Mother's Day or Christmas. In fact, I was the one who took them to the store and gave them money to buy gifts for their father on each and every occasion, even though it was not reciprocated.
    At one point, my son asked me as I drove them to the store to get a gift for their father's birthday, "Why do you care, Mom? He doesn't care about you!" Let me add that the Christmas that I gave them enough money to buy everyone (including me) gifts, their father would let them spend only $10 on a gift certificate for me, regardless of what they knew I wanted and they had wanted to buy for me! Shame on you, Dear Abby, for making such a hurtful comment. -- UPSET IN BRIGHTON, COLO.
    DEAR UPSET: I offer my apology if what I said you took personally. It was simply an observation and not intended to be hurtful to anyone.
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