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Dear Abby: My 11-year-old daughter sometimes gets scared at night and thinks she hears voices and someone walking near her room. When this happens, my husband will say with complete seriousness, "Perhaps there's an intruder in the house," and then suggest how the intruder may have entered.

The method he suggests is always related to something I have done wrong earlier -- like leaving the back door open too long or forgetting to shut a window.

When I ask him to check the house for intruders (OK, I'm old-fashioned and a scaredy-cat), he says he's too tired and goes to sleep. What's going on here? Is he playing a mind game with my daughter and me, or am I overreacting?

-- Cowardly in S.F.
Dear Cowardly: Your husband's behavior is cruel and unwise. He's encouraging your daughter's fears as a way of punishing you for your forgetfulness. If it continues, your daughter will have phobias that could last a lifetime; it's mental cruelty.

P.S. If there is any question about whether there's an intruder in your house, you should NOT be checking the house alone. The results could be tragic. So the next time the king of your castle pulls that "turning-over-and-going-to-sleep" number, make sure he doesn't reach dreamland.

Call her Cinderella

Dear Abby: I'm a 16-year-old girl. My mom passed away last February. I have a caring and loving father, but at 69, he's a workaholic. This leaves me with school, cleaning, cooking, yard work and taking care of my teenage brothers. Neither of them helps out with anything, and they have no respect for me. If I ask them to do something, they just say I'm not their mom and call me names.

When I tell Dad, he says he'll handle them, but he never does. I'm tired of it! Please help me. I want to run away and never come back. Maybe then they'll think about me.

-- Drowning in Lawton, Okla.
Dear Drowning: All of you are grieving right now, and part of your brothers' bad behavior may be that they're angry at having lost their mother. Your father may not realize how unfair the burden is that has been placed on your young shoulders.

Make a list of chores that all of you should share, including your own. Indicate what they are, what days they should be done and who should do them. If your brothers don't do theirs, don't nag. Let them remain undone. That takes the responsibility off your shoulders. You are a good daughter, and you cannot -- nor should you -- do everything. With your mother gone, every one of you is going to have to do his or her fair share.

Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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