Dear Abby Follies: Ethically Frightening Question, Ethically Inadequate Response

Oh, yeah,THIS is going to turn out well...

How is this for a letter that makes proposals to require licensing for parents seem reasonable?

“DEAR ABBY: I have a beautiful wife, a dog and an 8-year-old son I love to watch sports with. My son loves sports, but he has trouble accepting a loss. He’ll take out his disappointment by beating the dog. My wife doesn’t want to get rid of “Patches” because she has had him since college. I don’t want to put my son through counseling because he said he’ll hate me forever if I do. I’m afraid if the problem isn’t controlled, my son’s life goals may be affected. What can I do? — GOOD DAD IN CLEVELAND”

What can you do? Well, to begin with, you can seek counseling for yourself and your wife, and read some books on Parenting 101. If your son beats the dog after you watch sports with him, why do you keep watching sports with him? What do you mean, he “beats” the dog? Are you saying he’s done it more than once? That he’s still doing it? What’s the matter with you and your wife…are you both quadriplegics? The first time I caught my son beating our dog, I guarantee you, it would be the last time. After what would happen to him after being cruel to a loving and innocent animal, he would make little Timmy look like an animal abuser, and he would also be seeing a shrink so often he’d be sleeping in a Dixie cup. What kind of impotent slug are you to allow this to continue?

You’re wife “doesn’t want to get rid of Patches because she’s had him since college”?? How about caring about the dog’s welfare rather than nostalgia? And you—you won’t take affirmative action to deal with your son’s sadism and lack of self-control because he’ll hate you? I hate you right now, and your son won’t be far behind when he grows up to be a dangerous social misfit because his weak father had no idea how to instill values and has no idea what to do unless an advice columnist chooses to answer his desperate letters. “Dear Abby: My son has a girl locked in his bedroom, and her screaming and cried for help are keeping us awake. What should I do? Please respond quick!” You’re afraid if the problem isn’t controlled, your son’s goals will be affected? How about the victims of his uncontrolled problem, beginning with Patches? Any concern for them? Apparently not. “What can you do?” Your job as a parent, that’s what!  If you have no more comprehension of what parenting is than this letter demonstrates, it was irresponsible to the point of criminal for you to dare to raise a child at all. OR have a dog.

Oh, “Dear Abby’s” response wasn’t too bad—“Stop trying so hard to be your son’s sports buddy”“try harder to be a parent”“he should be able to handle disappointment and control his anger and aggression” (Ya think??)…“get him counseling”“Your son should be evaluated by a mental health professional”—except that the whole concept that this sick and dysfunctional family, headed by lazy parents with slack values and demented priorities, could be saved or even helped by a brief snippet of wisdom from “Dear Abby” is absurd. Rather than treating the pathetic letter like a respectable query, Abby should have used the address and sent both Animal Rescue and Child Services to the home of this “Good Father.” More than Patches is at stake if these clueless parents continue to be left to their won resources while they breed a monster.


Pointer: Fark

Facts: “Dear Abby”

Graphic: Borg

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of  facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

10 thoughts on “Dear Abby Follies: Ethically Frightening Question, Ethically Inadequate Response

  1. It never ceases to amaze me, how truth is stranger than fiction. How does Abby know these kinds of letters are about real situations and not pranks?

    • Ha! Oprah’s mag had me on an ethics advice panel for a monthly feature for about three years, under the wise editorship of Jancee Dunn. Rush Kidder was also on it. There are two kinds of questions that come into advice columnists…legitimate gray area issues that seeking an objective viewpoint about can be helpful or at least comforting, and very serious problems that the fact that writers think an advice column is a reasonable resource to seek out for guidance proves they need a lot more help and intervention that any columnist can provide. I think it may be unethical to even answer such questions: “My house appears to be on fire. What do I do?”

  2. Another blog I read had another answer:

    “Dear ‘Good Dad’,

    Pin him up against the wall, where his feet don’t touch the floor, and put the fear of God in him.”

  3. The kid probably can’t handle the disappointment because he’s used to getting participation trophies and being rewarded simply for existing rather than achieving. And if you’re from Cleveland you might want to get used to being disappointed in your sports teams.

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