I work with a woman who constantly tells me how much she has - a condo in Florida, a timeshare in the Virgin Islands, her portfolio, the expensive ring her husband bought her and what she spends on wedding/holiday gifts. She even told me about how much she used to make at her previous job.

As a struggling single parent, I find it insensitive.

How do I deal with this?

Is it about my own inadequacies?

She is otherwise a seemingly nice lady.

My boyfriend says I need to just "get over it." What do you think?

- "Penny Less" in Pennsylvania

DEAR "PENNY LESS": This woman's constant need to talk about how much she has is less about your "inadequacies" than about her own. People who are happy, secure and socially sensitive don't usually feel a compulsion to brag about what they have. Once you understand that fact, you may feel less inadequate around her.

But if that isn't the case, resolve to spend more of your time with people who talk about ideas and things you have in common, and less with her.

DEAR ABBY: My mother was physically and verbally abusive to my sister and me when we were kids and teenagers. Mom had a short fuse. She'd slap us if we accidentally dropped a piece of spaghetti or scuffed our shoes. If she thought we were talking back, she'd really lose it and things would get ugly.

My sister is a mother herself now, and her kids are brats. I know it's because she doesn't want to be strict or abusive to them like our mother was to us.

I am engaged and thinking about a family of my own someday. I don't know how to discipline children or how to correct their bad behavior without becoming abusive. How can I treat my children with kindness, but still have them behave well and be respectful?

- Wants to End the Cycle

DEAR WANTS: Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is born with the instinctive ability to be a good parent. Parenting is a skill, and like most skills, effective parenting has to be learned.

Because you come from a dysfunctional home, a way to ensure that you won't repeat the pattern of abuse would be to enroll in parenting classes and learn about child development.

Contact your state department of education, local junior college or hospital and ask if these courses are offered or if they know where you can find them.

DEAR ABBY: Last year, when I was a freshman in college, my boyfriend, "Charles," accidentally broke my laptop by closing it on a little bouncy ball. I paid the $800 to have it repaired even though he was the one who broke it because I had the money and he had none. He said he'd pay me back, but it has been a year and I have yet to see any of that money.

As a German major, I am required to study in Germany next year and I am strapped for cash. I have reminded Charles about my laptop and he says he'll repay me, but I know he's still in a bad place financially.

Am I wrong to ask for the entire $800 or should I ask for half the amount? Or should I just forget it since it was an accident? I could use some good advice.

- Fraught Fraulein

DEAR FRAULEIN: You can ask for whatever amount you wish, but whether you'll get a penny is up for grabs. It appears Charles is immature. He should have repaid you even if it meant taking a part-time job. You're a smart girl. Chalk this up to tuition in the school of experience, and recognize that your boyfriend can't be counted on - for anything.