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Q. As a kid I was the victim of mean girls. Now my 12-year-old daughter is the one bad-mouthing others. How do I keep her from becoming a person I don't even like?
A. Be straight up with her: "Look, I've heard you gossiping and saying cruel things about other kids. That behavior goes against what our family fundamentally stands for, and it's unacceptable to me. If you do it around me, I will call you on it. If I find out from other people you've been unkind, I will make you apologize. And if you won't do it sincerely, I will apologize on your behalf and tell the parents that if they have additional problems, they should contact me immediately."
Now, it's likely your daughter won't exactly love you for this, which is fine. She'll be angry for exactly the right reason—you're refusing to put up with her nasty behavior.
Originally published in the March 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.