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by Abigail Van Buren

Mother Wants to Right Daughter's Wrong Turn

DEAR ABBY: My daughter, "Skylar," just started middle school, and she has fallen in with the wrong crowd. She walks around the house with a chip on her shoulder, wearing what looks to us like boys' clothes. She curses and lies, and she and her new friends have vandalized the girls' restroom four times. Her latest trick is to forge my signature on school papers.

I have discussed these problems with the school. They suggested counseling and therapy. What I want is advice on how to discipline Skylar for all the wrongs she has done.

How do I guide my daughter down the right path? -- UNABLE TO DISCIPLINE

DEAR UNABLE: Guiding a child down the "right path" involves more than discipline; it involves open communication and the assurance that he or she is loved. If Skylar were my daughter, the first thing I'd do is have her tested for drugs. If she tested positive, I would start her in a rehab program and possibly place her in another school.

If she tested "clean," I'd do exactly as the school suggested and get counseling and therapy for her. In fact, counseling for your entire family would be a good idea, because it appears that Skylar is not the only one who could use some help. Your parenting skills may need to be upgraded.