DEAR HARRIETTE: I have noticed that my daughter, who is in high school, has been rude to some girls at school. I pick her up after school sometimes, and I got there early once and noticed her and a group of her friends making fun of another girl. I asked her about it, and she shrugged it off. Another time, I saw the whole group of them taunting a shy girl. I am so upset. My daughter used to be a nice, caring girl. How can I get her to be more compassionate? I know that teens go through a lot of emotional ups and downs, but there’s no excuse for being mean. -- No More Mean Girl, Denver
DEAR NO MORE MEAN GIRL: Tell your daughter you need to talk to her with no cellphones or other distractions. Ask her what happened between her and the girl you saw her taunting. Find out if she did something to upset your daughter and her friends. Be compassionate, as this will help her to talk to you. Tell her you are concerned because this is the second time you have seen your daughter speak to other girls in a mean way. Remind your daughter of the lesson she should have learned in middle school about being a bully or a bystander. Tell her you are worried she has become the bully. Do your best to find out what the other girl did or what your daughter and her friends have done or said that escalated their interaction to obvious mean behavior.
It is unlikely that your daughter will tell you everything in the first conversation. Keep talking to her. Ask her how she would feel if someone treated her in a mean way. If you have a personal story of being bullied when you were young, share that with your daughter. If she can imagine how the victims of her mean behavior might react to her, she may begin to change. Do not give up.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)