Enter to win every day in CTNOW's 21 Days of Summer Giveaways. Click here to see today's prize.
Family Fun
Family Fun

Do parents need to stop the gossip mill?

Your daughter and her friends spend a lot of time gossiping about their classmates. Should you cut in?

Parent advice

(from our panel of staff contributors)

Unless there's a whiff of vitriol or "mean girl" attitude, I would let it go. Harmless gossip is the currency of inclusiveness among tweens and teens. If I overheard something that made me uncomfortable, or if I sensed one person was consistently being gossiped about, I would pick a time to have a chat with my daughter privately. And if hurtful comments from my daughter started showing up on Facebook or Twitter, that's when the hammer would drop. Hard.

Denise Joyce

I would if it's hateful. Otherwise, I'd wait until my daughter was alone and point out that anyone who can gossip about someone else can just as easily gossip about her when she's not around. And would she want to be gossiped about or have her secrets shared?

Bill Daley

If it's swapping stories, the latest did-you-hear-who-got-grounded dirt, I'd hang back. If it's mean gossip directed at one person — well, that's where bullying starts. And in addition to the how-would-you-like-it talk and the you-have-no-right-to-make-someone-feel-bad talk, I'd point out that schools are starting to crack down hard on this sort of behavior.

Phil Vettel

Expert advice

"The most important thing for parents to realize is that gossip is no cause for panic," says Roni Cohen-Sandler, clinical psychologist and author of "I'm Not Mad, I Just Hate You! A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict" (Penguin). "So much is written about bullying, but just because your daughter gossips does not make her a mean girl or a bully."

Gossip can be a normal part of socializing and a road map for fitting in.

"Research shows a certain amount of gossip and a certain kind of gossip is actually socially desirable," says Cohen-Sandler. "That's how we — even adults — learn social mores. Talking about other people and seeing other people's reactions helps us see what's socially acceptable."

That's not the same as starting rumors or saying cruel things about someone.

"Listen to the quality of the gossiping," Cohen-Sandler urges. "Sometimes we're just checking out our preconceptions or getting validation by running things by our peers. 'Was it me, or did you think she was being really sarcastic to me?' "

If the gossip strikes you as excessive or mean-spirited, however, it may be time to step in.

"I would suggest not making an issue about it in front of your child's friend because that can feel very shameful and you don't want to make the girls feel ashamed," she says. "You could simply go over and offer them some lunch, change the subject, and then have a conversation with your daughter later."

That conversation could include matters of loyalty and friendship and whether gossiping makes her appear trustworthy to her friends and makes her feel like her gossiping cohorts are trustworthy. You might also try to suss out an underlying issue.

"Is she trying to cement a friendship by creating a common enemy? Is she dealing with issues of insecurity or possessiveness? Is she angry with another girl?" Cohen-Sandler says. "And are there better or healthier ways to deal with those feelings?"

Help her find ways to change the subject or defuse the situation if her friends start gossiping, so she doesn't feel like her only option is to join in or lose the friends.

It might also be worth taking a look at your own behavior, says Cohen-Sandler.

"If your kids see you being nice to people and then talking behind their backs, that's giving them a mixed message."

Have a solution?

One kid wants a whole bunch of gifts. The other doesn't want much. Are you obligated to spend equally? Email us at parenthood@tribune.com. Find "The Parent 'Hood" page on Facebook, where you can post your parenting questions and offer tips and solutions for others to try.

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
Related Content
  • Giant Slide The City Slipping Into Hartford

    Giant Slide The City Slipping Into Hartford

    More than 3,500 people will relive a little bit of their childhoods on a giant scale as they slip and slide for 1,000 feet down Trinity Street in Hartford when Slide the City comes to town Saturday, Aug. 22.

  • A Madison Daycation: A Beach, A Bookstore, A Beautiful Hotel

    A Madison Daycation: A Beach, A Bookstore, A Beautiful Hotel

    Downtown Madison, Connecticut, has the feel of a beach town, though the beach itself is nearly 2 miles away. In addition to shops and restaurants, the town has one of the best independent bookstores in the state and a century-old independent movie theater.

  • Caribbean and Jerk Fest Returns To The Riverfront

    Caribbean and Jerk Fest Returns To The Riverfront

    Jamaican reggae artist Luciano, Barbadian jazz saxophonist Elan Trotman, the music and dance troop Iroko Nuevo and other Caribbean-style performers head to Mortensen Riverfront Plaza on Saturday, Aug. 1, from 1 to 11 p.m. for the 10th annual Taste of the Caribbean and Jerk Festival.

  • 10 Tips For The Best Summer Runs

    10 Tips For The Best Summer Runs

    Summer is a great time for running in Connecticut — outside of the heat and humidity, the swarms of mosquitoes and flies and the crowds trying to enjoy this short-lived season of sunshine. Besides that, it's great getting a chance to lay down the ear warmers and unearth those tank tops. But once...

  • Sounds Of Mexico Come To Old State House Farmer's Market

    Sounds Of Mexico Come To Old State House Farmer's Market

    The sounds of Mexico, along with dancing, hand-clapping and maraca-shaking, come to the Old State House Farmers Market. Fiesta del Norte, Connecticut's first mariachi band, performs on Friday, July 31, at noon at Connecticut's Old State House, 800 Main St., Hartford.

  • Sunflower Maze Returns To Lyman Orchards

    Sunflower Maze Returns To Lyman Orchards

    Dinosaurs return to the fields of Lyman Orchards in Middlefield when its annual sunflower maze opens Saturday, Aug. 1. This year's maze, approximately three acres, is shaped like a Tyrannosaurus Rex.