QUESTION: My child is
12 years old and is starting to dress in ways that drive me crazy, she
got a baby-sitting job over the summer and used her money to buy two
pairs of wide legged baggy pants. I told her she could get them under
the agreement that she wouldn't wear them in public with me, now she
said she wants to dress in the grunge style and that really makes me
crazy, I cant stand for her to dress like a slob but I'm not sure how
far to push my preference off on her or if I have any right to expect
her to dress the way I think she should, what do you think?
ANSWER: This is
probably your first child, and so your first introduction to adolescence!
You will soon become more tolerant of your daughter's budding self-expression.
At twelve, you had better step back on the clothing choices, or you
may be asking for rebellion in areas that are more anxiety producing
than seeing your daughter in baggy pants!
Your daughter is showing initiative by not only earning,
but saving her money to buy the outfits she wants to try on for character.
Allow her the freedom to explore and make these choices. Trust that
you have given her basic values that will help her make choices, but
that she needs to not only express but develop her ability to make
autonomous decisions. If you do not trust her to find her way with
her wardrobe, how will you trust her with more significant life decisions?
She is not an adult, but she needs to start somewhere. Think of her
as going through a phase of "getting ready to become an adult woman".
By this age, your daughter should be making her own
choices in the clothes she wears. And no doubt she is choosing her
style based on other friends' wardrobes. So you will not have to worry
that people will think less of you, if she dresses in this manner.
Adolescence is a period of separating from you, and this is one way
your daughter is expressing her individuality. Her actions will help
you to separate from her, too. Though your reaction is understandable,
you must try to see the world through your daughter's eyes more than
your own in this situation.
Try to understand your daughter's world. As nonjudgementally
as possible, ask her, specifically, what she likes about the style
she is choosing. Acknowledge that she does have a right to chose clothes
based upon her preferences. Do not put her down or berate her choices.
Instead, acknowledge them as different than your own, and be curious
about what these clothes mean to her, now. This is your opportunity
to develop a relationship with her through her adolescence. Treating
her disrespectfully now will only cause you to drift apart in the
years ahead. And her teen years are not a time you want to lose track
of her! She will more readily come to you for help if she needs it,
or later reflect on what you have said, if you show her respect and
curiosity rather than judgment and denigration. She may easily choose
a very different style next month, but the important thing is that
she is learning to make her own decisions.
The task of parenthood is to raise our children so
that they are capable of making autonomous decisions by the time they
do leave home. As parents we sometimes forget that this does not happen
all at once, but gradually over the next 6 years. She probably will
not be wearing these baggy pants at eighteen, but she may indeed develop
an independent sense of fashion that proves very different from yours.
Give her room to a "beginning adult". Accept that there will be differences
and she will make mistakes along the way. Engage her in conversations
which can expand with her adolescence.
As adults, we have had the opportunity to make our
own choices and we pay for our mistakes. It is your daughter's turn
to have a say in her life choices. Your 12 year old is just beginning
to forge her individuality and show independence in decision making.
She has honestly come by her own money to do so. She has earned the
right to make this choice.
It is time to develop the parental skill of "biting
your tongue"! Support your daughter's independence and her need to
experiment in safe ways to explore and discover her identity. If you
show her respect for her growing independence now, she will be more
likely to ask for your guidance when it comes to the important life
decisions coming up (sex, drugs, educational priorities).
Your relationship is changing! By all means talk
with other parents who have children entering adolescence. Bring your
feelings of outrage at her clothes to conversations with other parents,
who will no doubt understand. But treat her with respect and curiosity
and you may find a sense of humor goes a long way in helping you gain
perspective on this period of your daughter's life.
to Article Archive