Dear Family Coach: The clothing battle has begun with my 8-year-old daughter. I often hear "That's not cool," or "I just want to be comfortable!" when I make suggestions regarding her attire. We are pretty flexible, but there are times when certain outfits are inappropriate, and we have to overrule her fashion sense. How do we do this without a fight and without squashing her independence and sense of personal identity? — Fashionista's Parents
Dear Parents: What, it isn't appropriate for her to wear her Wonder Woman costume to Grandma's 50th wedding-anniversary party? Why not? As you say, there is a time and a place for every outfit. The problem is that kids and parents often disagree on what is required for certain occasions. Sometimes it's a comfort issue; kids hate to feel constrained by clothing (I kind of feel the same way). So, it's important for parents to consider comfort when buying dress clothing. Be flexible. My son hates collared shirts, so we found a high-quality polo shirt that works for most situations. If a dress is required for an occasion, let your daughter wear shorts or pants underneath. She may feel less exposed that way.
I would try to avoid a fight about clothing as much as possible. Before asking for her to change, think about whether it is truly needed. Make sure you aren't making her change because of concern about how her clothing may make you look. I know we all like to pretend our ego doesn't enter the picture, but it does, and it's insidious at times. Intervening only when it's truly necessary will help her keep her independence and personal style.
Dear Family Coach: We are really struggling with our 5-year-old daughter accepting constructive criticism. She gets really angry and shouts "I know!" when we try to correct her, even though she doesn't know everything. Sometimes she runs off angry and in tears. Do you know of any approaches to help deliver a constructive message without her falling apart? — Can't Say Anything Mom
Dear Mom: Oh, yes, the 5-year-old who knows it all. Well, you can just pack up your parenting now because she is all set for college. If only parenting were that easy. Your daughter has a fragile ego. That's nothing out of the ordinary or concerning, but it's true nonetheless. She hears your corrections as a direct attack on her burgeoning abilities. Even when you give constructive criticism, it sounds to her like 1,001 bosses shouting in front of the entire company. No one likes that. Some kids can just brush it off and take a suggestion for what it's worth; others feel a sting that makes it harder to hear.
When your daughter says, "I know," or runs away crying, she is exhibiting an impulsive response because her defenses are raised. To help lower her guard, practice calming breathing techniques until she is relaxed enough to talk. Don't give up on the discussion just because she puts up a wall. Build her ability to tolerate corrections by acknowledging that her mistake isn't a tragedy. Everyone messes up; it is how we recover that helps us learn not to repeatedly commit the same blunder. Also, praise her ability to bounce back from obstacles whenever she does.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.