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Mother Unhappy About How Son Dresses

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I don't know how to impart my ideas about appropriate dress onto my 17-year-old son. He's a straight A student, holds down a steady job, is drug-free, and has never disrespected my husband or myself. He's a good kid, but I can't understand why he wears pants with a 60" diameter or has so many piercings. Is there anything I can do?

A: He purchased those huge pants for the same reason that teens of past generations have dressed in particular ways -- they think it looks cool. Please consider this matter in perspective. For your part, you've given your son what he's needed to become a responsible, hard-working young man. I'm not suggesting that you should voice your approval for his style of dress or the piercings that adorn his body. But you need to worry less about how he looks and remain focused on who he is.

Parents need to get out of the way of their own egos and roll with the fashion fads that their kids adopt. Part of the reason why he's dressing very differently from how you dress (or want him to dress) is his need to further separate from you at many levels. He'll soon be on his own in the world and he's asserting his own need to carve out an independent identity from his parents, an identity that he chooses.

Please remember when you were his age and what the styles were then as a coping mechanism for your distress. Long after the pants narrow and the piercings become fewer or disappear, he will remember that you did not shame him because he would not dress as you wanted. How he dresses is not worth fighting about. Learn to laugh and, above all, cherish this fine boy.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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