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Daughter Wants to Dress "Punk"

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

Q: My daughter wants to wear black boots, camouflage pants, have a chain hanging out of her pocket, and have spikey blond hair. What should I say to her?

A: I am guessing that your daughter is an adolescent with a need to fit in with a particular group of her peers. As you may remember when you were her age, the "uniform" that you wear as an adolescent is very important. The clothes that she wears and her hairstyles are part of her attempt to find an identity, one that is separate from you and linked to a desire for acceptance from her peers.

Rather than put her down or forbid her for wanting to wear these clothes, I would allow her to present herself as she desires. If she asks you what you think of her clothing and hairstyle, I would be honest with her, while taking care not to embarrass or offend her. You can and most likely will disagree about what looks best on her in terms of her clothes, makeup and hairstyle. That's par for the course. She's experimenting now, trying out different looks, language and ways of thinking. She's also becoming more of a sexual being. She needs your support and encouraging words more now than ever, so don't pull away from her even though she may tell you to stay out of her life. Regardless of what she wears or how she looks, she's still your little girl. Stay connected to and interested in her life. Do more listening than lecturing. And don't abdicate your role when it comes to disciplinarian or confidant. I am sure that these "looks" will give way to others as she moves through adolescence. What will not change is her need for your unconditional love and acceptance. I am sure you'll be there to give these to her.

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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 FamilyEducation.com 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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