Dealing with a trashy-dressing daughter?

The mom's guide to dealing with a trashy dressing daughter:

Clothes are a very powerful way to communicate. They connote certain things about who you are and give specific messages-to express anger or sophistication, to flirt and indicate that you're ready for a sexual encounter, or to show the world that you're prim and proper.

Clothes can be used to attract people or to repel them. It can also just be fun to experiment with clothes and see how it feels and what responses you get from other people.

So before you react too quickly when your daughter starts dressing trashy, it's a good idea to get inside her head prior to jumping inside her closet. Take time to pay attention to your daughter.

Really study her moods, her friends, her struggles at school, changes that are going on inside her as well as outside. Try to analyze what's going on in her life that might suddenly make her want to wear trashy clothes.

There are lots of reasons she might have chosen a change in her attire and her look, and these different reasons will prompt totally different interventions and conversations from you.

Tips for getting inside your daughter's closet and head before it's too late:

Once you've identified the issues, you can now intervene and talk with your daughter. Here are some things to consider for those conversations.

  1. If her trashy dressing is not too offensive, let it go: Choose your battles and know you don't have to win every one. Losing a battle on mildly trashing dressing might help you to win the war on other more important issues. When my daughter was in middle school, she went through a phase of wanting to wear an entire forearm of silver bangles. It looked ridiculous to me, but I let it go because it didn't really cause any harm, and she soon outgrew it.

  2. Read teen magazines with her: If you want to be your daughter's mentor in the arena of dressing, then you'll have to get some knowledge and expertise. She will know that you understand teen fashions and she is more likely to trust you about your opinions.

  3. Go shopping with your daughter: Begin early and keep it going so that you have a long history of doing this activity together.

  4. Start asking early on what she thinks about your clothes so you establish an attitude of mutual sharing and it won't feel one-sided when you make comments or suggestions about her clothes: Asking her advice about your clothes creates a sense of team in respecting each other's opinions.

  5. Use negotiation and compromise as tools when her clothes get too out of line: If you allow her do something special in return for not wearing her inappropriate outfit, it's a win/win for both of you.

  6. Often girls are dressing for their girl friends-not for the boys: The peer pressure among girls is fierce, so they will dress anyway they need to in order to be accepted. I recently talked with the mom of a seven year old who told me that her daughter chooses her clothes each day depending upon the reaction of other girls in her class.

    If she gets a compliment on something, she will wear it over and over. If anyone ever makes a negative comment on her outfit, she'll never wear it again. If the pressure for approval is this great at seven, we can only imagine how much it increases as girls get older. As a parent it's important to be sensitive and understanding of this pressure and not demand that she wear something that will cause her grief at school.

  7. She might be dressing too sexy-insisting on tight shirts and very short skirts: This is the time to have many conversations-a series, if necessary-with her about how her dress is making a statement about who she is. The guy she attracts won't be the one she wants. It will be a guy who thinks he can have anything he wants from her. Tell her she's too good to present herself that way because that's not who she is inside.

  8. Ask an aunt or other favorite adult to shop with her instead of you: If she's been close to you, she may feel the need to separate and choose dressing as a way to show that independence. She may decide she won't wear what you bought for her simply because you bought it.
About Joanne Stern:

As a psychotherapist, Joanne Stern, PhD, has spent more than twenty years counseling families, parents, and teens. She specializes in counseling on relationships, drugs and alcohol, eating disorders, and grief and loss. She has taught courses in parenting and is a popular speaker on relationship issues.

A mom for more than three decades (including five years, as a single mom), Joanne has two grown daughters and lives in Aspen, Colorado with her husband, Terry Hale.

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