The Parent 'Hood: Has your child turned into an unbearable fashionista and harsh critic?
Your tween daughter constantly criticizes your fashion choices. Should you scold her? Ignore her? Take her advice?
Parent advice (from our panel of staff contributors):
I would try to remember a similar feeling I had about my mother’s choices and share it, and laugh together about it. I also would try to gently point out that, unless my daughter is forced to dress like me, I should not be forced to dress like her. Generations have different tastes, and that makes the world go ’round. However, if my daughter can point out some age-appropriate update for my wardrobe, it would be fun to be open to that, especially if she could kindly suggest something versus being mean.
— Dodie Hofstetter
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Depending on the harshness of the criticism, you might point out when/if her comments go from constructive to hurtful. And consider her advice, if only to demonstrate that you take her ideas seriously, while making it clear it’s your body, your wardrobe and that you get to decide what looks nice on you. Think of this as an opportunity to teach your daughter how to face external criticism with grace and confidence. And perhaps an open mind.
— Phil Vettel
Perhaps ask her what she dislikes about your choices and why. It may have more to do with her discomfort with the way you dress/act in front of her friends than her innate fashion sense or hatred of the capri pants with ankle socks that you wear.
— Judy Hevrdejs
Before you react (or change your outfit), ask yourself what your daughter’s motivations might be.
“If you just see it as an insult or as your daughter pushing your buttons or expressing her anger at you, you’ll probably take it personally and have very limited responses,” says clinical psychologist Roni Cohen-Sandler, co-author of “I’m Not Mad, I Just Hate You! A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict” (Penguin). “She may be actually trying to exercise her new interest in appearance and trying to show you how talented she is. Or trying to genuinely give you advice.”
Then ask yourself this: Is she right?
“It behooves you to at least contemplate the idea that maybe she has good advice,” says Cohen-Sandler. She may just need some help with her delivery. “Use it as a teaching moment: ‘I totally respect the idea that you don’t like what I’m wearing, but it hurts my feelings when you say I look stupid. Can we think of another way to say that, where I’d hear what you have to say without being offended?’ You want to teach your daughter that what she says and how she says it have consequences.”
And take care not to appear wounded.
“You don’t want to be so injured or fragile that one cross word from her puts you in a funk,” says Cohen-Sandler. “That’s way too much power and gives her a great arsenal of ammunition to use whenever she’s annoyed with you.”
It’s a tricky balance, but one that will pay dividends if you can strike it.
“You’re setting the tone for how you’ll handle this your whole lifetime,” says Cohen-Sandler, whose daughter is now 29. “I do think handling this topic well when she was a teenager set us up for the relationship we have now.
“We love to shop with each other and we really trust each other’s opinion. I think that came from the fact that we were both very respectful and honest with each other.”
Have a solution? Your son’s friends all go away to camp. He didn’t want to. Now he’s bored to tears. Should you force him next year? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.