What IS It with Girls and Clothes?

Dear Mr. Dad: Ever since my daughter turned 13, all she does is pressure my wife and me to buy her extravagant, overpriced clothing. We’re going through a bit of a rough financial patch and there’s no way we can afford what she’s asking for. Any advice?

A: Clearly you were never a teenage girl. Okay, neither was I, but I did survive my two oldest daughters’ bouts with teen wardrobe insanity and still have most of my hair. My youngest, who worships her older sisters and apparently was taking good notes during their adolescent years, is threatening to become a teenager herself in a few years and has already developed some very firm ideas about clothes.
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Sticks and stones? Ha! Name calling may be a lot worse.

Researchers at the University of Oregon found that “The level of aggression between partners around the time a baby is born affects how the mother will parent three years later, research shows.”  Specifically, there were looking at whether psychological aggression by parents of infants–in particular name calling, arguing, door slamming, and so on–would affect the parents and their children a few years down the road. The short answer? It sure does.

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Sensing Insensitivity

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife is Japanese, I’m white, and our daughter is biracial. When I’m out with her in public, strangers are constantly stopping me to ask what country we adopted her from. (Interestingly, my wife tells me this never happens to her.) I feel like wearing a button that says, “No, you jerk, my child isn’t adopted!” Is there some way I can get people to stop asking me this irritating question?

A: More and more people these days are describing themselves as bi-racial. In fact, according to 2010 Census data , the number of biracial and multiracial people is up 50 percent since 2000 (that’s when the Census Bureau first gave the option to check more than one “race” box.) Theoretically, that should mean that over time, biracial children will be less of a novelty. In the meantime, you’ll still have to deal with insensitive (and/or ignorant) people.

While the questions you’re fielding are definitely irritating, only a very small percentage or people are asking out of racism. Most really mean no harm—it’s their way of admiring your daughter. Some have boundary issues (these are the same people who have no problem coming up to a pregnant woman they don’t know and rubbing her belly). And some weren’t paying attention when their parents tried to give them the “think-before-you-open-your-mouth” lesson. They’re not bad people, just a bit clueless.

That said, your frustration is understandable. Still, the most important thing you can do is stay calm. When you’re out in public, there’s no way to keep people from asking you questions, whether it’s about where you got your hair cut or the ice cream cone you’re eating or whether or not your child is adopted.

Don’t feel that your job is to educate people about race (or manners). Taking on that responsibility will just add to your stress level. With that in mind, the easiest thing to do is calmly say something like, “No, my child isn’t adopted. My wife is Japanese and our daughter is bi-racial.” That’ll clear things up for anyone who genuinely wanted to know about adoption and will probably make anyone with less-than-positive intentions feel a little silly.

As annoying as these questions are, they give you a wonderful opportunity to discuss the issue with your daughter. You might point out that she’s getting all the extra attention because she’s unique—and that being unique is a good thing (this is the same conversation I have with my youngest daughter, who’s constantly approached by people asking her, “Where’d you get the red hair?”) You could also mention that Barack Obama—even though he identifies as black—has a white mother and is just as bi-racial as your daughter.

No matter how these questions make you feel, keep the anger, resentment, frustration, and whatever else out of your voice and body language. If you respond in any kind of negative way, your daughter will feel that you think there’s something wrong with her or that being bi-racial is a bad thing. That’s a message you never want to send. Ever. She’ll also use your behavior as a model for how to react when people inevitably start approaching her directly instead of going through you.

As parents, we can’t keep people from asking us questions about our kids, especially if they’re cute and charming. Your number one priority is your daughter’s well-being and making sure she has a positive perception of herself. That’s a lot more important than educating or scolding some random person that you meet and will probably never see again.

Ever try to take an iPhone or iPad away from a child?

My 8-year old, like most of her peers, has been channeling the ghost of Steve Jobs and somehow instinctively knows how to do amazing things with my iPhone. But when I sheepishly ask to get my phone back–say, to make a call or something silly like that–it’s like trying to pry a half-eaten gazelle from a pack of hyenas.

If any of this sounds familiar (and if it doesn’t, it will soon), you’ll enjoy this article from Gizmodo.

For Girls, Puberty at Age 6? That’s One of the Best Reasons to Be an Involved Dad

More and more girls are starting puberty early. Some as early as six! If you’ve got daughters–and I’ve got three of ‘em–there are a few things you really, really need to know. Let’s start with the good news, some of which I’ve written about extensively.

For example, girls who have actively involved dads start puberty later than those with less involved dads. In fact, girls who grow up without a biological dad are twice as likely to start puberty young than girls in families where mom and dad are there.

The rest of this article is on the Talking About Men’s Health blog, here.

The bully pulpit

This whole bullying thing is out of control. Every day thousands of kids in the US cut school because they’re afraid of bullies. Tens of thousands more are literally sick over it, with symptoms like stomach problems, anxiety, and depression, just to name a few. And some—you’ve probably read about the cases—have actually committed suicide.

Statistics on how many kids are bullied are hard to pin down for several reasons. First, it’s hard to define. Is teasing someone “bullying”? A kindergartener in New Jersey was the subject of a bullying investigation after he said that another child had cooties. To call that bullying diminishes the seriousness of the problem.
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