OMG, Can’t You Smell That? When Teens Don’t Bathe…

when teens don't batheDear Mr. Dad: My 12-year-old daughter won’t shower, she won’t brush her teeth, and she wears the same clothes every day—and sometimes even sleeps in them. Honestly, she’s not very pleasant to be around. Is this normal? Either way, how can I motivate her to be a little cleaner?

This probably won’t help you feel any better—and it certainly won’t do anything about the smell emanating from your sweet daughter—but what you’re describing is very common among pre-teens. Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix.

There are a number of possible explanations. First, disregarding personal hygiene is sometimes a symptom of depression. Think about other areas of her life: Does she seem withdrawn socially? Have her friendships changed? Are her grades dropping? Have her diet or sleep patterns changed? If any of those are true, call her pediatrician. He or she will know whether to call in the mental heal professionals. Plus, a few words about showering from a non-family member might make a difference.

Second, she may be too busy—at least in her mind. From your perspective, she probably spends way too much time on her computer or her phone—time that might be better spent with a bar of soap. From her perspective, she’s just staying in touch with her friends.

Third, she may be trying to get your attention. Clearly, she has.

Fourth, this could be a power play. At 12, your daughter is relatively powerless. You may get her involved in family decisions and you may give her choices, but the final decisions are yours. Not bathing, brushing teeth, or wearing clean clothes might be your daughter’s way of exerting some control. The same dynamic is common among kids who are obese or who have eating disorders. Forcing a child to eat, stop eating, or get in the shower is nearly impossible. As a parent who’s been exactly where you are, I’d much rather be worrying about a hygiene problem than a potentially life-threatening eating disorder.

Here’s what you can do to help.

  • One common pre-teen and teen refrain is “you just don’t understand me!” There’s some truth there. Pre-teens have a lot going on in their head and we rarely ask about it. A few non-judgmental questions will show her that you care and might help you get to know her better.
  • Adolescence is a time when kids want to be liked and fit in. It’s also prime time for bullying and teasing. Nobody gets picked on, bullied, or socially excluded more than kids who are visibly or olifactorily different. Explaining to your daughter that she may be jeopardizing her social life might make a difference.
  • Do nothing. Actually being excluded or teased by her peers will get the point across more effectively than anything you say.
  • Have her read the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle story, “The Radish Cure.” The fictional Mrs. Piggle Wiggle comes up with delightfully creative solutions to parenting problems. In this story, she recommends to the parents of a child who refuses to bathe that they wait until their little darling is covered by half an inch of dirt, then, when she’s asleep, plant radish seeds. Seeing the sprouts was all it took to drive the child into the bath.
  • Don’t make threats. Threatening to take away her phone or Internet time may make the problem worse. If you absolutely must make a threat, be sure you can follow through. In a moment of frustration, I told one of my daughters that I wouldn’t take her to school the next day unless she showered and brushed her teeth. Dumb move on my part.

True Strength is Strength Under Control

A guest post from HearDad.com 

It doesn’t take long for a father to be at his wits end with a toddler. Shorter still when the toddler naturally resists falling asleep, staying asleep, and going back to sleep. I can confidently presume that you’ve been where I frequently am. At the end of your rope. So close to giving up or lashing out that you often wonder if you’re the only one who has too much testosterone pulsing through your veins. I have great news for you. You’re not alone and your struggle is not hopeless.

Someone once said that true strength was strength under control. The more I mature in fatherhood the more this truth becomes apparent to me. All over the news you see, read and hear of another man or adolescent that snaps. They unleash all of their frustration, all of their anger, all of their supposed strength on a helpless child. Most often, this undeserving attack ends in death but can also end in permanent damage. It is absolutely never worth it. To anyone. Yet it keeps happening. Someone eventually snaps.

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Lessons Learned After Adopting a Child from Ethiopia

Claude Knobler, author of More Love (Less Panic).
Topic:
Lessons learned about life and parenting after adopting a child from Ethiopia.
Issues: The difference between influence and control; why worrying doesn’t help; how less than perfect may be perfect enough; learning perspective from a piñata and mushy food.

Love is Not Enough + More Love (Less Panic)

Jenny Lexhed, author of Love is Not Enough.
Topic:
A mother’s memoir of autism, madness, and hope.
Issues: Coping with a child’s autism diagnosis; trying to find the best treatment among competing theories and approaches; the importance of taking breaks, getting enough sleep, and self-care.

Claude Knobler, author of More Love (Less Panic).
Topic:
Lessons learned about life and parenting after adopting a child from Ethiopia.
Issues: The difference between influence and control; why worrying doesn’t help; how less than perfect may be perfect enough; learning perspective from a piñata and mushy food.

Overcoming Ignoring + Stop Saying “Yes” for the Wrong Reasons + Negotiation Generation

Guest: Amy McCready, author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time…
Topic:
The revolutionary program that gets your kids to listen without nagging, reminding, or yelling.
Issues: Why it’s so difficult to get kids to listen; how giving your child more power, not less can end power struggles; effective ways to correct misbehavior and bring out the best in your children.


Adrianne Ahern, author of Snap out of It Now!
Topic: Four steps to inner joy.
Issues: Learning to understand—and overcome–the reasons people say yes to the wrong relationships, let anger lead them down the wrong path, fail at diets, and believe they aren’t good enough; making a quantum leap to a life of purpose, joy, and excellence.


Lynn Reeves Griffin, author of Negotiation Generation.
Topic: Taking back your parental authority without punishment.
Issues: How to influence your child’s behavior—without controlling it; predicting and preventing challenging behavior; letting go of time outs, grounding, spankings, and other punishments; teaching by example.

When it Comes to Making Career Choices, Let Your Child Do the Driving

Dear Mr. Dad: My daughter just turned 15, and I want to start preparing her for the future. Specifically, I want to make sure that she’s on the right career path, whether than means going to college, trade school, or something else after she graduates high school. She’s only got a few years left, and I’m a little concerned that she doesn’t seem to have much direction. How do I steer her toward the right career choice?

A: As parents, we all want our kids to succeed in everything they do, from getting good grades to finding the right life partner to landing the perfect job. But parenthood is an ongoing lesson in the difference between control and influence. When our kids are young, we’re pretty much in control and we’ve got a huge amount of influence. As they get older, they take on more and more control over their own lives. We have influence, but a little less every day. And by the time they’re around your daughter’s age, we have almost no control at all, and whatever influence we still have is much more powerful if we wait until we’re asked to help rather than offering unsolicited advice (which a lot of teens and young adults will see as an attempt to control them anyway).
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