Are you trying to make your child wear deodorant … or make your sons and daughters do other basic daily tasks?
Guest Post by Marianne Miller
Yes, it’s true. Sometimes my sons smell. “What kind of mother can’t make her kids wear deodorant?” you ask. This kind. Me. I refuse.
My logic is simple. I wear deodorant. I don’t smell. I have told each of my four sons, after my first whiff of them, usually around age eleven, that deodorant was invented to stop that smell.
I buy deodorant. I talk about changes in their bodies at this age. I gently remind them for a few months. And then my work is finished.
Can I “make” them wear it? Sure. I could remind, cajole, nag until they stomp into the bathroom and half-heartedly make a swift swipe under each pit. But what does that really accomplish? Will we do the same dance the next day? Probably.
We are raising kids in a culture where our child is too often seen as a direct reflection of our ability to parent. If my child is getting straight A’s, then I must be an “A+” parent. If my child is polite and well groomed, then I’m Rock Star Mom.
The problem this creates is that, if I’m not careful, I can obsess over my child’s grades (calling teachers, checking online grades, hovering over homework) making them more mine than theirs, robbing my child of independence and a sense of accomplishment. I can obsess about their appearance because of how it represents our family.
No, I want my children to wear deodorant and brush their teeth and comb their hair because that is what’s best for THEM, not me. I want to be confident enough in myself to send my tween-age child to school with bad breath or a three-inch cowlick in his hair because he has not yet embraced social norms.
At this age, kids are searching for who they are apart from their parents. If we push too hard, they simply can push back harder.
Let’s get practical about what this sounds like and what message our words send.
Image by Pixabay
“Your breath stinks. Go upstairs and brush your teeth.”
“Did you brush?”
“Don’t forget to brush.”
“When are you going to start remembering to brush on your own?” Then repeat with increasing disgust every morning of the week.
- “Mom’s in charge of my body.”
- “She nags all the time.”
- “She thinks I’m not capable.”
- “Why can’t I do what I want with my own teeth?”
- “You might not realize this but your breath stinks. You may want to brush again if you don’t want to go to school like that.” (Assumption that child already brushed, even though he probably didn’t, sends the message that you find him capable. Child is given a choice.)
- “No Pop-Tart today because you haven’t been brushing. At your age I’m certainly not going to make you brush, but I’d be irresponsible if I kept giving you sugar. Let me know when you decide to start brushing.” (Child is empowered and Mom draws boundaries.)
- “I need you to do some jobs around the house to pay off that cavity. You’ll figure this brushing thing out.” (Child is capable but parent uses natural consequences to motivate.)
- “Do you need my help remembering to brush? I usually do it right when I wake up so I don’t forget.” (Child makes decision to brush. Parent offers help if needed. )
- “Please don’t get so close to me when you talk because your breath stinks from not brushing well enough.” (Parent draws a personal boundary. Child can choose how to respond.)
Image by Pixabay
“Why do I have to keep telling you about deodorant?”
“You are old enough now to do this on your own. Why do I have to keep nagging?”
“Did you remember deodorant?”
- Doesn’t have to ever remember because the parent will always remind them.
- Feels picked on.
- Will count on this dance to engage his parents if he or she is not receiving much positive interaction.
- “You understand that deodorant takes away that smell right?” (Parent provides information. Child is empowered to decide.)
- “I’m not sure if you knew this but you smell a little. Happens to me sometimes on long days. You may want to reapply your deodorant.”
- “If you are not going to wear deodorant, I need you to roll down the window when we’re in the car together.” (Parent draws personal boundaries.)
- “It’s not really fair to other people to smell like that, so pay attention to how they respond when you are close to them. You’ll figure this out.”
Oh, sometimes I can’t resist the urge to toss out a rogue comment like, “Hey, you still have enough deodorant, right?” The child smiles and gets my subtle message. By not nagging or stepping into places that should be theirs to own, I maintain a positive, healthy relationship with each of my sons.
I am not the enemy, the Smell Police. I’m simply the one who loves them unconditionally, smell and all, and the one who has a ton of wisdom that could benefit them now and in the future—if I keep the relationship strong.
Stop nagging. Stop being frustrated. Have the courage and tenacity to walk alongside your kids, nurturing and encouraging them as they figure out who they are apart from you—smell and all.
Image by Bossfight
Are you trying to make your child wear deodorant? What are you managing for your kids that they could be managing on their own?
Marianne Miller is mom to four teen sons (who all now brush their teeth and wear deodorant), a certified parenting instructor, blogger, middle school teacher, and author of The Gift of Enough: Raising Grateful Kids in a Culture of Excess.