I am writing to you about a conflict I have with my 10-year old daughter about what to wear. She dresses very plainly — one-color t-shirts and jeans, a ponytail in back, and that is her uniform. I am not exactly a spiffy dresser, but I do feel it is very important to dress up and look pretty on certain occasions as a sign of respect — like at family functions, church occasions, etc. My daughter will not dress up, and my husband sides with her. Would it be better if I gave up the fight, or kept insisting? I would be happy to provide more details. Thank you.
The common-sense answer to this problem would be for you to sit down with your family, discuss the conflict and reach some sort of compromise. She, for example, could wear jeans to church but not on certain special occasions. Seems so easy: you just speak a few words and voila! the conflict is resolved.
But I also know that emotions around proper attire can be very loaded. Some parents, for example, can’t reach any sort of compromise with their child if they think “this sort of defiance is going to lead to delinquency. What happened to my little girl? I’ve lost her…” Likewise, children won’t be able to co-operate with their parents if the underlying feelings go something like this: “they treat me like a baby. Why can’t they see I’m growing up? I’m SICK of this.”
When the underlying feelings become too intense and overpowering, “talking” can turn into fighting, impasses, and worse, some very hurt feelings. What would make it possible for you not to fight or give up, but be able to talk?
The answer to this is courage and conviction. Courage is required not to retreat from the challenging emotions – whatever they may be. Yes, send me the details… Are you worried, angry, feeling betrayed?
Conviction is required to tolerate and accept the answers to these questions. Your child may be defiant and angry. Your husband may not be supportive and prepared to assist you. The more you can tolerate these realities, the closer you will come to reaching a compromise where everybody can be heard and known.
I hope you don’t sacrifice your feelings and desires to “keep the peace” but rather find the courage and conviction to deal with this conflict which, right now, seems to be leading you only into fight or flight.