Q. Our 15-year-old daughter uses her allowance to buy some of her own clothes. She recently purchased some low-cut tops. When her father and I expressed concern that she is angling for the wrong kind of attention from boys, she promised that she would wear a tank top underneath, but we have discovered that when she gets to school, she removes the tank.
We are inclined to take the tops away from her, but are not sure we have the right since she paid for them herself. Her dad is about to flip out over this. Help!
A. Your problem is that you're not thinking straight about your daughter's allowance. In fact, your daughter did not pay for these scandalous tops herself. She paid for them with money that you gave her.
She did not earn this money, and she has no "right" to it (there is no law stating that parents must dispense money to their children); therefore, she has no right to spend it as she pleases. Mistake me not, I'm in favor of allowances (for more on this topic, see my book Teen-Proofing), but I am also in favor of parents making perfectly clear that a child of any age is not allowed to spend his or her allowance in a fashion that is incompatible with the family's values, as defined by the parents. Simply tell your daughter that while she is "free" to buy whatever she wants with the money you give her, you are free to confiscate whatever she buys that does not conform to your standards. Stand up for your values and beliefs, people!
Q. My 15 year old son has low self-esteem and no close friends. I suppose those two things go hand-in-hand. He plays on the school soccer team with daily practices that take place nearly five months out of the year, and yet he does not hang out with anyone from the team. He has one friend in our neighborhood with whom he spends all his time on weekends but only because he has no one else. His grades are OK, but we feel they would be much better if he was happy. Is there anything we can do to help?
A. Well, I'm in no position to make a definitive judgment concerning your son's self-esteem, but he sounds OK to me. Marginally OK, maybe, but OK nonetheless.
Also, I have to disagree with you about your assessment of his one friendship. When one spends every weekend with someone, the relationship indeed qualifies as "close." And the fact that he plays soccer disqualifies him as a recluse. All in all, he may not be the happiest, most outgoing camper in the world, but that is simply the way it is: that is, not everyone is happy or outgoing to the same degree.
As for his grades, they would probably be better if he was not practicing soccer every day for five months of the year. I'm not suggesting, mind you, that he should not play soccer. I'm simply pointing out that you can't have your cake and eat it, too. If he was cutting himself, dressing in nothing but black, spending all of his time surfing satanic web sites, listening to "goth" music, ignoring the fundamentals of personal hygiene, and never coming out of his room, I'd affirm your concern. But he isn't, so I'm not.
In fact, substitute "golf" for "soccer" and he sounds a lot like me at the same age. Your best strategy is to leave him alone to work this out in his own way. It worked for my parents.
XJohn Rosemond is a family psychologist. Send questions to him at Affirmative Parenting, 1020 East 86th Street, Suite 26B, Indianapolis, IN 46240, or to his Web site: http://www.rosemond.com/.