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Senior Correspondent

Dealing with Self-Conscious Daughters and Different Homes


Q:       My 10-year-old daughter has been asking for a year now to shave her legs. So far I have said no, mainly because putting a razor in the hands of a 10-year-old doesn't seem safe. Though she is small for her age and not even close to starting puberty, her legs really are quite hairy and she gets teased about them sometimes. I don't want to promote vanity, but I hate to see her self-conscious over something that is simple to fix. Is it totally inappropriate for a girl her age to be shaving her legs? If so, what would be a more appropriate age? Also, can you recommend a particular brand of razor, or should we use chemical hair removers and avoid razors altogether?

A:        Your daughter is entering a time in her life when self-consciousness becomes problematic and other children can be extremely cruel. The cruelty is actually a way of compensating for one’s own insecurities. Given that this is the personal and social reality your daughter is now dealing with, I encourage you to let her shave her legs. Having never shaved my legs, I consulted with my wife, Willie, on this. She recommends that you first show your daughter how to use hair-removing cream and then provide her with an electric razor until she is older. I use an electric for evening touch-ups and recommend a good rotary. Stay away from inexpensive off-brands. They aren’t worth it.


Q:       Our 10-year-old daughter goes back and forth between our house and her mom’s. Our homes are run very differently. Bio-Mom gives her everything she wants (cell phone, expensive computer, TV and DVD in her room, etc). In our home we have chores and rules. We also discipline her, especially when she is disrespectful, which is often. Just recently, after an up-and-down day, we listened in on a phone call between her and her mother. Her mother told her she would call later and tell us a lie about why she needed her to come home right away. They laughed at how they were going to pull the wool over our eyes.  To me as the stepmom it makes all perfect sense why our 10-year-old doesn’t respect us. Any advice?

A:        Indeed, it makes perfect sense. If the phone call is typical, then this is a mother who is trying to be her daughter’s best friend. That is incompatible with being an authority figure, so the only discipline your daughter ever experiences is at your house. And of course she resents it. And of course she complains about it to her best friend, and of course her best friend becomes an enabler. And the wheel keeps on turning.

Let’s be realistic. Will it be possible for you to have a rational discussion about these issues with this very immature mother? Nope. Can you, therefore, hope to solve this child’s disrespect of adults who act like adults? Nope. Nonetheless, should you punish her when the disrespect occurs? Absolutely. Never give up. Never surrender. Understand, however, that while discipline is appropriate, it’s not going to solve the problem.

There are, in fact, some problems that just aren’t solvable. They are, at best, tolerable. I think you’re going to have to figure out a way to tolerate this until your daughter grows up, which may another thirty years. In the meantime, my best advice is “grin and bear it.”

By the way, some people may think it was inappropriate of you to “bug” the phone conversation. I do not. Wiretapping laws do not extend to 10-year-olds.

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