By LAUREN FORCELLA
DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I’m at wit’s end. My daughter, 15, is planning her Halloween outfit. Last year, I was embarrassed by how “trashy” she looked but I didn’t want a fight. I would like to set boundaries this year and wonder what the panel thinks is appropriate. Also, when do kids stop trick-or-treating? I felt sorry for the little kids exposed to her marauding band of underdressed overly-endowed “ladies.” Any ideas how to win on this? My daughter is horribly stubborn and hates me “interfering” with her life.
— Trying to be a better mom in Vacaville
Justin, 26, Redding: Rule of thumb: Trick-or-treat if you’re dressing like a kid, but if you’re dressing “adult,” it’s over. At 15, your daughter wants to dress like her friends to fit in. However, taking a slutty look too far just makes a girl look insecure and needy. She will get attention, but even on Halloween, guys find girls more attractive when they are less revealed.
Brie, 22, San Francisco: In high school, I loved Halloween. It was the one time I could dress “trashy” without being judged because everyone was dressing that way. I, too, was stubborn. I didn’t value myself enough (the more revealing the costume, the better) and I’m sure I offended my mom. I adore her for believing in me enough to let me make mistakes. I would have rebelled more if she’d been too hard line. I also admire her for knowing the best parenting style for me, which was what I call “disappointment parenting.” When I messed up, she didn’t yell or ground me, she just expressed disappointment. This made me feel awful instead of resentful of my punishment. Your daughter will come around. And no, she should not trick-or-treat now that she’s in high school.
Taylor, 16, Santa Rosa: This war won’t be easily won. Halloween is the one night girls can be whatever they want; if it’s a slutty nurse, so be it. I know girls whose parents set rules and they just change when they leave the house. Just be glad she doesn’t dress like that every day!
Carlos, 18, Fairfax, Va.: One can “be a kid” and go trick-or-treating — up to about age 19. Regarding slutty dressing, it’s the norm for girls today. Best strategy: Discuss boundaries in a tone that has empathy for her reality. Otherwise she will automatically shut down. My mom set an unrealistic rule with me on a different topic and I just went behind her back. When she caught me, only then did we find a compromise. She had a point and so did I. You have to find that balance.
DEAR BETTER MOM: Great wisdom from the panel! The most effective parents are neither rigid authoritarians nor pushovers, they find that sweet spot in-between (which varies with age, child and milieu). To hit the sweet spot on this topic, I recommend complaining loudly about a world gone mad, expressing alarm over your daughter’s safety, setting matter-of-fact “exposure” limits, going over safety precautions, and getting coordinates for her parentally-supervised destination. What you may NOT do is name call or shame her for her choice of costume. She has one endgame: fitting in. Assuming her innocence while bemoaning societal norms sends the message that while you don’t approve of the fashion, you do approve of her, which will make her more eager to please you the other 364 days. Take heart that even if she junks the exposure- lessening adjustments to her costume, you have impressed your values and care.
Regarding trick-or-treating, I like Justin’s rule. Parents of 9-year-old girls, you might want to leverage this.
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