Dear Dr. Fournier: My son enters seventh grade this year. He has declared that, as a junior high school student, he must change his image. For his birthday he has asked for a new look. It includes very baggy pants, black boots and other things. He says he will be ostracized by other kids if he can't dress right. I think they are terrible, but everyone says if that is the worst thing he wants to do, I should be grateful. Is giving in to this going to help me keep my son from doing other things that I would disapprove of?
The Assessment: As our children move through middle school and high school, we are ultimately faced with the "everybody does it" excuse. Nothing seems more important or you don't. Our beliefs determine what we value and therefore dictate the actions we take to assert our values.For example, if you believe that good nutrition defines your day, then you will put high priority on having a good breakfast and regular, well-balanced meals. If we tell our children that we value nutrition but then allow them to skip meals, then what are we actually telling them? The more we give in to not honoring what we believe in through word and action, the more our children attempt to test us. Our children do not always know how to assess our beliefs and values. But they do know how to figure this out from our actions.
What To Do: Be honest with yourself before letting your children know what you honestly believe. Search inside you to deter-mine what is acceptable and what is not. Remember that when we surrender our beliefs, we often have regrets and a sense of failure that we take out on our child.
Regarding school attire, define the value first, and the correct action for you and your child will follow.
For example, some parents think school is a work environment that teaches children the ethic of the workplace. These parents value school as a working environment and insist that their child dress in a manner most conducive to keeping his attention on schoolwork and school demeanor.
Parents who have these beliefs may choose a school with a uniform policy or actively work toward a dress code for their school. In the absence of school policy, these parents would not allow their child to wear unacceptable "work clothes" simply to please others or to look like others.
Other parents believe that school is a place where a child learns to assert his individuality. These parents value personal decision-making to assert distinctiveness. These parents probably would not overrule their child's clothing choices.
Caring and involved parents have within them the response that is right for them and for their children. Each time we honor our own beliefs we grow stronger for ourselves and for our children.