Living with Children: Excessive eye liner and how to respond to your teen saying, ‘I hate you’


QUESTION: Our 14-year-old daughter is a rising high school sophomore. We let her wear eyeliner this past year, but she is wearing entirely too much. She is well-adjusted (plays sports, good grades) but seems insecure to go out in public without her make-up. When we tell her she looks prettier without it, she becomes defensive. Should we lighten up or insist that she stop trying to look like Miley Cyrus?

ANSWER: FYI, I stopped listening to popular music a long time ago, so the words Miley Cyrus mean next to nothing to me, and I intend to keep it that way.

Anyway, your daughter is at an age where peer approval is more important than just about anything else (certainly approval from you) and wearing makeup is a ticket to that approval. That’s unfortunate, but in childrearing as in every other area of life, it is sometimes necessary to make compromises. Parents should always keep in mind that one can win a battle and still lose the war.

So long as all is well otherwise, and it obviously is, I’d back off on the eyeliner issue. Sometimes, giving a child an inch, or even several, will prevent full-blown rebellion. Continue, however, to look for signs that she is on a slippery slope and be prepared to set some boundaries.

To further defuse this potentially explosive issue, I recommend that you arrange an appointment for your daughter with a beauty consultant who can teach her how to use makeup in a sparing, attractive manner.

Q: When I discipline my 7-year-old daughter by, say, taking away a privilege because she disobeys, she sometimes yells, “I hate you!” Should I tolerate her disrespect or punish her for it?

A: Contrary to public opinion, “I hate you!” is not disrespect. “You’re a dummy!” is disrespect. Notice the difference in subjects. The former statement begins with “I.” It refers, therefore, to the child’s feelings. The latter begins with “You.” It refers, therefore, to the parent. These deserve two entirely different responses.

A truly disrespectful remark may deserve punishment, but concerning a child who screams “I hate you!” at a parent, the parent should simply say, “You know, if I was you, I’d probably hate me too right now. That’s fine, but it’s obvious that you need a private moment, so you might want to consider going to your room to calm down. If you need help getting there, I will gladly provide it.”

That is an example of what I call “parenting ju-jitsu.”

[Family psychologist John Rosemond:, Copyright 2004, John K. Rosemond]