Q. My 12-year-old daughter has been asking to get her ears pierced for a long time. I’ve been holding off because she is such a beautiful girl. She already gets a lot of comments, and I hate for there to be any more attention on her appearance. She’s not vain and though I can tell she cares how she looks, she doesn’t spend a lot of time on it. I just want her to keep a level head on her shoulders and enjoy being a kid. I had a lot of attention as a kid, and it made me really insecure — I felt like that was the thing that was best about me, not anything I had control over. I’m trying to avoid that for her without pushing my experience as her experience. Any advice?
A: Meghan Leahy:
Do you want my REAL advice, because it ain’t about pierced ears, friend.
Get yourself to a therapist.
You are on the brink (maybe over) and putting all of your stories squarely on the shoulders of your daughter, and that is not fair.
For whatever reason, your big takeaway from childhood was that looks mattered. (What adults said and did? How you perceived it?) And of course it feels super-crappy to be valued for something only skin deep (pun intended), but that is your story.
It only belongs in your head.
Your daughter is beautiful. Great.
She is also probably bright or funny or athletic or creative or silly or thoughtful or spontaneous or compassionate or all of it.
Whatever you focus on, you grow.
Read that again.
Earrings have nothing to do with her beauty or lack thereof.
The comments people are making to you are triggering your stories big time, and this is gift. You are getting some clear messages and signs that it is time to go back into the closet, drag out these stories and create some new message for your girlhood self.
Find a good therapist and do this now, before you waste any more of your life and your time with your daughter focusing on looks or appearance.
Oh, and go get her ears pierced and celebrate her whole being.
Q: I have a sensitive daughter who turns 4 in July. If you scold her or even offer feedback with the slightest but of anger in it, she feels ashamed and bursts into tears and absconds herself in a corner to wail and sulk for a bit. We have a hard time handling her big emotions, especially when they were sparked by us pointing out she has legitimately done something she didn’t do. How can we respond effectively to a sensitive child’s outburst and better yet provide her feedback in a way that didn’t spark them? Of course we don’t have an infinite well of patience, so never communicating with anger in our voice isn’t really an option. Thanks for your thoughts!
A: Meghan Leahy:
Okay, so you have a sensitive 3-year-old. This is good for you to know.
Whenever possible, begin your statements as positively as you can, “Yes you can have a cookie . . . after dinner.” “Yes, you can hit . . . this pillow and not your brother.”
When the “no” must be given and there is no sidestepping it, make it a practice to get on her level, make eye contact, try not to scowl, and quietly say, “No hitting.” Then you scoop her up, and move it along.
With sensitive kids, too much talking can heap shame upon shame, so keep it direct, keep it quiet, and keep it focused on the behavior.
If you lose it (and you will), just apologize for the yelling and hug her. You still will not allow the misbehavior, but you can hold a boundary and comfort her when she cries.
You can find Meghan Leahy’s previous columns and chats right here.