Why can’t my ten year old daughter take responsibility for her own personal hygiene?  If I do not remind her constantly, she leaves too much conditioner in her hair, does not brush her teeth (even though she has recently experienced getting a cavity filled), does not put on her deodorant, brush her hair or wash her face (even though acne is becoming an issue).  She is also unable to comb or brush her hair to get the knots out.  I have a checklist on the back of the bathroom door which does not help. Short of standing at the bathroom door to police her – I do not know what to do!!!



Its not that she can’t, it’s that she doesn’t want to. 🙂

Not too long ago, she had the luxury of not needing to shower or bathe every day, someone either brushing her teeth for her or reminding her to brush her teeth, not needing deodorant and someone who would gladly brush her hair and maybe even throw some bows in it!  That was her routine, her pattern, her expectation and now that expectation has changed, but not on her terms.

Think of it like someone washing the dishes for you every day after each meal and then one day saying, it’s your job to do it from now on.  It has to get done, you need clean dishes, but it’s not that fun.  So what happens? You let the dishes stack up a little longer in the beginning, maybe for a day or two, they get stinky, you run out of dishes and then you have to wash them so you can eat again.  After a while, you start to notice that it’s not that bad if you do it once a day and eventually right away…you just have to figure it out for yourself on your terms.

Although your daughter has experienced direct consequences for her sometimes lax attitude on consistent hygiene (acne and cavities), it is likely not uncomfortable enough for her to truly change her habits…yet.  Hopefully you won’t have to wait till the big drills come out for her teeth and she’s on a first name basis with a dermatologist until she notices the influence her behavior plays on her health and hygiene, but they are a stubborn lot these kids.

With that said, I have a 10 year old who needs CONSTANT reminding as well to cut her nails, take a shower, brush her teeth, etc, etc…and also personally know the nagging/reminding is essential in helping them develop the new pattern of taking responsibility for their own hygiene.  I also notice my own frustration that she’s not picking up the habits I’d like her to develop nearly as fast as I’d prefer.

The checklist is always good.  It’s a helpful reminder of what needs to happen.  If her lax attitude is really bothering you, then I would suggest attaching a consequence for not completing whatever is on that checklist, but make the consequence as related to the behavior as possible….like no friends over until you consistently get in the habit of taking care of your body because no one wants to hang with the smelly kid.  Maybe that seems extreme, but the key is to help them identify a way to create a new habit that works for them and some type of reward system can be helpful in motivating that.

I am a big fan of making sure my kids know what their list of responsibilities are…which includes personal hygiene and making healthy food choices, as well as knowing what their list of privileges are.  The rules remain basic, if you don’t maintain your responsibilities, you don’t earn any privileges.  And privileges include all kinds of things like playing with electronics, having friends over, participating in extra curricular activities and having dessert. Cause and effect, a lesson in life.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a poem inspired by my own dirty children.