Dear Your Teen:
My daughter wants to wear a push-up bra. But a push-up bra for a 13-year-old? She claims that everyone is wearing one, and I have to agree. All of her friends seem to wear push-up bras, and the moms don’t seem to have a problem with it. I feel 13 is too young for push-up bras. I want my 13-year-old to like herself as she is rather than starting so early with, “I am not good enough.” Am I over reacting?
EXPERT | Deborah Gilboa, MD
You are not overreacting. “All my friends are doing it!” is a cliché response for a reason. Your values are admirable and important, and your daughter’s convictions are developmentally appropriate.
Desire to Fit In
Most kids, aged 10-15, face a huge amount of uncertainty in their daily social lives. “Normal” is so broad and hard to define. During puberty, normal includes a wide range of physical development and beauty ideals. Despite this array of normal, young teens are mostly wired for peer uniformity.
They have a strong desire to conform and a desperate need to avoid looking or acting weird. Some kids start to use language they’ve never used before, many adopt new hobbies or activities, and most feel that without some new piece of technology they might as well die. The intensity is real for each child in that moment.
Our response, as parents, is to see the forest for the trees. Some of their interests or purchases may be appropriate. Others are not. Don’t bow to the “but everyone else…” pressure. It’s usually not true, and it certainly doesn’t matter. You’re only raising your child (luckily).
Desire for Independence
Your daughter is worried about fitting in. But, she is also probably worried that you are denying her the push up bra she needs because you are blocking her attempts to grow up and away from you. She is probably worried that you see her as a baby and will never let her do these things or anything else that she wants to do.
Hear Her Out
Express your reasons for saying no, and ask your daughter to express her reasons for wanting one of these changes. While I suggest that you don’t engage in a never-ending debate, I would encourage you to give your daughter the opportunity to assemble her arguments, and give her a chance to change your mind. At the end of her explanation, see if there is a valid reason (from your point of view) for her request for young push-up bras or the next request on the docket.
She might surprise you. You might learn something new about her view, and she might learn something about your values. Either way, you will have the opportunity to show her respect and to set the stage for future disagreements. For sure, you will help her achieve some future goal by teaching her how to disagree respectfully with someone in authority!
If you still need to deny her request to wear a push-up bra, search for another way to show that you respect her. Find a different privilege to bestow that honors her growth and development so that she understands that you know she is on her way to adulthood.