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How do we get our daughter to take better care of herself?

I have a step daughter who is 11. She is with us every other weekend and 2 evenings a week from after school until 7ish, depending when her mom picks her up. When we pick her up from school she is dressed in grubby, ill-fitting, hand-me-down clothes. Her hair is greasy and she is not wearing deodorant. We know she has nice clothes, my husband and I buy them for her. When we have her on weekends my husband gives her instructions to shower. ( she NEVER just does it ) He has me dry her hair if we're going somewhere. When this happens, it is clear that she is not using shampoo or soap, just "wetting down", so now he has to tell her specifically to use shampoo and soap. AND to use deodorant! Worse yet, she has gingivitus from not brushing her teeth. My husband has tried to talk to the mom to no avail. She's not a very meticulous woman. I have a 16 yr old & I can't remember this stage. It's just gross! Any suggestions?

Answer Question

Asked by Anonymous at 4:37 AM on Feb. 18, 2009 in Teens (13-17)

Answers (12)
  • Do not get me wrong that is really gross just someone not bathing properly. Nevertheless she might be lashing you or her father. Maybe it is a phase....but most of the time things like this have a significant meaning. She maybe getting bullied at school or her home with her mother is in a bad scenario. Talk to her ask her whats up. Do not try to talk to her as a adult but as a friend. Ask her tell her its between you and her no one else has to know. Because I am sure she is not meaning to really do just seems like a cry for help. I really hope you can sit and talk to her alone.

    Answer by Anonymous at 4:45 AM on Feb. 18, 2009

  • I totally agree with ANON - she sounds depressed.

    Maybe her father should get her some counseling instead of buying her more soap.

    She's a kid! Be kind!

    Answer by Wimsey at 4:56 AM on Feb. 18, 2009

  • This is totally normal for some kids this age. Especially if there parents don't enforce the cleanliness issue. My dd is 12 and we still have to make her take a bath. And for a very long time we had to remind her to use deodorant. They are just kids and just learning that they need this type stuff. So just keep on reminding her. And I would let dad have a serious talk with mom. And have him remind her how cruel kids can be to other kids in there class who seem not to take care of them selves. But please do remeber don't ever compare your kids, each one is going to be different. My 12yo hates showers but my 9yo loves to take them. Each person is dif, and that goes for kids too. So the more you tell her she isn't like your son the more she is going to feel like she is letting you down.

    Answer by lovinmomto3 at 5:43 AM on Feb. 18, 2009

  • i had a goddaughter who went through this stage, so for her birthday one year we got her an awesome bath set (loofah, different body washes, scented soaps and shampoos, etc) and a nice electric toothbrusth as well as her own toothpaste. We put it in a nice mesh bag and called it her "shower kit" (they only have 1 bathroom for 4 people and no storage in it) we told her she could hang this on her closet doorknob and just grab it when she's getting ready for school. worked like a charm.
    now she's 14 and a total girly girl.

    Answer by plylerjones at 5:54 AM on Feb. 18, 2009

  • Your child does this on their own b/c you raised them that way. Your step daughter does not b/c no one ever has and now it's being addressed at an awkward and embarrassing time. I was 11 when people decided it was time to teach me how to take care of myself. Looking back, they should have taught me when I was 4.
    Here's an idea: Go to bath and body and get her the whole package. Get 2 baskets (one for home and one for your house) of good smelling body wash and lotion. Get those mesh thingies to bathe with and some "cool" teen deodorant. Get lotion made just for the feet too. And if they have any shampoo get that, if not get some 99 cent suave that smells good. Put them all in a beautiful display basket, give them to her with joy and not condemnation. Stand back and let her try them. Once the kids at school tells her she smells good, she'll take charge.

    Answer by super_mommy4 at 6:29 AM on Feb. 18, 2009

  • I definitely agree with the first two posters. it sounds like depression. when you are depressed you have a hard time wanting to take care of yourself. it is basic human/animal behavior when you are ill, injured, or depressed to not groom yourself. from the sounds of it her mother is probably depressed as well, which would also make your step daughter depressed. aka catching the gloomies.

    I know it is a tall order, but when you start fixing the root of the problem (if you can) then good hygiene will follow.


    Answer by Anonymous at 8:08 AM on Feb. 18, 2009

  • I have to say that when I was around her age I didn't know really how to take care of myself either. My parents were going through a rough patch when I was that age. My mother had always taken care of me. Then she had to work constantly because she and my father were separated. My mother decided that I was old enough to care for myself, but she had so much going on, she never really gave me any instruction. I didn't really know what to do. I'd say keep lovingly letting her know what to do like you have been doing. Also, you say she has nice clothes that you bought her but are they CLEAN? If her mother doesn't care if her daughter showers, then she probably doesn't care if the laundry is done either...

    Answer by Anonymous at 8:47 AM on Feb. 18, 2009

  • Along the lines of the people thinking she may be depressed, is there a chance that she has been sexually assualted? If she has, and by someone she knows, she could be trying to make herself "ugly" or dirty so it won't happen again. Or if it has been repeated, she may think this might make it stop. I hope to God that is not the case, but I have heard that is a common reaction in girls. Good luck.

    Answer by Anonymous at 11:33 AM on Feb. 18, 2009

  • Thanks for lots of good input. I have thought them all, from depression to ( god forbid) sexual assault to, she just hasn't been taught. We did get her a really nice Bath & Body Works set, but so far not working. I don't think it's lashing out at her dad 'cuz her mom complains about it as well. BUT here mom isn't exactly well put together. I'll just continue to drop hints and go on shopping trips to the good smelling section! : ) Maybe a spa day??? hmmm Anyway thanks! I'll let ya know! : )

    Answer by Anonymous at 6:30 AM on Feb. 19, 2009

  • My daughter is 11 and has done the same thing. She's not depressed she's just a little girl who doesnt really care about that yet. When i go to her school i see LOTS of other little girls who also dont care about that. What they care about is playing and having fun and that's perfectly natural. Berating her just makes her feel bad about herself and can make it worse.

    The older she gets the more she cares about how she looks and more importantly how she smells. Once puberty started kicking in she became more conscience of her body and is started to care more on her own. I still have to constantly remind her to brush her teeth and take a shower. The bath and body works is a GREAT idea and even though it might not work the first time it does help when they have nice and fun things to use. Give her a little time - she's just not interested in it right now. In a few years you wont be able to get her out of the bathroom

    Answer by WinnieM at 8:46 AM on Feb. 19, 2009

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