What do I do with my twelve year old girl who does not want to dress Tznius. She is an extremely difficult child in all aspects. Who can I speak to for guidance?
It can be frustrating when our child does not follow the values and ideals that we strongly believe in. This can be compounded when we believe that ‘she is an extremely difficult child” in general.
As you did not share much of the background of the situation and the family dynamics, I can only answer more generally.
More important than working to change her Tznius is addressing the issue of her being an extreme difficult child. It is worthwhile to address that with a professional as soon as possible as you have many years of life together and the teenage years can be challenging. You can reach out to http://maskparents.org/ or https://reliefhelp.org/ or http://www.counterforce.services/services.html#family_therapy for referrals of Frum counselors who understand our Frum lifestyle.
That said, in order for a parent to have lasting influence of their child, it must come from within a strong loving and respectful relationship. Where the child feels truly loved and valued for the person they are, despite their limitations and weaknesses. Only after a child feels truly cared for can we even hope that they will take in what we share.
It might be worthwhile to reflect on your relationship with her: on your conversations – what do you talk about? Do you share hobbies, interests? Do you notice and comment on her accomplishments or things that are important to her? What is the ratio of loving conversations to those about areas in which you would like her to improve?
You might think of this relationship as an emotional bank account: You have to put in many more positive interactions so that you have ‘currency’ in the bank for her to hear your critiques or requests. Some professionals say the ratio ought to be 20 positive interactions for every 1 negative. Every critique or even request for change is a negative interaction.
Positive interactions can be simple and take just a second. A smile, a quick hug, a small token of ‘this made me think of you’, a compliment, an acknowledgment, a thank you, and “I love you”, a noticing of something that is important to her. Or they can be a larger investment of time and energy: a few hours of quality time (even if it means taking of work or a few hours from school), working on a hobby together. Oh, there are so many ways to build that emotional bank account. Ask her what she would like more of in your relationship.
Then, when you do determine that you must say something about the way your daughter chooses to dress, word it carefully with respect for the wonderful young lady that she is. “The color of that shirt is so pretty; hmm, the sleeves are just a bit too short.” “You have great taste – the style of this dress is so feminine and so cool for the summer heat; hmm, the fabric is sheer.” “This is a great buy for this designer name, but it does not reflect you, the real you, in the best way.” Begin with an acknowledgment of who she is – and mean it.
You might also have conversations about what about the whole of her person does she want the world to notice first – her wonderful personality, her uniqueness, her body? And really listen to her answers; you might learn something about how she values herself. Don’t shame or shun her for her honest answers. Just listen. And if you do not have answers that respect her opinions and perspectives, keep quiet and then seek support from experienced parents and mentors.
You might also take a hard look – through the eyes of a young girl – about how the women in her life show up in the world. Do they look respectable or a bit dowdy? Are they struggling with the way they dress? Are they comfortable in their Frumkeit overall, in their own skin? Are they happy in life in general? All this impacts how a young girl views herself in a Frum life. Her clothing may be an easier way for her to explore her place in Frum life.