Q: Our 14-year-old daughter desperately wants to begin wearing makeup, which all, and I mean all, of her classmates are allowed to do. We have held off not only because of our beliefs but also because of her immaturity. Up until recently, for example, she has continued to throw magnificent tantrums when she doesn’t get her way. We decided to use the makeup issue as a bribe of sorts and told her that if she didn’t throw a tantrum between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day that we would begin letting her wear makeup. She stopped throwing tantrums. Bam! Just like that, after 14 years. Now, however, she has replaced tantrums with defiance. We will ask her to do something and she will tell us, flat out, “No.” What can we do now? We’ve already used makeup as an incentive. Furthermore, none of her friends are allowed to socialize for the duration of the pandemic, so taking away social privileges is a non-starter. We’re in a dilemma.
A: This is easy, so easy in fact that I am typing this answer with both hands tied behind my back.
OK, so let me ask you a question: What makes you think that since you’ve already bribed her with makeup concerning her magnificent tantrums, that you can’t also bribe her with makeup concerning her equally magnificent defiance?
“How would we do that?” you ask?
Being able to answer that very question is why I am a parenting expert. In graduate school, I obtained the highest grade ever awarded for “Answering Really Tough Parenting Questions 501.” Besides, no parent has ever bested me in a shotgun round of “Stump the Expert.” In short, you came to the right guy.
First, however, let me point out that letting her begin wearing makeup if she doesn’t throw a magnificent tantrum for the rest of the year is not exactly a bribe. You were eventually going to let her wear makeup, right? Right. Strictly speaking, therefore, it’s not a bribe. I prefer to call it a lever. You have used her burning desire to wear makeup to leverage an end to her magnificent tantrums. Offering her one thousand dollars to stop throwing tantrums…that would have been a bribe.
So, the answer to the above question is you simply tell her that from this day forth, every act of defiance on her part moves the date she can begin wearing makeup one day forward. Right now, Makeup Day is January 1. Her next act of defiance moves it to January 2, and so on.
Furthermore, once she earns the privilege of wearing makeup, you can take it away for tantrums or acts of defiance. To wit, a misstep of either magnificent sort results in her makeup being taken away for a week during which time another misstep results in said week beginning anew.
See what I mean? Drum roll and cymbal crash, please!
Family psychologist John Rosemond: johnrosemond.com, parentguru.com.