As a mom, I deal with a lot of smells. Some are pleasant. Clean laundry and a simmering stew on the stove come to mind. Others are not as pleasant.
A few days ago I walked into my house at the end of a long day and was immediately assaulted by a horrible smell -- a smell that definitely was not present when I left the house that morning.
I looked down and saw the culprits. Scattered around the front door were my children's shoes. I sighed, stepped over them and decided I didn't want to start the evening off by nagging my children. And how could I when I looked into the living room and saw an image that would make any parent happy? One of my boys was reading a book on the couch!
But then I sat down next to him and noticed that the smell was back. Honestly, there's only so much a mother can take without breaking down. So after talking about the book he was reading, I confronted the situation at hand:
Me: So, I think you need to take a shower.
My son: No I don't! I took one yesterday!
Me: If yesterday means five days ago, yes, you took a shower yesterday.
My son: Moooooom! That's not funny! I don't need to take one!
Me: You have played soccer every day after school, have paint in your hair from art class and just got back from karate where you were rolling around on a mat with 15 other children.
My son: Fine! I'll take a shower before dinner! I get one piece of dirt on me and you freak out! Moms are so crazy!
Don't you remember how wonderful your kids smelled as babies? Unfortunately, that time passes and ultimately we have to face reality. Our children smell, and we have to teach them to keep their body odor in check.
Here are my guidelines to having a direct, respectful, and productive conversation about this delicate issue.
1. Respect their privacy. Don't ever say anything around their friends or in any public place. Ever.
2. Know your child. If they are sensitive about the issue, I would suggest a less direct approach than my example above. My children and I have a long history of them getting really dirty and me hosing them down, but if you haven't had that experience, go a little easier. For example: "Hey, honey, it's really common for kids your age to need to take showers a little more often than they did when they were younger. Now that you're older and more mature, it's a good idea for you to take more responsibility for these things. Do you have any questions?" Honestly, no matter what kind of kid you have, this is a good conversation to have with them.
3. Give them a say. Ask them if they want to go the store with you to buy deodorant or other personal hygiene products, or if they want you to do it yourself. If they want you to take care of it, when you return from the store, don't make any announcements about buying deodorant. Quietly put it in a can't-be-missed place in the bathroom like next to their toothbrush.
Remember, although it can be uncomfortable to start this conversation , it's a great opportunity to set the groundwork for good communication. Having these kinds of talks -- about smaller issues -- will make your child feel comfortable coming to you as they go through adolescence. Plus, your house will smell better when you walk through the door.
For more tips and parenting advice on navigating your child's tricky tween years, join me along with other experts and real moms at www.Facebook.com/DontFretTheSweat. The community is a great place to connect with other parents of tweens to share stories -- including how you've dealt with your child's not-so-sweet smells -- and gain valuable parenting insight.
When did you first notice signs of body odor with your child? How did you handle that conversation? How did your parents bring the topic up with you?
Follow Rosalind Wiseman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rosalindwiseman