Do You *Make* Your Child Wear His or Her Glasses

Updated on September 02, 2015
J.B. asks from Boston, MA
24 answers

My 11 year old son, who is a ridiculously stubborn child, doesn't wear his glasses. Ever. And he needs them...his vision is poor in both eyes. He apparently manages to get by because he can see things enough to read his school work, play sports, etc. but he has headaches. When he got his glasses almost a year ago, he loved them - "I don't remember seeing indivudual leaves on the trees! I can read that sign! Wow I can see blades of grass!" - then after a couple of weeks, he stopped wearing them. At first, he complained that they were uncomfortable, so we had them adjusted a bit and he said they were fine but still won't wear them.

I tend to try to avoid power struggles and favor natural consequences and trust that given the chance, people will make reasonable choices - if you don't wear your classes you won't be able to see and you'll have headaches, so the natural remedy would be to wear glasses and enjoy freedom from pain and functional vision, a win for everyone! I don't think it's a peer pressure or looks issue - the frames are cool, he picked them out himself, and they look like the ones his teenager brother wears. Four of the 6 people in our house wear glasses, as do many of his friends. He just won't wear them.

I'm reluctant to consider contacts because he hasn't mastered personal hygiene yet - has to be reminded/harassed to shower, brush his teeth, change his clothes, etc.

If this were one of your kids, would you force the issue? How, specifically (incentives, not being allowed to do X unless he wears them consistently, etc.)? How would you enforce this in school? Would you throw in the towel and consider contacts even for a kid who isn't responsible for good self-care yet? I might be mistaken because I don't wear glasses and no one in my house has contacts but I always thought that keeping contacts clean and changed was a big deal but is it not an issue with disposables?

Thanks for any insight/info!

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answers from Washington DC on

IMO, yes. If this is something he needs to do because he can't really see, then he needs to wear them. If he doesn't like to wear glasses in front of his friends, then I would tell him that he needs to show responsibility for the glasses before I will at all consider contacts. Why won't he wear them? Do they not fit right? Something as simple as changing the standard nose pieces for another material may make all the difference.

My daughter may need glasses at a young age (as did I) and if she doesn't wear them but complains of headaches, we'll have a frank discussion about how she needs to wear them per the doctor's instructions. It's like if she won't wear her shoe orthotics and then complains about her sore feet. Use the tools you're given. At 11, he's probably in 6th grade and doesn't really need a note from Mommy but if there is a back to school night or it comes up with the teachers, mention to them that he has glasses he should be wearing. They may help reinforce it.

So, yes, I would. My mother insisted I wear my glasses when I was little and I'll insist DD wear hers if she needs them.

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answers from Sheboygan on

My son got glasses around age 8-refused to wear them at school. He took them along but left them in his locker. He got contacts at age 9 and has been absolutely fine with them. It's not like you are making a life long decision-you can try the contacts out for a few months and if it's not working-it's not working.
Oh and he is 14 now and I still remind him to brush his teeth but he is really good with taking care of his contacts-probably better than me sometimes. I sleep in mine a lot and he won't do that.

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answers from Philadelphia on

My daughter got contacts just before age 9 for this reason. She is in theatre and apparently has my vain gene.😉. I thought it was important for her to see and her doctor told us he has fitted infants for contacts. (Infants with cataracts).
Cleaning her lenses has not been an issue but if you felt like it would be my oldest has daily wear lenses so there is no cleaning involved. She loves them!

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answers from Columbia on

I didn't need to. He needs them in order to be able to see the board at school, ride his bike safely, and he'll eventually need them to be able to drive a car.

I'd start dropping little facts like that. "Hm. Well, I guess if you never get used to wearing your glasses, you won't be able to ride your bike to the gas station or drive a car. Did you know you have to have corrected vision to drive a car? And if you never wear them, you'll have bad depth perception and could get in a the DMV won't give you a license. I guess you'll be taking the bus everywhere."

Not so much a lecture, but an "oh, well, that's going to suck for you" kind of sad tone. ;-)

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answers from Jacksonville on

My daughter was determined to be borderline needing glasses about half way through 5th grade (when she was 10 1/2). She needed some correction, but it was mild and even the lowest prescription would be a tiny bit more than what she needed, so it wasn't necessary. By midway through 6th grade, she mentioned that she was having a difficult time reading the smart board at school. It was't b/c of a blocked view (other kids' heads in the way or other obstruction), but b/c her vision had changed enough that correction needed to happen.

We went and had her vision tested again, ordered glasses. When they came in, it took a while before she wore them for any length of time. Mostly she'd take them with her in her bag and only pull them out for the classes she was having difficulty reading the smart board in. But as she became accustomed to wearing them (when you first begin wearing them, they can give you a headache b/c of the abrupt adjustment in your vision. It can take a little getting used to), she began wearing them more often.

She is an avid reader, so she was wearing them at home to read, and most of the time at school. She did not wear them in her martial arts classes, or sitting around at home playing video games, watching TV, etc. But she plays piano, and she began wearing them when she played (so she could see the written music more clearly).

Now, 2 1/2 - 3 years later, she wears them almost all of the time. In fact, I noticed her in the kitchen Saturday afternoon (after she'd taken a nap) and it took me a moment to realize why she looked so different. She didn't have her glasses on.

I've never had to encourage her to wear them, or not to lose them, or take care of them in any way. She hasn't expressed any interest in contact lenses, even though I've asked her to let me know if she wants to try them. (Teens and glasses, appearances, inconvenience of wearing them in the heat/sweaty conditions/rain, etc)

I would say that if your son is not having problems without wearing them (he isn't making mistakes in his school work due to vision issues) then let him decide when he is ready. I would NOT give him contact lenses until he wears the glasses routinely, personally.

I find it odd that he has headaches when he is not wearing his glasses, though. Is he far sighted or near sighted? I am very near sighted, and the only time I can recall EVER having vision related headaches, was a short period of time (about 4 years ago, so when I was about 42-43) when my vision IMPROVED and the glasses I had been wearing became too strong for the correction I needed. I went in expecting to need a stronger prescription and it was the opposite. I needed a weaker prescription. That's the ONLY time I've had headaches related to my vision.
That may not be how it works with other people, but since that has been my personal experience, it makes me at least ask the question regarding his vision correction.

I will warn you as well, when someone first begins wearing contacts (if you should decide to go that route) there is an adjustment period with those as well. He will not be able to put them in and just wear them all day right away. The first few days it will be for 4 hours at a time or so. Then after a day or two, upped to 6 - 8 hours. And after a time of adjustment, he'll be able to wear them all day, most likely. But, all day is a long time (not just 8 hours, but when he gets up and gets ready for school, 7 a.m?, until he gets ready for bed at night... 9 pm maybe? You're taking 14 hours or something... he will not be able to do that right out of the gate. So he wouldn't really be able to wear them to school right away anyway.)

How long has it been since he got the glasses? It might be time for another appt anyway to see if his vision has changed any. Even though he chose the glasses and you think they're cool and lots of your family wears them, he just may find them annoying. Because, well, if you aren't used to them (and sometimes even if you are) they are just a pain to deal with. They fog up in the humidity, they fog up in the cold, they get wet with the rain and you can't see through them, they can make your nose sore, or year ears, or if you fall asleep with them on they make the sides of your head behind your ears sore. And your peripheral vision range changes... if you aren't used to wearing glasses, you can visually be bothered by the frame itself. Or the edge where the correction stops and uncorrected vision begins (peripherally to the lenses). And they can make you sweat around your eyes, and slide on your nose.

If you have oily skin the lenses stay oily and need constant cleaning, too.

He will eventually come around when it affects his quality of life for the worse to not have corrected vision. I'd let that do its work. But if he hasn't been in for a while, another vision exam would still be a good idea.


ETA if it turns out that he doesn't like his current glasses (style/frame, etc) and his prescription is up to date, you might consider letting him try another pair (or two or three?). There is a company called Zenni optical that is much better priced than buying glasses from your optometrist. My glasses normally run in the $350 range when I buy them at my eye doctor. But I can get a pair at Zenni online for $17 (including shipping!). It could be a less expensive way for him to try a few different frames.
I HATE trying on frames at the eye doctor's office, b/c, well, they don't have my lenses in them and so I can't SEE what they look like on me very well! I used to wear contact lenses to my vision appts just so I'd be able to see when trying on new frames. LOL
But, I dropped my glasses in a doctor's office (putting on the gown, ugh) and I decided it wasn't worth spending another $300 for the next few months before I was due for another eye appt. So I went online to Zenni. You upload a pic of yourself, and click the frames you'd like to try on, and you can see them on "yourself" online before you order. :) I get the non-glare coating, etc, and my last pair was $16. Delivered to my door. They arrive in a hard plastic storage case, with a cleaning cloth included. Exact same correction quality in the lenses as far as I can tell. They even sell sunglasses.
Just a thought.

Sorry to add again, but good call Diane B. I hadn't even put together the other posts and things going on in the household. His reluctance (refusal?) to wear the glasses might very well have some connection to not only his need for some control of what's going on in his life, but also a means to maintain the status quo, which he is losing. You know the young mind and it's faulty logic: Maybe if I can keep everything the same, nothing else will change, either..

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answers from Cleveland on

Here's the flip side. My dad was told to wear glasses from a young age and he refused. Now he's really old and his eyesight is better than mine. He thinks glasses make your eyesight worse bc the eyes become dependent on them. I've asked many doctors and never get a straight answer if that's right. But - I also was prescribed glasses for distance and do not wear them except to drive or watch a movie. Things like that. My prescription hasn't changed in about 20 years and the doctor does say it's bc I don't wear them a lot and don't use them at work looking at my computer screen. So I'm actually in favor of people not wearing glasses for distance. Not sure about reading. And I don't get headaches. Are you sure the headaches are from not wearing glasses? Likely you're right if he's in class far enough away he has to strain to see the board all day. But if he's close, the headaches could be from something else. If the headaches are likely from not wearing glasses, I'd just try the contacts and see how it goes. They're not a huge investment.

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answers from Washington DC on

I don't see in the post that you have sat down and asked him directly, "I'm concerned about your health and your sight, so we need to talk: Why won't you wear your glasses?" Yes, at his age and with his resistance to this already well entrenched, that question is going to make him hem and haw and squirm and fudge an answer, but I think you do need to show him the importance of this issue by sitting down with him and discussing it. Tell him frankly that he's more than old enough to talk with you and that you will absolutely not be angry with him or punish him if he is just honest with you and discusses this maturely with you.

He may be fearing that if he tells you the real reasons -- whatever they are -- he either will be in trouble with you or he will be embarrassed in front of you.

He might be getting teased for wearing glasses (you say you don't "think" the issue is "peer pressure" but how can you be sure? Few boys this age would admit to mom that they're being teased or hassled for wearing glasses). He might still find them uncomfortable and doesn't want to say so, because you already got them adjusted once and he thinks you'll be mad if you have to get it done yet again. He might now think the formerly "cool frames" are not really cool at all to him, and again, he might be reluctant to admit that now that you've paid what he surely realizes is a lot of dough for them. Or this could just be pure unwillingness on his part to wear glasses because (though he may not even fully realize he has this feeling) it is an admission for the whole world to see that there's something "wrong with me." Of course he sees the rest of the family with glasses etc. but that does not mean that in his head, HE feels it's normal for him.

Lots of possible stuff going on, but you'll need to talk to get to it. You might end up simply having to tell him that yes, he will wear the glasses at specific times and places when you tell him to (in school, to see the teacher and computer screens etc.). It's possible that your own reluctance to make this a power struggle and your belief that you should be able to reason this out with him (no glasses equals headaches and you don't want headaches, etc.) all means you aren't willing to tell him, "This is what you are going to do, and it is not negotiable." But you do need to force it that way. Maybe cut him slack and say he can choose whether to wear them outside school/sports/whatever, but tell him that he will indeed need to wear them during those non-negotiable times.

It's hard to enforce in school, absolutely, but I'd tell the teachers that he is supposed to wear glasses in class, and then tell him that you have told his teachers that he now wears glasses in class. I'm in touch with your teachers, too, son, so be aware that I will be aware if there are issues in class....I hate to make it a "they'll rat you out" situation but frankly, that may be what it takes. The teachers of course won't really notice all the time if he's wearing them and teachers don't really have time to report to parents on things like "Johnny wasn't wearing glasses," but HE needs to know that YOU can check up on what goes on when he's not with you.

Remember that if he fails to wear them, it is likely to affect his school performance and his health, and not wearing them could make his eyesight worse over time. Those are things for you to keep in mind even if he won't.

No to contacts. You already mentioned that he needs reminding on other self-care, so contacts at this stage would be a huge recipe for eye infections. My really conscientious teenager who wears glasses very willingly still isn't fully ready for the care that contacts require, so it sounds like your son is definitely not ready. And frankly daily disposable contacts are very expensive, and not every prescription comes in that form, so you can't rely on his just getting daily disposable ones.

If your optometrist is good with kids, and your son remains resistant, I'd talk in advance to the optometrist and then send son in for a "checkup" where the doctor has a frank talk with him about why not wearing the glasses could harm him, cause his grades to drop, maybe even affect his ability to play a sport (if that's his thing) or participate in other activities he wants to do. Sometimes it takes someone other than mom or dad telling a kid that there will be consequences, before the kid actually hears the message.

I say this as a glasses wearer since age eight, with a kid who has worn glasses since around that same age. She was resistant at first too but not as strongly as your son.

Mom B. has a great point in asking what you plan to do if he starts "losing" his glasses. I think one time is given a pass but after that there have to be real consequences that he knows about in advance - that's important, that he knows in advance that losing glasses a second or third time will result in consequence X, Y or Z.

One other thing -- if he's in PE in school, is he maybe worried that the glasses will get knocked off or damaged and that makes him reluctant? Worth asking when you talk with him about what's going on with him.

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answers from Chicago on

Yes, I would really force this issue.
It's his vision that's going to keep getting worse if he doesn't correct it, and as long as he's in your care, it's your insurance that's going to have to keep paying for the issues around it.

Try contacts and maybe he'll handle that better. Might be his intro to personal hygiene responsibility.
But yes, I would 100% fight this battle. It's not like wearing a shirt. He needs to see.

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answers from Fayetteville on

Glasses are like clothes...not an option:)

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answers from Washington DC on

i think i'd stick with your sensible 'natural consequences' paradigm, even if he's not really coming with you on it. i agree it's goofy of him to deprive himself of clear sight, but i also don't think this is one of the things worth battling over.
i wouldn't do contacts either (unless he's really really pushing for them, and it doesn't sound as if this is the case.) i WOULD mention it from time to time casually 'sorry you've got a headache, honey. there's an easy solution, and i don't get why you choose not to avail yourself of it. maybe a cool washcloth?'
i have to hope that he WILL make the reasonable choice, given enough time to do so. i was a super-stubborn kid, so i also get the pushback.

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answers from Denver on

Maybe make a deal with him that if he wears his glasses for a month on a regular basis, he can get contacts. I wear contacts but had an eye problem where I couldn't wear them for 3 months, I needed to wear my glasses. I hate the way I look in glasses so I barely wore them, except when driving. Luckily my vision isn't so bad that I was able to do this short term. So I can sympathize with him not liking to wear them. At age 11, I think I would make sure he was wearing them for the simple reason that he needs to do well in school. It's not like he choosing what to wear or eat for lunch, this has to do with his medical health. I do make my 5 and 7 year old kids wear their glasses.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

I wouldn't push the glasses - he is old enough to understand why he needs then and to accept natural consequences if he doesn't wear them. I would justt ell him that if he isn't going to wear them, to put them in a safe place so they don't get broken or scratched.
Nor would I invest in contacts for a kid who has to be reminded to change his underwear.

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answers from Austin on

A very difficult question.... one thing to consider, is what if he "loses" them on purpose to avoid wearing them? What is the consequence of that?

Have you tried to have a conversation (and really listen to him) about why he won't wear them? Yes, maybe he doesn't think it is cool..... and he may be very forgetful about them.....

If he really WANTS contacts instead of glasses, maybe set some goals for him on personal hygiene and such, so that he has to improve on that aspect before he can get the contacts?

I have a feeling this question (and the answers) may have many facets to it.....

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answers from Austin on

I have found that it can be helpful to have an objective opinion. Sometimes, when I have wanted to "force" my daughter to comply with something, and I'm not having any luck, I speak up and ask the doctor: what would you tell her if she were your daughter? Or, how important is this? Is this something that will just help her a little, or is this something that can prevent future damage, or is this essential?

You might, at the next eye exam, ask the doctor: is bike riding without his glasses safe, since you're a professional and you understand what 20/40 or 20/300 or astigmatism actually means in practical terms? Is he likely to get headaches from not using his glasses, or using them sporadically? Would you let him get behind the wheel of a car in a couple of years when he can start getting driver's ed and applying for a learner's permit? Is this causing his headaches? How about sports? What precautions should be taken, and would wearing sports glasses improve his game?

Write down your questions prior to the exam. Doctors usually appreciate the opportunity to educate their patients.

And then ask the doctor to address these issues with your son, and stay quiet and listen. Sometimes, I have found that I'm worrying for nothing, and sometimes I'm not, and the doctor has gotten through to my daughter when I couldn't. (And yes, sometimes the doctor has said the exact same thing that I did, and in pretty much the same words. But coming from the doctor, in a less emotional, less-connected way, it gets through.) And I've learned, too. I've learned what things to let go from listening to the doctor, and what things are essential when it comes to managing her symptoms.

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answers from Seattle on

You've received some good a dice already, so I won't repeat any that has already been said. However, I would like to touch on the contact issue. I may be the only one on this side of it, but frankly, I don't believe he is ready for them, for a few reasons.

My first concern is his hygiene. Contacts are a lot of responsibility, even the disposables. You have to remember to take them out at night (or in the morning) otherwise you may get an infection. I've had that happen and it'd no fun. If his hygiene isn't that consistent to begin with (needing to be harassed to brush teeth, shower, change clothes, etc.), then I suggest he isn't ready for the responsibility of contacts.

My second concern, which is related to the first, has to do with the the glasses.I think your son needs to prove he is responsible with his glasses before he gets his contacts. If he refuses to take care of and wear his glasses, which are much esker to crd for, then how do you know he will care for his contacts? Perhaps the incentive for contacts is the props crd and wearing of the glasses. It will show he is mature enough to take the next step.

And yes, this is a battle you want to push. He need those glasses, otherwise he wouldn't have them. Perhaps a visit with the doctor who prescribed to have a discussion about what happens if you DON'T take care of your eyes might be a old idea. I would mess around with this. Good eye health is a serious issue.

Jst a though.

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answers from Norfolk on

I suspect he's been picked on for wearing glasses so now he doesn't like wearing them.
If he can get his hygiene together maybe you can try him on contact lenses.
But ONLY if he can get/stay clean - eye infections are not fun.
Our son had had glasses since the 4th grade.
His eyes aren't as bad as mine were but he's never balked at wearing them.
He loves to see and reading is his favorite activity.

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answers from Boston on

I wouldn't go to the expense of contacts for a kid who hasn't taken responsibility for his hygiene, although I think you can offer it as an incentive.

I would address his headaches as a medical concern. I'd show him - subtly - that Mom can out-stubborn a child any day. While I wouldn't directly punish him for not wearing glasses, I'd say that you are stepping in to relieve the headaches but eliminating the things that aggravate headaches - TV, computer, iPad, etc. I'd re-think the sports thing - if he's at risk for an injury because he can't see a ball coming at him, then you have to cut back on those. I agree with Christy Lee - no bike riding if his ability to see oncoming traffic or potholes or other road hazards is compromised. But again, it's about addressing the individual issue (the headaches, the visual impairment) and not the direct punishment of "You aren't wearing your glasses so I'm taking away your iPad." He also needs to go to bed earlier and rest in a room with no lights on (or low lights) with his eyes closed and not trying to focus on things. When that gets super boring, maybe he'll bend.

I think you can talk to the teachers about putting him in the part of the room where he can see the best - and if he doesn't like it, that's too bad but it's within his power to change it.

If it's a question of wanting more attractive or "cool" frames, then you can address that. Maybe he contributes a portion of his chore and birthday money to replace what you already have, which is perfectly good frames. That's up to you.

That said, I think it's important to realize that, from your other posts, your children are going through a lot of transition and adjustments now, so there many be some areas where each one needs some control. So if you do adhere to some standards, definitely make it about him having things within his control.

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answers from Davenport on

If there isn't a strong enough real reason to not wear them then yes, we would force the issue. Our 10 yo boy wears his glasses 90% of the time. His left eye is significantly stronger than his right & he had to wear a patch for quiet a while; he didn't particularly enjoy that. We ended up giving him an incentive: if he patched every day for the necessary time WITHOUT complaint then we would get him transition lenses. He upheld his end of the bargain & we upheld ours. He's been wearing transitions for a couple of years now. We don't make him wear them when playing sports or swimming or jumping on the trampoline (things of that nature) but when he's not doing those things then yes, they are on his face.
Perhaps the glare from the sun hurts your son's eyes and that may be a reason not to wear them. I don't wear my glasses during the day for that exact reason, the headache from the glare is 100 times worse than the issues of not wearing them.
You can't really enforce it in school but you can at home. Give incentives, if he really wants contacts then he has to wear the glasses for so many weeks or whatever to prove he can handle the responsibility of contacts. Is there something he wants or an event he would like to go to? Consistently wearing his glasses may gain him what he wants. It may also just be the forming of a habit that the incentive will give him that will carry on afterwards.
We wouldn't have to worry about the contacts son has absolutely no desire to stick things in his eyeballs! Hope you find a solution!

May grace & peace be yours in abundance.

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answers from Wausau on

My vision is very poor so I've worn glasses since I was 3 or 4. I asked my mom how she got me to wear them and she said, "You liked to see."

When other people say they have strong glasses I usually laugh and hand them mine to try. I can't even find a doorway in an unfamiliar room without my glasses. Think Velma from Scooby Doo.

It sounds like your son's Rx is fairly light if he's able to get by without them. That's actually unfortunate. I guess I'd really push to get a solid answer about WHY he won't wear them. My younger son didn't want glasses, but his protest was just a token and short-lived. I didn't have to do anything besides say that he had no choice.

Has he asked for contacts? If so, I wonder if this is his way of trying to force the issue. I know kids 10-12 who have contacts, but they are capable of handling it. That's something only you'd know about your kid. Good luck with everything.

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answers from San Diego on

My second child has had to wear glasses since the age of 6. His doctor said that if he wore his glasses to correct his vision now he may outgrow the need to wear glasses later in life. He's 11 now and we have no issues with him wearing his glasses. When he first got them his doctor had him wear them for short periods each day, working up to wearing them full time.
I went through a long period where I refused to wear my glasses. I had a lot of problems with them and couldn't stand them. My eyes got worse. I am 44 now and have to wear progressive lenses. I can see well enough without my glasses but I prefer everything in focus and not straining and squinting.
I would have an honest conversation with your child about why it's good to wear them. I wouldn't go the route of punishing and making them a power struggle though, that's counter productive.

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answers from Houston on

By age 12 I needed glasses. I got teased because of them at school and so I ddint wear them. I couldn't see the board and my schoolwork really suffered. But honestly nothing anyone said could have made me wear them. Nothing. The thought of being teased overrode being able to see.

If I could have had contacts I would have worn them in a heartbeat. Disposables are the way to go

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answers from Oklahoma City on

He's 11. He is conscientious of what he looks like in the glasses. Is that why he doesn't want to wear them?

If he absolutely can't see without them and he must wear them to see the board, see the teacher, see the computer screen, or even see the teacher then I'd make sure the teacher knew he can't see those things without his glasses.

I'd tell the teacher that he is supposed to wear glasses and that if he's not wearing them he can't see up close or can't see her and the board she's writing on.

Now, my granddaughter's eye doc is one of those who think magnifying glasses are good for us because we now spend hours and hours and hours per day doing up close work and our eyes get tired of focusing up close all the time. Magnifiers only help the eyes see better. They don't "correct" a problem.

If his glasses aren't strong or aren't just for up close work then I'd not worry so much. I'd remind them to wear them but as for consequences or other things I just wouldn't do it.



answers from Miami on

Agree with the insightful answer that glasses are like clothes and not an option. I wore glasses from age 4 to the present - if my children need them, they will wear them.

No screen time, no activities, no friends if he doesn't want to wear them. After about 4 weeks of wearing them he will get used to them. I feel naked without mine!



answers from Portland on

Well, unless you know exactly why he's not wearing them, it's really hard to deal with the underlying issue.

You mention you don't think it's peer pressure, but all it takes sometimes is a kid to make a comment .. so I'd try to get him talking.

I switched to contacts at 13, but probably could have handled them at 11. I wish I had switched earlier, because I hated my glasses at that age. They do get in the way in sports, etc. Maintenance really isn't that hard - I just pop in the case and let them cleaning fluid take care of it.

Good luck :)

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