Hygiene Habits of Tween: Is This Normal?

Updated on January 01, 2018
T.M. asks from Huntsville, AL
8 answers

My 11yo DD's hygiene as gone from not-so-great to downright terrible. She used to reasonably good at remembering to brush her hair & teeth morning & night, change her socks/undies daily and basic hygiene to prevent germs, such as not leaving dirty tissues/yucky food plates lying around. Over the last 6 months or so, it's gotten terrible. She's wearing undies for multiple days in a row, not brushing her teeth/hair without reminding, etc. She can't seem to hit the trash can (even when it's literally in arms reach) with her tissues. I literally just found 57 (I counted) tissues laying on the floor next to her bathroom wastebasket, which was tucked under a counter. (To be fair, that's probably a week's worth, she's had a major runny nose lately, but still...). Anyway, is this normal? Or am I expecting too much of an 11yo?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Most importantly - I hope you are NOT cleaning up after her.

I think that this is normal boundary-pushing, and I wouldn't be worried but I do think that you need to keep the same standards you've always had. She leaves a dirtly plate out? She has to come back and take it to the sink. She misses the trash can? She has to come and clean it up. This usually solves stuff like this pretty quickly in my house, because my kids get annoyed that I interrupt whatever they are into to make them come back and do what they should have done the 1st time. And I do interrupt - the consequence for not making the mess is that they lose their game progress (or whatever) to make it right.

Toothbrushing requires a twice daily reminder in my house, I don't have any other good suggestions for that.

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answers from Springfield on

I have an 11 year old son, and I have never not reminded him to shower and brush teeth (hair is not an issue). He protests, but it's not negotiable.

So that doesn't really answer your question, as I've just continued to make sure he does it. I don't know that he would do it if I didn't insist. I have an 8 year old. Since I make it part of our daily routine (and I think it's perfectly age appropriate for me to be on top of the 8 year old), I haven't really tested the theory of whether or not he (the 11 year old) would brush teeth or bath on his own.

I can tell you that he has always put on clean underwear after a shower or bath, so that's not something I've ever dealt with. You mentioned concerns that your daughter wears the same underwear and socks for multiple days. Do your think she's putting on the old after taking a shower? Or do you think she's simply not taking a shower?

I'm thinking there are a couple of ways you could handle this. You could simply begin making it a part of your nightly routine - insisting and following up on showering and brushing teeth. That's putting it on you and not her, so it might not teacher her to take responsibility. Then again, if it's just what you do everyday, she probably will take that with her as she grows.

You could, instead, let her know what the consequences will be if she doesn't do these things on her own. Let her know that this is her responsibility, that you will be checking (without reminding) and that there will be consequences (no tv, phone, tablet, whatever) if she doesn't.

I guess I'm just running with the theory that if it's part of our daily routine, even if my husband or I are reminding the boys, that they will just always see this as what they do every night before they go to bed (and will continue to do so even after they move out).

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answers from New York on

I took a quick look at some of your past questions. When your daughter was 5, you had a hard time teaching her to pick up after herself. When she was 8 or 9, she started having strange reactions to food, saying of things she had always enjoyed that they tasted funny. Now she is 11, and there are all kinds of things going wrong....

So, it sounds like maybe counseling could be helpful for her. I understand why some posts below mention possible drug use, but, based on the issues she had at age 5 and age 8-9, I think this might just be the "natural progression" of some past issues.

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answers from Norfolk on

It's not normal.
She needs to shower daily (it'll be good for her cold) and she's old enough to be doing her own laundry.
Take away tv/computer/devices/phone - what ever her currency is.
She gains perks by earning them - and if she earns none - she gets none.
Eating only happens at the table - no food/plates in her room or anywhere else.

Take her to the doctor and have her checked out for depression and drug use - but she's not allowed to trash your home and she needs to maintain some basic hygiene - because trashing herself isn't allowed either.

She gets an hour of tv AFTER she's had a shower and put on clean clothes.
She gets some computer use AFTER she's done her laundry.

Empty her room of everything except the bare basics.
A bed (a mattress on the floor will work too), a clock, a lamp, a dresser.
An empty room is easy to keep clean.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

It's concerning that you say she used to be reasonably good, to now terrible. Though she's only 11, a hygiene decline this in an adolescent could be a sign of drug use (I have personally seen this) It can also be many other things, but it's certainly not crazy to rule it out. It could also depression/mental health related. Sometimes the onset of puberty brings out underlying mental health challenges. You said she was ill last week, but it sounds like this neglect wasn't just a short term thing due to illness. 11-12 year olds are often unaware of new body odor issues that come with puberty. Sometimes it takes a peer to point out the smell, and it has a much more powerful impact than nagging parents. My kids throw tissues on the bedroom floor when they are sick, but they do pick them up a short time later. Is she argumentative if/when you tell her to pick them up? You took the time to count the tissues, but did you tell her and make clear to her your expectation that she pick them up? I would bring her in for a physical check up and mental health screening. And when she wants something from you, a ride, a treat, money for a movie etc. I'd say "yes, after you pick up your dishes, change your clothes, brush your teeth, whatever needs doing.

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answers from Dallas on

Yeah, I would say that's abnormal and frankly disgusting. My kids are 8, 11, and 15. I really can't remember the last time I said "go take a bath/shower"... they know that's part of the daily routine - before bed, and after working out. Same with brushing teeth - after eating and before bed, without being told. That kinda stuff oughta be deeply ingrained before 11, time to start reminding/requiring it until she does it herself - that's an unsafe level of hygiene that could lead to infections, dental issues, etc.

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answers from Washington DC on

Showers and clean clothes are not negotiable. If she is going to act like a baby, she gets treated like a baby. You tell her it’s time for a shower. She goes in, you take her dirty clothes. Before she goes to bed, you take her up and stand there while she brushes her teeth. Ditto for the morning. She can’t hit the trash can... fine you tell her no fun stuff until she picks up her mess. You stand there while she does it. Babies don’t get privileges, thus none for her.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Yes, completely normal stage. It does go away soon though, once they notice boys it seems to change over to the other side.

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