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Teacher Complained About My 8 y.o. daughter's appearance

I posted this somewhere else but got no response.  I am desperate for ideas.

A few days ago I met with the school social worker about speech issues with my son.  After we were done she started talking about my daughter.  She said her teacher said her hair was messy and her clothes were unclean.  I was so upset I began to cry.  It ruined my day and it is ruining my Xmas vacation.  Worse yet, she was hiding when my husband and I were talking about it.  She overheard it all.  She is crushed.  I am crushed and angry.  My daughter has babyfine flyaway hair that is always out of place, even after brushing.  She doesn't even let me brush it.  She does and it gets messed up easily.  Her clothes are clean; alot of them have some stains because she is rather sloppy when she does things.  It bothers me but I honestly didn't think it was going to be an issue.  She doesn't look so bad that it should be.  She showers daily so she is not dirty.  I am just livid.  Her teacher is a single guy who doesn't know what it's like to manage twins and another kid.  She is defiant and stubborn and to get her to do anything is an argument.  I have yet to see her teacher because of the vacation but I am so upset and she is afraid to see him.  I know I must talk to him but I am really afraid I will get out of control with emotion.  I am feeling like a bad mother and I feel like the school thinks I am and that they are going to call the state on me.  I don't neglect my children but I know that people judge you wrongly and they can make this seem like much more than it really is.  I wonder if anyone has experienced anything like this and what to do.  My heart is broken.
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973741 tn?1342342773
I did see your other post but was hesitant to answer it.  I don't want to upset you further.  But while I totally see your point and am sure this is very painful-----  I would try to force my self to look at this a different way.   What motivation does a teacher and a counselor have in approaching you about this?  Two----  they are concerned for one and secondly, they may worry about her peers being mean to her.  Both people saw the same thing.  The way you describe, it is easy to see how it is as  it is-----  but if they don't know you've tried and the circumstances-----  they were doing the right thing to follow up.  Please don't be mad I said that.  But your anger here is more hurt and it is important to differentiate that.

Next step?  I would calmly talk to the teacher and try to remember he has NO motivation to broach this subject (and it is probably pretty uncomfortable for him to do so . . .) other than to help your daughter.  I would explain as you have here.  

I have two boys---  this is what I do.  Things like coats.  I buy one at a second hand store and then a little nicer one (I never spend too much money on their clothes)-----  the less nice one is their "play coat" that gets pretty trashed.  I wash it at least once or twice a week.  Then they have a little nicer coat that they wear to school that they don't play in much except for on the way to and from the bus stop and recess.  (I have a kid with sensory integration disorder----  his favorite activity is throwing himself on the ground)----  I tell them not to get too dirty in the good coat and wait until they have their play coat on.  It will still get dirty and I wash it.  So I have the two to alternate with.  I do the same with shoes.  They have shoes that are muck shoes they wear to play and then they have "school" shoes that they don't wear anywhere but school, church and when they have to look good.  They get a little dirty but not like the muck shoes.  They know which are muck and which are school.   Both my boys are well known for using shirt sleeves as napkins . . . so I buy a lot of dark colors (shows stains less).  I keep wipes in my car and wipes in my purse----  I wipe them before going to the bus, getting out of the car (just faces and hands).  If I don't pay any attention to it---- they can look pretty gross in a pretty short period of time.  So, I pay attention to it.  

So, I would try to pay attention to it more with your daughter more so she will start to see that having a neat appearance is good.  Eventually her peers will notice too and you DON'T want that.  Heaven forbid it isn't a teacher or social worker saying something privately to you but a kid on the playground making fun of her.  

I've got bad hair too----  oh boy do I.  All I can do is keep it clean and hope for the best.  It sounds like you've tried with your daughter and she has her own ways-----  and some of this is just a misunderstanding.  So just work on it.  Your daughter will feed off of your anger (whether stated or just felt and shown nonverbally) so try to let it go.  Tell her that they were trying to help and they didn't know if something was going on or not.  No harm was meant.  Do that for her so she can move on and not feel all weird now.  And tell her as a family, you will all focas on being neater kept.  (whether that kills you inside or not or hurts your pride----  you have to get your daughter past the hurt of this and a posative attitude about it will help).
So there, I hope I haven't offended you further------ NOT MY INTENTION.  That is why I didn't initially respond as I was afraid I'd  make it worse.  But you seem so distraught about this, I decided to give my opinion (and it is just that) to try to help.  Good luck

Pss:  I know a lady who is a teacher (friends)----  she told me that she had a 7th grade boy one time that always came to school with terrible BO.  It was so bad that kids didn't want to go near him.  She didn't know what to do to help (he was being shunned and she worried about his hygeine)----  so she talked to his parents about it.  They went crazy mad about it.  This boy still had issues with the other kids, so she privately gave him a small bag (on the down low) with some soap in it and some deodarant (in case his parents weren't buying it for him).  He took it home and his parents tried to sue her.  She honestly was trying to help him.  (and of course the court case never made it to docket as it was silly).  But she said it broke her heart to see him struggle with others and how others never even gave him a chance.  I don't share this to say it is your daughter's case at all!!!!  But just that some teachers ARE really trying to help.  Good luck.
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Avatar universal
I appreciate your honesty and suggestions.  I am not offended by what you have said.  I was offended by his statements for some different reasons: he said them to the school social worker and not me; it was the last day of school before xmas vacation and I had to shop and do a million things; and the most important reason, she is clean every day and I assumed you could see that despite the clean but stained clothes and the clean but flyaway hair. I have never gotten a complaint before and she does have friends because she doesn't smell bad.  Yes, I am very hurt because I am overwhelmed.  She has a twin brother who has learning delays and an older brother and my husband leaves for work before we even get up.  I'm on my own here and I halso have depression issues so I do the best I can and I feel backed into a corner.  We moved to this wealthy area a year ago and we are not wealthy so it is different and people are different.  Alot of stress is going on.

Anyway, I found a gel that actually helps her hair alot and she stained 3 outfits on Xmas day and I oxycleaned them all. I think I will get some Tide to Go and she can use it if she stains in school.  Unfortunately she knows whats going on and despite what I say to try and help she hates this man.  

I will do everything to turn this all around to be positive because I love my daughter dearly and I never realized she looked this way to anyone else.  Honestly.  

I guess I should forgive and just learn from it that I really need to help her.  Someone told me once I should let her be herself when I tried to help her before and I did that.  Now because of that someone is complaining.  I guess I need to trust my own judgement and do what I feel in my heart, and that was to make her look like an angel.  She is just very oppositional and won't allow hairbrushing, etc.  It looks like there will be consequences for not obeying me.

Thanks again.
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Avatar universal
Dear Guineapigcorn,
Ok, so if your child bathes daily and wears laundered clothes that just don't look brand new any more, then this is not an issue of neglect or bad parenting just lack of strategy.  Do not beat yourself up, Guineapigcorn, please! Try to dial down the emotion for your daughter's sake.  Getting fired up in front of her might make her think there is something wrong, which there isn't. Perhaps the combination of the messy hair, the 'unclean' looking clothes (and gender stereotyping) are calling the teacher's attention to her.  Let's help you strategize...

CLOTHES:  My child is an argumentative, messy-Marvin too so I understand there is no way to expect that he will not stain every single article of clothing he owns after the first use no matter the time of day or what setting he is in... I have implemented both short term and long term strategies to manage his stained clothes.  
Short-term: When I shop for him I NEVER buy light colored clothing and I even try to avoid solid shirts.  Patterns are better at hiding stubborn stains.  I know she's a girl, but with this one you'll need to avoid pastels.  Go for dark, bold patterns.  This will probably fit her personality better any way-  sounds like she's got spirit!
Long term: Sometimes I think my son's fine motor skills are under-developed because over the years I've done too much for him to avoid more messes to clean up (and to avoid arguments).  Kind of  catch-22.  For the past few months I've been trying to let him bungle his way through stuff to help him exercise both patience (his and mine) and fine motor skills- improvement is slow but steady.  In the mean while, dark, bold patterns. no pastels.
Hair:
Me too! It is what it is.  If you are already using conditioner / de-tangler and brushing, and encouraging her to brush her hair and it is still a mess after a few minutes, how about a head band?  that would be relatively easy for her to redo every now and then during school so that at least her hair is out of her face.  That's what I did as a child and I think it worked.  

TEACHER:  He obviously just doesn't get it and you should calmly (perhaps even with a little humor) explain why she looks the way she does and what you're doing to manage it so as not to alarm people.  
  
Between you and me, how long has this guy been teaching kids?? Most adults who have spent a long time working with kids are comfortable with these kinds of little imperfections.  They are very "kid".  Is it possible that he is over -scrutinizing her for personal reasons?   If she argues with you she may also argue with him during school and he may be unconsciously looking to pick on her.  Or maybe he expects her clothes to be more neat and tidy just because she's a girl?  At any rate...

The MOST important thing is to let your daughter know that she is Ok, well cared for and beautiful.  Please explain to her that sometimes grown ups look for clues to try to understand things they are having difficulty with and sometimes they get it wrong.  He has not identified a real problem, he has misfired, and you will straighten it out with clear, calm, CONFIDENT communication.
I hope this helps.
-Momstier
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Avatar universal
Thank you so much for understanding!   This guy is 32 and has been teaching for 9 years.  He is considered a great teacher but I've heard some problems parents have had with his strictness.  

As far as my daughter is concerned, he said at her conference that she is a great kid and not a problem in any way at all in school.  So she is acting up only at home.  He also told the social worker that he likes me and the way I handle kids on the field trips I've chaperoned.  I hope this isn't a bunch of bull because those remarks made me feel really good.  

We have lived in this neighborhood for only a year.  We inherited a house and it is a wealthy area.  Where we came from was a working-class suburb.  Perhaps this is part of it.  We are not wealthy and we can't keep up with most of our wealthier neighbors.  

I have tried headbands, barrettes, ponytails, you name it.  She either takes them off or they fall off.  She has baby fine straight hair that flies everywhere.  I bought her a bunch of new outfits a few days ago and she has stained four in two days.  Believe me, I have been bothered by her appearance for a long time.  A friend of mine told me to let her be herself and she will grow out of it.  So I did and this is what happened.  And yes, I overreacted and she overheard me and everything stinks.  I am afraid they will call DCF on me for nothing and it will be made into something.  I am trying to get a grip but I am just so hurt.  I am so nervous when they go back to school that I plan on sending her with a stain remover pen.  I hate to burden this child with worrying so much but I am more worried her teacher will take further action and I just don't want my daughter hurt any more and I don't want to lose her.  I feel so much hatred towards this man I pray for it to go away.  Anyway, thank you for your advice.
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Avatar universal
hi i have 2 daugthers 1 is 9 and 1 is 7 the one at 9 is pretty good at keeping her self clean and tidy as for my 7 year old she hates her hair being brushed she screams and cries so to get them to school without a fight i refused to do her hair most mornings as long as she is clean i dont really care for her hair i make sure there uniforms are clean each day and if you think your kids are clean but look a bit untidty so wat as long as they r happy wats the saying a dirty child is a happy child lol mornings can be a nitemare as long as you no in your heart that you look after them and keep them clean who cares wat the world thinks as i say they aint gonna worry were the next dinner or shoes comes from i hate people who r quick to judge hope this helps u all the best xx
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535822 tn?1443976780
I would suggest to you that the social worker and the teacher have your childs welfare in consideration and it is the correct procedure, I have seen on the substance addiction forum that you have other problems you are dealing with it could be that you are feeling intimidated by them, it is important that children have teachers to speak to social workers if they see what maybe a potential problem in a childs life .I would suggest to you some expert help is needed here .
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Avatar universal
I agree with you that the school has her welfare in mind.  I can reason that now.  And if I were you and read the other forum posts I would respond the same way.

I'm sorry about the email.  I had just read it last night and it stung.

The truth is that only dh and my dr know of my problem.  My behavior hasn't adversely affected anyone except dh who only found out by finding something to indicate what was going on.  I told my dr only to protect myself from future issues.  The kids or teachers or friends don't know and I pray they don't find out.  The only behavioral changes are more energy and concentration which are good things.  I have a thyroid problem, and other health issues that sap my energy so I began to depend on this to give it to me so I could function better.  I never wanted to cross the line but I have.  Right now I am tapering off and using it the correct way.  I should be done with it in a few weeks.  I'm doing this for myself and my family before something happens.  I hope they never find out.  It's shameful.

Sorry, I'll get to the point.  The school knows nothing.  They are only complaining about her mussed up hair and sometimes stained clothes.  She showers daily and her clothes are clean.  These are stains that were not caught on time mainly because dh started doing the laundry to save water (he thinks I wash too many loads) and he doesn't catch them or maybe its cause he's a guy and doesn't care.  Ive tried to fix her hair and get her to change her clothes if something looks bad but she screams and messes her hair up.  I have to take three kids to school myself to two different schools at different times and I'm alone with them in the am so it is not a picnic.  I don't have time to chase her and forcibly make her do something.  Her teacher is young and childless so he may not understand these things.  That's why I'm upset.  They are basically accusing me of neglect when it isn't happening.  We moved to this cushy suburb a year ago and in our old working-class town this never happened.

My daycare teacher friend last year told me not to worry about her.  She will grow out of this messiness, she said.  And nobody at that school bothered her.

Even last year at this new school, nothing.  Nothing happened with her twin brother either this year and sometimes he wears stained shirts.

My oldest is a neatnik so there's no problem there.

My daughter is defiant, has a will of iron and has lost friends this year because she befriended a special needs child.  It breaks my heart and I've tried to intervene but the situation hasn't improved that much.

Now this comes along.  A clean child who messes her clothes up and has hair that is flyaway and baby-fine is judged for her appearance.  It has nothing to do with my problems.  This is how her hair behaves and her father took over the laundry duties and he doesn't seem to be treating the stains.  I'm blamed for things that aren't even true and when conference time came around in October the teacher had  no complaints, nothing.  Now he's concerned about her.

DH doesn't want counseling for her; he's afraid it will mess her up more.  I agree somewhat but not completely.  I may arrange it.  He's concerned they will label her with ADD or something.  I would be so frightened to put her on one of those meds because of what happened to me.

Bottom line:  I bought new clothes for her, the stiffest gel I could find.  The gel helps maybe 70%.  She uses her Tide pen for stains.  It's working.  I don't know what more I can do.  I will be talking to her teacher eventually, though I don't look forward to it because it's painful to be blamed for neglect when it isn't.  She hates him and that is why I am going to walk her into the class until she feels comfortable.  I don't intend on approaching him unless he does.  In time, I will talk to him when I know I won't cry.

I'm going through med changes so that doesn't help the mood and also being Bipolar.  I just want the best for my daughter.  I will do what it takes to help.

Sorry this is so long.  Difficult to write.




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973741 tn?1342342773
I can tell you are going through a difficult time for a number of reasons-----  but if addiction problems are there, please believe me that others suspect as such.  Part of an abusive cycle is denial and living in nonreality.  You are not seeing the world clearly if drugs are needed to get through your day.  Most likely, they don't know what but suspect something is going on at home.  They may notice your eyes for example which would be hard to disguise or something like that.  I think it is really important for your daughter's sake for you to receive professional help with this. It is important for her, you and the rest of your family.  While you feel like it helps you get by and makes you function better, that is the addiction talking.  That is the trick it is playing on  you.  

While on the surface, what has happened with your daughter's school seems unfair.  I've got kids that I have to WORK to keep presentable ------  and it would hurt if somone called me out on a bad day.  But when you dig deeper into this, the other things going on I am sure are having an affect.  Please get help for yourself and your family!  It is a new year, time for a new start!  Good luck
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535822 tn?1443976780
I have not had any e-mail you wouldnt have my e-mail address anyway , if you mean PM I havent had that either,I hope you get this all worked out, Good Luck
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Avatar universal
While I understand what your saying, I take a med for low thyroid/ADD/moderate narcolepsy called Adderall.  Yes, I have abused it but I have now tapered to a 10 mg dose orally.  It was hard but I am doing it.  I know it sounds like denial, but I am speaking honestly.  Nobody knew except my dh.  I don't get high when I take it nor do I act differently.  I just get alot of energy and get up and go, which I normally lack.  That's why I got into a problem in the first place.  The tolerance goes up quickly so it's easy to end up abusing it.  I am ashamed of it and wished I never posted it.  It never affected my ability to care for my family except for when I ran out and went cold turkey.  I crashed and slept and was useless for days.  As for my eyes, the Lithium I take dilates my pupils already, so I have a legitimate reason if my eyes did look weird, which they don't seem to.  I do need to play with them more.  That's true.  I used to but since they've gotten older and I stay at home I actually play less than I did when I worked.  I have also got Bipolar which has played a role in my depression and less ability to join in the fun.  I am going to try really hard to completely quit the med because of the chances of falling back in to the trap.  My doc needs to find something else so I don't go through the day sleepy.  I am going to make a conscious effort to play with them more.  As for stains, I am not the one who was focusing on it; it was the teacher.  I've got that solved now, too.  So, hopefully 2010 will be better for everyone.  I don't believe anybody suspects anything.  But I do want to stop it before it gets worse again and someone will notice.  I do love my kids very much or I wouldn't be asking for advice or trying to change things.
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973741 tn?1342342773
Well, it sounds like you have a plan in place for your kids and especially your daughter.  That is good.  Stick to that and I hope it alleviates your issues at school.  I am glad you have a plan for the other issue.  I am a clinical therapist and know that is tricky stuff.  I think I would first focas on getting your bipolar under control.  The funny thing about thyroid is that it is often tied to depression.  They work together often----  if someone is depressed, they often have a low thyroid, if someone has a low thyroid (hypothyroidism)----  they are often depressed.  Depression can also lead to such low energy.  With adderall, it isn't supposed to have a stimulating effect (or that get up and go/energy) if one has add/adhd.  It allows them to actually slow down and focas.  If you got a speed up from it, it probably wasn't add that you had.  That has been my experience with it.  I can't speak for you since I don't know you, of course.  But those are general guidelines.  I'm sure your doctor thought you needed it or he wouldn't have prescribed it.  But that is the problem with a controlled medication----  for some people it ends up being a trap.  Anyway, glad you are tapered down and are at a lower dose and using it properly.  To use it any other way can kill you, for real.  You don't want to damage your heart, I'm sure.  

And the only thing I can say is that something that just about everybody does is become angry at someone when we are really angry about something else.  This teacher most likely acted in good faith----  you are mad at him but also at yourself.  So it seems so much worse.  You may consider talking to the counselor on Monday when school starts and telling them that your daughter overheard you talking to your husband about this and is hurt and upset about it.  And explain the steps you've gone through to help her.  And do keep your eye on her as you don't want her to begin slipping at school (academically, emotionally, socially, etc.).  For her sake, I hope this passes soon.  So glad new years is here-----  clean slate time.
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Avatar universal
Thanks, Specialmom.

I do have a plan in action and just got an email from the social worker.  She was apologetic and told me it in no way inferred neglect.  It was just a small issue that she wanted to address.  I don't really trust her, but I do believe now that the teacher cared about her and just wanted to ask.  I took it personally because her appearance did bother me and I couldn't seem to change it.  Now that she knows that the teacher wants her to be neater she wants to try and she has been doing great.  I do know about the Add and I know I have to watch that.  I may stop it because I don't know if I can keep it under wraps.  I am concerned about my heart.  I love my family so much I don't want to lose them.  I wish I never took the darn stuff.  Anyway, thanks and Happy New Year!
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