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246: Perfect Ponytails and Wardrobe Drama

By July 11, 2023November 6th, 2023Mastermind Parenting Podcast

When our kids are upset about things we see as minor, even the kindest parent can find their patience wearing thin. When they’re melting down because the hairstyle you spent time on isn’t perfect, or when they suddenly refuse to wear the clothes they really wanted at the store, it’s hard not to get frustrated. If you can resist the urge to take it personally, and wait until the storm has passed, you’ll have a much better chance of diagnosing what’s actually triggering those reactions.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  1. How easy it is to miss the ways perfectionism and sensitivity can act as stand-ins for other anxieties our kids are experiencing.
  2. Why you shouldn’t try to correct strong-willed behavior in the moment, and how to address it when it will actually be productive.
  3. What a huge difference it makes when we show curiosity and compassion about the motivations of challenging behavior.

And much more! 

As always, thanks for listening. Head over to Facebook, where you can join my free group Mastermind Parenting Community. We post tips and tools and do pop-up Live conversations where I do extra teaching and coaching to support you in helping your strong-willed children so that they can FEEL better and DO better. If you enjoyed this episode and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it!

About Randi Rubenstein

Randi Rubenstein helps parents with a strong-willed kiddo become a happier family and enjoy the simple things again like bike rides and beach vacays.

She’s the founder of Mastermind Parenting, host of the Mastermind Parenting podcast, and author of The Parent Gap. Randi works with parents across the U.S.

At Mastermind Parenting, we believe every human deserves to have a family that gets along.

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[00:00:00] Randi Rubenstein: My name is Randi Rubenstein, and welcome to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast. At Mastermind Parenting, we’re on a mission to support strong-willed kids and the families that love them. 

[00:00:10] ​Hi, how are you guys this week? If you’re watching the video, you can tell that I’m no makeup today. It’s so freaking hot in Houston, Texas. Okay, I’m gonna stop talking about the weather. Let’s talk about – I’m calling this episode something about perfect ponytails and wardrobe drama. Okay? I’m not exactly sure what I’m gonna title it yet, but by the time this is out, I’ve already titled it, so there you go. 

[00:00:40] What made me think of perfect ponytails and wardrobe drama is, I had a mom ask me recently, or really just tell me about like what her, just regular old pain in the tush issues are week after week after week with her daughters. 

[00:01:03] Her daughters are a little older, and this is a mom who just, she really has a smooth running household. I mean, they’re a normal family. Don’t get me wrong. They’ve dealt with divorce and they deal with lots of things involved in the way of divorce and stress and all that jazz.

[00:01:22] But this is a mom who naturally has a lot of pack leadership, and she is, she’s actually a coach herself. So, this is a lady I look to for input quite often. Like, she helps advise me in my life. And we were just kind of shooting the breeze and she was just, you know, we were just kind of talking about like what are the things that regular people deal with all the time? And we might not even be pinpointing exactly how much, how stressful it is on a regular basis. Um, and how sometimes like these little issues, they really do feel like big issues. 

[00:02:08] And so she was telling me, she said, I have one daughter who is such a perfectionist. And so she’ll come and she’ll ask me to, like, do a certain elaborate hairstyle for her. And so I, you know, I do and I do the braids or the ponytails just so, and inevitably, she always rips it out. And then she just, it kind of like sours her mood for the day. it’s never good enough. 

[00:02:40] So mom is worried about her daughter being a perfectionist and it’s stressful. You know what? That’s stressful. Like, I know mom, she’s busy. She’s uh, she’s a working mom. She’s a single mom. She’s burning the candle at both ends a lot of days. There’s a lot of things to manage. And she’s taking the time at the beginning of her day to do the perfect ponytails, and then she has a child that rips ’em out, freaks out, and inevitably it’s gonna, it’s just gonna be stressful. And so there’s that issue. 

[00:03:17] And then the other issue she was telling me about was, she said, let’s talk about like shoes. And so I’m calling it wardrobe drama because maybe I, maybe it’s shoes, but maybe it’s something else. But you know, when you like are at the store and you buy your child something and they’re like, I love it. I love it. And you’re like, are you sure you love? Yes, I love it. You’re gonna wear it? Yes, I’m gonna wear it. 

[00:03:41] So you buy the thing, they say they want it. And then it comes time to wear it. Or maybe you just keep seeing that, you know, particular item of clothing or the shoes that they insisted they loved and they really wanted to get, and they’re not wearing it, and you’re like, what’s going on? And they’re like, oh, I don’t like that anymore. 

[00:04:03] So this mom was telling me that she had one daughter who would love shoes and then she would never wear them. And she would say, well, they’re not comfortable, or this, that, and the other. And it’s infuriating, because you go and you spend your money on this thing and then your kid’s not wearing it. And so it just feels wasteful, right? 

[00:04:29] So when we’re diagnosing these two scenarios, it sort of seems like we’ve got one kid who is struggling with perfectionism and we’ve got one kid where, unless the thing is exactly perfect, right, exactly perfect, um, then they just toss it aside. 

[00:04:57] And maybe it’s that this is an impulsive kid. This is a kid that’s like, yes, yes, I love it. But they don’t think it through or they don’t really, you know, it’s like – when my kids used to get shoes, I’d be like, run around the store. Way back when, when they had Stride Rite. I’d be like, take a lap, take a few laps. Make sure they don’t rub. They don’t slip. Your toes don’t hit the end. Like I need to know that. 

[00:05:19] So maybe it’s that we have a kid that we’re like, okay, this is an impulsive kid that didn’t think this through enough, and now we might make it mean that our kid is not appreciative or grateful. And we might make it mean that for the perfectionist kid too, like, this kid doesn’t value my time, this kid just thinks that I can just do elaborate hairstyles, you know, all morning long, like my time doesn’t matter.

[00:05:47] I think it’s real easy to take these stressful situations and diagnose the issue as something that it, isn’t actually, right. Maybe we’re thinking that we’ve got kids that don’t value our time. We’ve got kids that don’t think things through properly. We got kids that are thinking that they need to be perfect, and if it’s not perfect, then they have, they can’t handle it, and then they just freak out.

[00:06:15] And 

[00:06:15] if our brains are diagnosing the problem as that, as this is a kid that doesn’t value my time and money, or this is a kid that just wants to look perfect and is gonna be superficial and only focused on their appearance and nothing’s ever gonna be good enough for them, right?

[00:06:37] We quite often are gonna handle it in ways that are not actually gonna be helpful to the kids, because I think what we’re doing in those situations, which I think this is pretty common, is we accidentally diagnose it as the wrong issue and then we go about solving it in a way that is not helpful to the kid.

[00:07:01] And so the problem, like the problem of the perfect ponytail girl, and the problem of the girl where she never wants to wear the shoes that she swore she loved and that she was going to wear, and now you’ve wasted all your money and your time shopping for them. We’re never solving those problems. 

[00:07:21] We continue to have a kid that is having these freakouts in the morning, and it’s causing a lot of stress for everyone because what we know, what the neuroscientists have told us is that when those stress hormones get elevated like that in the morning with all these like little deal freakouts, it takes hours, hours to bring all of those hormones back to a baseline level for kids. And so that actually sends them to school from a place of, like having a deficiency to be able to learn at their highest capacity. Right? Like that’s the opposite of what we wanna do.

[00:08:04] So it is really important, I think, to get this stuff figured out because these little deals are kind of a big deal when you think about it in terms of affecting our kids’ learning, right? So we don’t wanna send them off to school from a place of not being in their thinking brain from the get-go.

[00:08:28] Like, there’s gonna be enough, as I talked about in the last episode with Blubber. That we don’t even know about. Whether it’s a kid that looks at them the wrong way. A friend that was their friend yesterday, now all of a sudden, um, doesn’t seem to be acknowledging them. Um, somebody says something shitty that derails them, their teacher calls them out for whispering to their friend or falsely accuses them of something, or they’ve forgotten an assignment, like they’re gonna be navigating enough. The last thing we wanna do is, is contribute to them going to school with elevated cortisol levels, elevated stress hormones. Does that make sense? 

[00:09:09] So how do we deal with these two situations? Well, first and foremost, we’re never gonna be dealing with it for the first time in the moment. We always have to talk about things out of the moment, okay. At a non-relevant time. Because when we’re in the moment and all of a sudden we wanna teach the perfect ponytail girl that perfect ponytails are really not the issue. You know, she’s, she’s nervous about something else and she thinks of her hairstyle as just exactly perfect. It’s gonna eliminate this other thing that she’s actually worried about.

[00:09:47] Like, what is she really worried about? And getting to the root of what the perfect ponytails are a front for. She’s too anxious. We’re never gonna get to the root of the real issue in the heat of the moment when she really thinks that having perfect ponytails is going to solve her problems.

[00:10:04] We have to talk about this outta the moment, and we do so by bringing it up later, bringing it up when we’re relaxing. You know, maybe we’re laying around the evening, that night or we’re, you know, just, we’re taking our, the dog for a walk and we’ve got that good peripheral vision going where it doesn’t in any way feel like we’re interrogating her.

[00:10:29] Hey, I noticed that in the morning, you know, you have this idea in your mind for the way you want your hair to look, and so you come to me with this idea and then when I try to, you know, make that hairstyle happen, it seems like most of the time you’re disappointed by whatever it is I do or the way it looks in the mirror. It’s not what you were envisioning in your head. Am I getting this right, or tell me more about that. 

[00:10:58] And so you just start the conversation there and then when she starts to ta, she’s like, yeah, like let’s just say, she would say, well, yeah, you’re not very good at hairstyles, mom. And you’re like, yeah, you have this idea and it, you’re like, why couldn’t I have a professional hairdresser as a mom? Instead, I got this lady. I mean, if you can bring a little playfulness and humor, I think it always lightens the mood and sets the tone for the truth telling to happen, right? 

[00:11:30] Because our child, like this little girl, she doesn’t know why she’s actually anxious about something else. She doesn’t know why she thinks that the perfect ponytails are gonna solve the problem and send her out into the day feeling like the more confident version of herself. She doesn’t know she actually needs some coaching in this moment from her mom. 

[00:11:52] And so if you’re like, okay, so let’s talk about the whole desire to have the perfect ponytails, right? Like, what will perfect ponytails accomplish for you? Do you think that there’s something else that you’re actually worried about? That you’re thinking, if I just have the most perfect ponytails, this other thing isn’t gonna matter as much. What do you think that other thing could be? 

[00:12:17] And if you have a child that’s kind of shut down and is like, no, I just want the perfect ponytails, you’re like, well, you’ve got a lot of opinions. I think it’s time to do your own perfect ponytails. Let’s talk about you practicing how to do your own here. You know, maybe it’s that you’re really ready to grow up and you don’t really want me doing your hair anymore. You’ve outgrown it. 

[00:12:39] So see, you’re problem solving out of the moment. But we’re not just focused on, oh gosh, I have a perfectionist kid. Um, this is a kid that doesn’t value my time, blah, blah. Like, we’re actually helping our kid out of the moment sort of realize what perfect ponytails is really all about. 

[00:13:01] And then as far as the kid that they said they wanted the shoes and now they don’t want the shoes. And so I think where a lot of people wanna go is, is like, they don’t value my money. They don’t value my time. We just buy these things and then they never wear ’em. They don’t understand the value of a dollar, when we may just have a kid that is highly sensitive, and it’s like the kids that the seams on socks really bother. 

[00:13:28] And so in the morning when you’ve got a kid that’s about to go out into the wild A K A school and navigate all of the stress and social pressures that exist out there in the wild, all the anxiety of that might be manifesting in this thing is just not comfortable enough or this is bothering me or I’m hypersensitive to something. So they might just be using the shoes as an outlet. We don’t know. We have to have a conversation. 

[00:14:02] We can’t know until we talk to our kid,

[00:14:05] you know? Tell me about the whole, this whole shoe thing, cuz it sounds like you’re a person who, like you’re really listening to your body and and when something doesn’t feel comfortable, you’re like, yeah, that’s gonna, I can’t be having things on this body that don’t feel totally comfortable. You know, you might end up just being the kind of person who’s like super loyal to certain brands that you know always work for you. And we’ll just know that, not a big deal. 

[00:14:35] But I’m wondering if sometimes things feel comfortable when you’re at the store, but when you’re at the store, we’re relaxed, we’re shopping, we’re having a good time. I mean, we have a good time, right? Yeah. Like, I do know a thing or two about having a good time, especially when it comes to shopping. Would you agree with that? 

[00:14:52] Okay. So we’re relaxed, we’re having fun, but then all of a sudden it’s time to go to school and you gotta put the thing on and all of a sudden it doesn’t feel as comfortable as it did at this store. I’m wondering if it’s really the shoe or if it’s more something about not feeling comfortable when it’s time to go to school versus when you were relaxed and shopping and hanging out with me. Like, if it maybe is not even really about the shoes, if it might be more about what, what’s making you uncomfortable or what, what maybe are you feeling a little anxious about? 

[00:15:33] You know, and I’m not saying that you have to tell me. I’m just saying this is stuff for you to think about or to consider. And I’m here if you want to, like, you can tell me anything. I’m here for all of it. Right? And if you don’t feel comfortable talking to me, I think it’s really important, especially as you grow into a, a tween and a teen, that when something is making you feel uncomfortable or something’s making you feel anxious, or there’s something that you’re, you know, you’re worried about, like, it’s really important for you not to keep it all bottled up inside and to talk about it to someone, whether it’s me, whether it’s a therapist, whether it’s a close friend, um, whether it’s Aunt Susie. it’s just really important that you don’t keep it all bottled up inside. So let’s talk about that. Like, is it really the shoe that’s so uncomfortable, or could the shoe be representing something else? 

[00:16:29] So when we ask our kids these things and we use what and how, questions, right? And I’m not saying like, I don’t, I have no clue what the real issue is with perfect ponytails or with wardrobe drama. It might be like wardrobe drama. I mean, my son, he’s a highly sensitive nervous system. When he was three, I had to cut all the tags out of his shirts. Like literally he would have a red mark, like he, the tags in clothing bothered him so much. 

[00:17:00] And then he went through this period where we called them his hot pants, where he only wanted to wear these pants. It was he only wanted to wear soft pants, basically. We called ’em hot pants because we live in a hot climate, and even when it was not cold outside, he would wear these like fuzzy kind of long pants. 

[00:17:19] I just read an article recently that, that Covid brought on the end to hard pants, which, I like that term, way better than hot pants. That we all, ever since Covid happened, we all just wanna wear soft pants all the time. Nobody wants to wear hard pants, like we have to be comfy. 

[00:17:35] And so my highly sensitive guy, when he was a little, when he was teeny tiny, he only wanted to wear these pants that he, that were like soft pants that made him feel comfy. And so there was something to it. It was, I think it was sensory, you know, the tags and the pants. So I think that can be real, but we won’t know, until we talk to our kids.

[00:18:00] And frankly, they don’t even know. A lot of times they have no clue what it is. And so when we’re able to talk about these things, we just, we figure it out together. It’s a collaborative conversation. We don’t have to be the all-knowing parent with all the answers.

[00:18:16] Everyone wants to feel in control of their lives. Everybody likes to be part of the problem-solving team. So when we include our kids in this way and we start to learn how to talk about all the things and not have all the answers, we just might have all the questions, and then our kids are prompted to start finding their own answers. Like, isn’t that the point? Isn’t that the point? 

[00:18:39] So I want y’all to walk away from this episode thinking about, am I diagnosing the actual problem? Am I diagnosing the problem correctly? Do I need to ask more questions? Have I sat down with my child and talked to them out of the moment when they’re not emotional and heated and it’s not a power struggle? Just talk to them like they are an actual human. 

[00:19:06] Okay, I have dogs starting to growl. That’s our episode for this week. Have a good one. Bye for now. 

[00:19:12] Thanks for listening today, guys. I hope you picked up some tips, tools, maybe some baby steps for creating more balance and boundaries in your life. And I just wanted to let you know, if you want to continue moving the needle forward in creating this for yourself, having a happier household, I want you to go to my website and check out We have three beginning programs, and if you need some accountability and more support then please look for the one that would be a good fit for you.

[00:19:47] And, as always, we’re on all the social channels under mastermind parenting, on Instagram it’s mastermind_parenting. And, you know, periodically I do pop up on different Instagram lives, Facebook lives where I give you teaching and coaching and I love engaging with you live to help you help your strong-willed kids so that they can feel better, because when they feel better they do better, and I love, love, love getting to know you guys. 

[00:20:20] So thanks for listening. If you like this podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review. Super super appreciative

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