Ask Melinda: The Classic Coat Battle

Question: Why does my daughter refuse to wear a coat when it’s clearly needed?

At first glance, this Friday’s “Ask Melinda” seems simple, a real softball question. When it’s cold outside, isn’t it logical to assume that every warm-blooded, non-brain damaged human would know, without being told, that a coat is necessary? Do we parents really have to remind our teenagers that hypothermia is an issue? Could anything be more obvious? And why does a gentle reminder—“Don’t forget your coat, sweetie, it’s 30 degrees outside!”—provoke surly responses like “Nobody wears a coat anymore, Mom!” “Oh, yeah? Since when?” I ask, “How is the weather and the necessity of warm clothing somehow my fault? I am not in charge of the weather!”

Did you think you were the only parent with this problem? Did you worry that your teenager is the only one inexplicably refusing to wear a coat? Nope. My in-box has three variations on this question THIS WEEK. One was a sweater complaint, I admit, and another specifically mentioned gloves and a hat, but the point is the same.

Here’s how I see it: You must accept the following premise as a given: Teenagers do stupid things—all the time. Count on it. If you are looking for logic and reason, you are barking up the wrong tree during adolescence. If you ask them to explain why they refuse on principle to wear a coat, they probably won’t be able to articulate a coherent response. That’s because, like so many other things teenagers do/say/believe, there isn’t a good reason for it. Teenagers are impulsive. Their brains aren’t fully baked. There are some serious studies out there to back up that statement. Look them up if you don’t believe me. I don’t need to waste perfectly good money funding a study. I live with three teenagers. I know what I’m talking about.

Bottom line: You do have a duty to alert your teenager to the weather occurring right outside the front door if you think there is a good chance he or she is oblivious to the twenty degree overnight drop in the mercury. Go ahead and give them a heads-up when you wake them or see them at the breakfast table. That’s a nice thing to do. This newsflash gives your daughter an opportunity to dress comfortably for the weather, as opposed to simply wearing her favorite sundress in January because she knows it will irritate you. In the end, whether or not teenagers choose to wear seasonally appropriate attire is up to them. What’s the worst that can happen? They’ll be cold and look stupid, right? Not your problem.


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5 responses to “Ask Melinda: The Classic Coat Battle

  1. Linda

    Being cold is really nothing if one has on a cute outfit that a coat would certainly cover up!!! 🙂

  2. Phyllis Farrar

    Doris even talks about the boys not wearing a coat when she was little! Natural consequences!

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