12-year old with stained clothing

My 12-year old seems to stain every item of clothing, pretty much instantly.  Food, ink, grass, mystery substances - I don't even know how it happens.  I'm big on natural consequences, but "well, then, you have to wear stained clothing!" does not make a dent.  She doesn't care, it's fine by her.  So I try different approaches, like micromanaging table manners and art projects, but I just don't have the stamina to keep that up. Has anyone made progress on this and, if so, how?  Was it just a matter of learning to look past stained clothing yourself?  That was easier when she was younger, but I suspect my c'est-la-vie attitude helped create this problem, and, really, she's in middle school.  And I may be running up against my limit - I bought her some new shirts for back-to-school, and just discovered they are all stained already.  At some point, it might become something that she starts caring about, right?  Do I just wait for teenage embarrassment to hit?  Help!

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I feel like maybe I'm an outlier here, but ... why do you care? I am really having a hard time figuring out why this is a big deal if she doesn't mind. If she were insisting on throwing out stained clothes and getting new ones, that'd be a problem, but ... it's her wardrobe, why are you micro-managing it? 

If the stained clothes don't bother her, why let them bother you? I insist on table manners, and basic cleanliness, but the aesthetic state of my kids' clothes is something I've always allowed them to control, with few exceptions. Those exceptions involve family events and social occasions where I require them to wear an outfit that meets my standards of presentability (condition, fit, style, and color coordination). But for everyday school wear, meh. If they ask for my help with laundry or mending they can have it, but if they don't care I'm not going to bother! (For what it's worth, I have a 16yo boy and a 13yo daughter and indeed, they don't care about stains, although it sounds like they have less trouble with that than your daughter does. They get stains mostly on hoodie cuffs and pant legs, not shirt fronts.)

In your place I would make sure your daughter has a couple of decent outfits she can wear for holiday dinners and the like, micromanage away when she wears those, and otherwise let it go. Also, buy her only dark colors! :)

Hi there,

This really bugs me, too. My solution: ignore the stains and consider them marks of a childhood enjoyed, and also appreciate that our kids are unfazed by something that's unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Your daughter will, probably, eventually start caring about her clothing. Until my 3 kids reach that point here's what preserves my sanity: 1.) line dry all of their clothes for the best chance of removing stains from (my) favorites; 2.) buy most of their clothes used on eBay or at thrift stores. I set up an eBay filter that automatically sends me notices for brands/sizes/items we need. I've scored great deals on stylish, clean, cheap items from school to dress clothes, snow gear, hiking gear, etc; 3.) ask each kid to choose and set aside one or two tops and bottoms so that they have something unstained when it's important for me that they look composed. 

good luck!

mama stainbuster

I think you either get a kid who freaks out about a spot on his/her clothing, or one who doesn't care at all.  I also think she will eventually begin to care, and it will probably happen around the time she is better able to connect the dots between what she's doing (painting in her favorite jeans) and the result (stains). 12 is actually a little early for that.  In the meantime, my suggestion is to buy synthetics, at least for tops.  They are MUCH easier to get stains out of than cotton.  Also, use Tide rather than one of the more environmentally-friendly detergents.  (My rationalization is that it's better for the environment than replacing clothing).  

I have kid in elementary school and his kids get stained and torn after the first or second wear.  I over-look it and don't buy anything expensive or super nice since it is going to get ruined anyway.  I'll rather my kid have fun then worry about grass stains or hole in his pants.  If you think she is doing it on purpose or out of lack of caring (as opposed to just normal wear and tear on clothes from active play), then I would have her do her own laundry including pre-washing the stained clothes with stain remover soap, pre-soaking, etc.  Maybe the pain of doing it will make her more careful.  Otherwise, if she is does not care I would just let it go and buy cheaper clothes and in bulk on sale so you can replace it more frequently.