Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman on how to handle a manipulative tween with bad hygiene.

By Rosalind Wiseman

Q. My 12-year-old stepson refuses to cut his hair, wash it regularly, or use a brush to keep it neat. My husband and I have even offered money or a trip to his favorite restaurant if he'll visit the barber. His mother is no help at all. Any ideas for us? —Ally G.

A. Realize a couple of things: It's his head and he thinks he looks good. And he's manipulating you and your husband—seriously, cash incentives? The boy is successfully pitting you and his dad against his mom. The best move here is to choose your battles. If I were you, I'd be happy with long, unruly hair, even if you can't see his eyes. You just want it clean. I'd say, "No more bribes and no more nagging to get your hair cut. Now that you're getting older and more mature, it's important to take care of yourself. So we expect you to shampoo every few days." When you refuse to play his games, and set limits clearly and without ambivalence, he'll be more likely to comply. What will seal the deal is peer pressure—it'll take only one negative comment from a girl to solve the problem completely.

Originally published in the July 2011 issue of Family Circle magazine.