My son is 14 years old, and I want him to start learning to dress appropriately. When I told him to tuck in his school uniform shirt, he didn’t listen. I tried explaining it to him but he still wouldn't tuck it in. I tried making him lose time on his device whenever I found it untucked, but that just led to him being tucked in at home, and the second he leaves he untucks his shirt. How can I get him to start always being tucked in?

Just to clarify, this is only about his uniform, which is a white button-down shirt. Also, some of his classmates are tucked in in school, some always, and some never, so obviously his friends won't make a big deal about it. I would like him to tuck his shirt in whenever he is wearing his uniform. (In his school, most kids keep their uniform on for the whole day.)

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    Hi! Welcome to the site. Are you open to answers that challenge your premise (i.e., that you should ask your son to tuck in his shirt), or are you only looking for advice on how to get him to tuck in his shirt, and want answerers to assume that premise as a given?
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 18:49
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    What do other people look like where you live? In my environment business shirts are seen tucked for very serious looks, but normal shirts? - No. At home? - Never, really. I know answers advising an opposite to the question are not so welcome in this forum. But in case you enforce something very uncommon which is not only hard to understand for your son but could even make him quite an outsider for others, first of all you should question yourself why you would want to enforce that.
    – puck
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 6:16
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    I think it should be considered that he might know something you don't, as other comments have suggested. How do his friends and peers look upon the tucked in shirt? The fact he's capable at home but chooses to untuck it going out is relevant and suggestive. It suggests there might not be mere physical discomfort or slovenliness at work here. In the UK school pupils wear uniforms with shirts and shirt tucking therefore becomes a point of contention with authority figures. Over here deliberate untucking of school uniform shirts is very much a meaning-laden choice for many teenagers
    – benxyzzy
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 6:36
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    @eps you might want to consider that the OP hasn't stated their location (etc.), and their culture may be very different to yours. Tsdk, you might want to give a little background about what's typical where you are
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 10:46
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    The question that comes to mind is "Why?". Your whole question only says you want them to -- but why? I can not see any reason why you'd want them to. And likely your son can't, either. I'd make a whole answer out of it, but I don't have enough rep. Tell your son the why. Then let him make his own decisions. He is practically an adult and allowed to drink in some jurisdictions, so surely he's old enough to make their own decisions, with you there to give advice.
    – Polygnome
    Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 12:48

13 Answers 13


You have already seen that you cannot make him do it. So what can you do?

There are two distinct goals in your question: You want your son to learn dressing appropriately, and you want him to tuck in his shirt. I think the former is the one that is actually important. So the objective is that your son understands what messages we communicate through our clothing choices in various social situations, and can use this communication channel.

A great thing you can do towards this objective is having open conversations about dress codes (in a general sense). An open communicate goes both ways, this is not you explaining to him what is right and what is wrong. This is you explaining your views, and dress codes you are familiar with, but also you listening. How are 14 year olds dressing these days, and why? How does different clothing indicate group membership, etc? You want this conversation to be non-adversarial, and ideally connecting. Can you find common ground? Some fashion you both detest? Some actor in a movie that you both agree dresses totally awesome?

Hopefully, this will get you to the point where you can talk about clothing choices in terms of "what are the norms for the given context?" and "what do I want to communicate with my clothing?", rather than mere "proper" vs "improper" terms. It is highly plausible that your teenager will occasionally want to communicate attitudes you wish he wouldnt, but as long as he is aware of what he is doing, he can code-switch when needed. [Example: Wearing your trousers at knee-level when hanging out with friends vs doing so at a job interview.]

Ultimately, you will probably have to compromise. Your son is quite likely the better judge of how dress codes work in his friendgroup (at least after having examined this a bit). If "shirt is not tucked in" is an important component of "I'm cool enough to hang with you guys", then that's how it is. On the other hand, if you trust his judgement here, you are in a good position to ask that he in turn believes you for stuff like "having your shirt tucked in when we visit Aunt Judy is an essential part of showing her baseline respect".

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    I'm glad that this answer acknowledges that context is key here - there is a great deal of difference between how one is expected to dress with their friends versus how they should dress in a professional environment. Though I suspect, in the case of a school setting, that line can get blurry as they are both 'with friends' and 'in a "professional" setting', so some care may be needed here - to say nothing of how a passing teacher may respond to seeing a student dressed in a way they deem 'inappropriate'.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 14:18

Teaching etiquette around attire and appropriate dress is an important lesson for young people to learn. At 14, your child has probably already learned some of the social norms for attire. Forcing your child to tuck their shirt in at all times is already a power struggle that you likely won't win. I think it is reasonable to have times where your child is expected to have their shirt tucked in, such as special occasions and times when they do not, such as at home or being with friends.

Take this opportunity to talk about how clothing can be used for not only self-expression but also communicates a message about you to others. Talk to you child about dress etiquette for different situations (work place, special occasions, etc) and why it is important to adhere to dress codes.

Also consider your child's perspective and look at how their friends dress. There can be a lot of social pressures for a 14 year old. Fitting in and following the trends of your peer group is very important to children this age. Forcing your child to tuck their shirt in when it isn't "cool" is going to cause unneeded stress and anxiety for your child and probably a lot of fighting between the two of you.

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    "I think it is reasonable to have times where your child is expected to have their shirt tucked in..." - when I was little (and also didn't like tucking in shirts for whatever reason), my dad always said something to the effect of "Please just leave it tucked in for the first 15/20 minutes. After that you can untuck it an nobody will notice.". That worked great because I'd have my shirt tucked in while saying hello to everyone (which was his goal), but I knew it's okay to untuck it later on when playing so didn't mind. Inadvertently, it helped me understand first impressions from a young age.
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 4:04
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    @BruceWayne That's practically worth an answer of its own.
    – Clockwork
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 9:16

At fourteen, your son is past the age of automatically listening to his parents for most children. Instead, he's nearly an adult in many ways. The parental role shifts significantly around this time; it was once shaping the child, teaching them what to do and what not to do.

Over time, though, this changes, and by fourteen the parental role primarily is establishing boundaries within which the child can learn for themselves what to do or not do. Those boundaries exist to keep them from doing significant harm - a fourteen year old is not mature enough mentally to consistently make decisions that benefit themselves in the long term and weigh risks and benefits, nor do they have sufficient experience to do so, and so you are there to provide those boundaries.

Within those boundaries, though, they need to learn for themselves what works and what doesn't work. You can still provide suggestions, but your ability to do so will be largely limited by the manner and frequency in which you do so. Push too hard, and they will either ignore you or actively push against you. If you manipulate the boundaries, then you'll get a different result, as you saw: they will learn how to stay within those boundaries, but otherwise do what they wish.

For something of this sort, where the risk is fairly low of any significant harm, your best bet is to let them make their own choices, while explaining your point of view - occasionally, not frequently. If what you are suggesting makes sense - if, say, tucking in their shirt makes them look nicer, which leads to better prospects socially - they will figure that out eventually. Do phrase your occasional suggestions in ways they can understand - not as "you should do this", but phrase it in a way that they can understand the benefit.

"When someone walks around with their shirt not tucked in, it sends a signal that they are sloppy about their appearance. People might assume they are also sloppy about other things - so they're less likely to give them good grades or a good job."

This doesn't tell them what they should do - but it gives them the information they need to (hopefully) come to the same conclusion you do. They may come to a different conclusion of course - the current style might actually be different from what you understand - but at least they have the information you have given them.

You also might point out that, even if the current (youth) style is that way, that the way adults perceive them is different than the way their peers perceive them, and it's important to differentiate: going to school untucked might be fine (as that's mostly for their peers), but going to church the social etiquette is different (it's more formal, and more adult-oriented), and of course going to a job interview is different still. Teaching them to recognize these different situations might lead to an improvement overall of the sort you're hoping, even if it doesn't lead to the result you want all of the time.

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    Agreed. There is absolutely no point in fighting over such a minor and harmless personal thing. It would be different if this was, for example, about wearing suitable protective equipment while downhill mountain-biking.
    – Michael
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 11:05
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    ""When someone walks around with their shirt not tucked in, it sends a signal that they are sloppy about their appearance." - here in the UK, it merely sends a signal that they are a teenager on their way to or from school, or else aged under about 40. In my government office (not customer facing) men can wear their shirts outside their trousers if they want to. Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 21:13
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    Alternatively, constantly focusing on whether a shirt is tucked in, shoes are polished, tie tightened to the button, sends a signal that superficial appearances are more important than real action, and spending time on looking "good" while at a job is superior to spending time on doing the job at all.
    – Nij
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 5:46
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    Do (grade school) teachers actually adjust grades based on shirt not being tucked in where you are? In my area, students may be punished for inappropriate dress (detention, loss of privileges, etc.) but the grade is supposed to be based purely on academic work. The son tucking at home and untucking later seems to suggest that he has some understanding of doing it when there are consequences and also of judging when there are consequences, so possibly he sees that actually no one at school cares. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 12:27

Keep in mind that the way someone dresses is heavily related to their identity, their personality.

When she was a teenager, my fiancée discovered a style to which she is still sticking to now. The reason for that is because when she tried it out, she realised that she was feeling much better about herself, because she could now fully express her personality.

Although I understand why you are worried about the way your son look, and the fact that I myself like to tuck my shirt, you should be aware that, ultimately, it is your son's look, not yours.

As such, I agree with the answer Arno posted about sitting down and having a conversation with your son about it, if he wants to talk about it. Keep in mind though, the point is not to argue, but to listen and share.

I don't have any child, but I would suggest you two approaches about this:

  • The first approach would have you start off by giving your point of view, the reasons why you were asking him to do what you want, ask him if he understands, then ask for his personal point of view on the matter. That last point would, hopefully, allow you to understand why he did not want to tuck his shirt.
  • The second approach would be like the first one, but instead of asking for his point of view last, you could try to ask it first before giving your own point of view. This can give him the opportunity to express himself first. But then, he could also perceive it as "she is going to lecture me". You should pick the one that you think would work better.

Another point worth mentioning: an answer mentioned "social norms for attire". I must admit, I have noticed children having some kind of dress code or following a trend. Even my parents used to always tell me "this is the trend, you should do it", but I always expressed my disapproval about it, because I wanted to be myself, not fit in with the others at the expense of my well being.

In the end, you should discuss it with your son, but trying to force your point of view onto him, even if you somehow manage to convince him, is likely to have a negative impact on his moral on the long run if his own well being is repressed.

Another point I would like to emphasis is: whenever possible, you should try and look out for the reason, the intent, why your son does what he does.

Many answers/comments pointed out some interesting points about authority and the fact that the children should respect their parents, their elders, which is right. But if they happen to disobey, you should try to ask them why they don't want to do as asked before jumping to conclusion about them rebelling.

I will give you one very simple example below. I could give several, but one should be enough.

When I was around that age, there was this pair of shoes my parents wanted me to wear. I expressed several times that I did not want to wear them because my feet were feeling extremely uncomfortable - it felt like it was jamming the blood flow in my feet - especially since I had an older pair of shoes which were still very comfortable and not even worn out, so I could just take them.

They still forced me to wear them, because they believed I was just being a difficult child and I was disobeying them. Simply put, after an entire day wearing them, when I came home, it was so painful that they finally decided to believe me when I told them I just couldn't wear them.

That was just one simple example. I would like to point out that, even in my example, any random child could have been lying and acting up the discomfort too, but I wasn't. It's up to you as a parent to determine if there is enough trust between you and your child. Discipline them as needed, but I highly suggest to look out for the reasons before leaping to conclusions.

I know I'm repeating myself a lot here, but you should really, really get your child's point of view before taking any action, especially if you are under the impression you are about to assume that he's not acting on good will.

I have been on the receiving end of that with my parents, more often than I can remember. When it happened once or twice, it only made me think that it was unfair, so I tried to shrug it off, better luck next time I guess.

But when it kept happening and my point of view was forcibly overruled all the time, it left a very bitter aftertaste (and I guess a psychological scar). Because they wanted me to obey at all cost, they pushed me into getting very defensive and holding my ground against them, especially if it's about a subject I definitely know better than they do.


Wait 6 years.


That's what the teen age is all about. Too old to listen, too young to know better, too healthy to learn the hard way.

In the years to come, your parental influence will get weaker and weaker. A natural process that you are not in a position to control. That's how a kid becomes an adult. It doesn't happen overnight and different elements of the adulthood don't always come in the most useful order.

You either spend your limited authority on tucking, or spare it for real problems like school attendance and likes.

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    Part of me feels hurt at reading "too young to know better", even though I know very well what you mean and the fact that it is definitely true for many children. I guess it just bites to remember relatives never believing me because of it, even when I was right most of the time.
    – Clockwork
    Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 9:22
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    @Clockwork Agreed. This actually seems like a case where the child knows much better than the parent, which is frequently the case when it comes to style and culture. I'm 29 and I still have older adults (mostly those in their 60's) treat me as a child who doesn't know anything. That kind of attitude is extremely toxic and counter-productive
    – Kevin
    Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 17:20

General advice: Avoid power fights. They are pointless, use valuable resources and burden relationships.

The only reason to impose rules on others — including our children — at all, in my view, are the same as in our society of free citizens at large:

  • Because parents are responsible for the well-being of their children they must prevent behavior that poses a significant risk to the children themselves. That is something that the general laws only do occasionally — we are allowed to free climb or base jump but we may keep our children from doing it.

  • Parents should prevent behavior which impinges on others' rights, including the right to be left alone and not be disturbed or annoyed. This includes, as an extreme case, putting others in danger.

The second point is the same very general principle that governs the laws we live by, starting with the constitution: We try to balance the right of the individual to live their life as they see fit with the potential negative impact of that conduct on others. It is perhaps surprising to some that I apply this principle to children but I think they too are essentially free individuals, to the degree possible. That the self-determination is not as all-encompassing as for adults does not change the general idea.

We can discuss this principle along this concrete example. For whatever reasons, your son likes to have his shirt untucked. Does this impinge on others' rights or well-being? To be honest, not really; but as others said, it may violate social norms, even at home. If that makes people who see the sloppy dressing really uncomfortable it may be a reason to tuck it in; but one could also argue that they are overly sensitive and that your son's right to dress as he pleases has a higher value. Which side "wins" in this balancing is not immediately clear; we should probably be more considerate of grandpa than of arbitrary strangers who don't like sloppy dressing. If grandpa insists and your son refuses he must stay at home.

The issue would be different if your son insisted on being naked; nudity is still a strong taboo. It is hard to argue that anybody is hurt by looking at a nude person, and indeed, for that reason legal challenges arise occasionally against an obligation to be dressed in public. But it is a fact that nudity elicits strong emotions that some people find uncomfortable, and for that reason alone it is considerate to not be nude in public after the age of three or so.

Of course, as other answers have rightly recommended, it is an important part of a child's (and, indeed, anybody's) education to make them aware of social norms, non-verbal communication, different social contexts (funeral vs. party) etc. A valid reason to ask the child to dress properly is also if that sloppy dressing is embarrassing to the parents. The degree of embarrassment again depends on the occasion; often I'd simply recommend to shrug and ignore it.

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    There's a saying, I can't remember where I heard it: "Your freedom ends where mine begin"
    – Clockwork
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 14:12
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    I like that this answer focuses on the "freedom" and "law" aspect of it, without diverging into education, authority and other points.
    – Clockwork
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 14:13
  • @Clockwork Sounds like a founding father's. Yes, it's the essence of my argument. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 15:11
  • @Clockwork I do mention education but do not restrict it to children ;-). I also mention law not so much because I want to argue that it governs (or should govern) our private relations; but because it is a written condensation of our values. Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 15:11
  • Am I crazy or do actual adults never care about "sloppy" clothing outside of places like strict corporate environments? We're not living in the 1950s anymore, no one cares at all. Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 23:46

The older a child gets, the less direct control you have over them, which means you have to lead more by example. The teenager must choose to obey --once he is out of your sight, you cannot enforce his behavior. Sometimes the children of the strictest parents are the most rebellious.

Your best bet is to give your child a positive reason to want to take pride in his appearance. In our house, during the pandemic, we've been doing "fancy dinner" once a week --we turn our dining room into a nice restaurant. In addition to being a break from the boring everyday, it's a chance to give the kids a fun way to practice their manners. We haven't been dressing up for it, but that would be an easy thing to add. You could also do things like mock job interviews. Even if he does not adopt it as part of his everyday dress, he will at least have it as a part of his repertoire if he ever needs it.

One last thought: If he is interested in girls (or boys, for that matter), maybe you could convince him that a neat appearance would make him more attractive --although who knows, perhaps his peers prefer untucked shirts (likely, if he doesn't favor them, as teens usually follow their peers very closely).

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    Crazy to me that having one's shirt tucked or untucked is the make or break factor between "taking pride in one's appearance" and being a "slob". Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 22:30
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    @AdamBarnes - I've never been much for having my shirt tucked in, personally. But then, no one has every accused me of neatness either. Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 23:01

He is probably past the age of taking things on faith from parents as "how we do stuff". Sure, you could.be coercive but as you rightly say, you don't want to - and it would be counterproductive. He's guided much more by his own sense of what he wants, and his peer group.

I'd suggest a frame change.

There are far more important battles to win than this, and why build any resentment that may harden things in another, more important matter some time? Why present yourself as someone who wants their view respected but can't even respect the autonomy and wish of your own son, as to how he wants to look?

Instead, be wise. When he gets a job, or a situation that dress really matters to him, he will change it all by himself - because it'll matter to him. Not to his mom/dad. Parents views on the correct way to wear a shirt - do you honestly think that's a 14 year olds big thing in life? Be the wise voice who trusts him, and knows when it matters he will do it anyway, so you don't have to. Use that to strike a bargain that covers what really matters -

"I know you like to dress your way. That's fine round your friends but I don't feel comfortable when you're like that in some settings. So when we're at [list of events] I'll remind you to tuck in, and expect you to. When it's just us or your friends, you do what you prefer. I think that's better than nagging, don't you?"


My son is 14, he is in a mild teenager revolution phase.

He started to leave the house in sport pants (not sure how this is called in English, in French we obviously have an English word for that that does not make sense at all: joggings). I said this is out of question, full stop. No transgression, no discussion, no haggling.

He was very unhappy but it was either that or not leaving the house. He then decided to have another thing out of order to make a point and I did not react. He tried a few others to see how far he could go and I did not react.

I then went to explain to him why I do not want him to leave the house wearing them. It was a rational explanation (as much as "sticking to some norms for his own good" can be rational) and he got it.

He also decided to go barefoot at home (we all wear socks mostly because of the cold). I was cold when I saw him and asked him to put some on. He did not want to, we had an "exchange" for a moment and I gave up. It was his small victory and I did not care in reality - just wanted him to be able to express himself somehow.

My advice would be to let him express himself up to the point where it can be a problem for him (not for you). He may not understand some norms, or not see their implications, or be in the "revolution!" mood, and he should have a way to express himself.

The limits depend on the place, country, culture, etc. and it is up to you to clearly set them and stick to them.

I usually say that my children live in some kind of antique arena: completely flat, large, where they can do anything - but with high walls that they cannot cross. They keep on probing them, but since there is plenty of space for them to roam around they do not insist that much.

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    @Clockwork: EDIT: I missed your point, sorry (and deleted part of the comment) I am keeping the fantastic reference for jogging: a British guy who talks about his life in France, this is the pat about the sport pants (youtu.be/Pae2AMnmUVA?t=3523). The whole show is worth seeing for someone who plans to come to France :) (the show is partly in French, partly in English, with subtitles)
    – WoJ
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 18:39
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    @Clockwork: (part 1) I was thinking about how to answer your comment, and it is not easy. In the place where I live, going out for more "formal" activities (that is not sport) in sport pants is more or less the equivalent to going to an office with a shirt and tie, and with Hawaii shorts. You can do it but ultimately you will be classified as "the weird one", not necessarily with malice but rather with the label "better not take that one with us". I know how conservative and condescending this sounds and the funny thing
    – WoJ
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 9:48
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    (cont'd - part 2) is that wearing goth clothes, or punk or anything else does not matter that much (I completely do not care). Sport pants are quite special as they classify you as someone who has no idea how dumb this is - and it only sport pants. They are closely connected to suburbs and their lifestyle, which is something problematic in the place I live. The thing is that this is not black and white as it seems ("the conservative, posh and nose-up city" vs "the popular, poor and aggressive suburbs"),
    – WoJ
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 9:48
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    (cont'd - part 3) it is more that people will be classified as the ones one can trust (it does not matter that they are goths today, they will be OK in the future because everyone has their rebellion phase), and the ones you cannot because you obviously are missing THE clue about local culture. Like I said this is quite difficult to explain.
    – WoJ
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 9:48
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    @Clockwork - I looked at it from the parents' point of view. They're the ones who bring up things unnecessarily, when they're supposed to be grown uo, and see the bigger picture.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 11:03

The problem is not a lack of discipline, since we are dealing with a stylistic/fashion issue. The problem is the slovenly nature of the society in which your son exists. Obviously, if all of his peers tucked in their shirts and looked down on anyone who did not, then he would tuck his shirt in. The problem is his social environment.

The only way to solve the problem, if indeed you really consider it to be a problem, is to change the environment he is in to one in which everyone tucks in their shirts, such as a military college, for example.

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    Or get him a cool belt he wants to show off, or get him to love suspenders. But alas, the question is about a uniform so those things are off the table.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 23:20

I suggest a two-part approach: Define boundaries, and make a deal with him.

Boundaries here mean identifying contexts in which shirt-tucking actually matters and those in which it doesn't. Discuss with him where the practice might be socially desirable (school, going to the opera, when he's out and about the town with you) and those in which it might not be necessary (when he's socialising with his peers, around the house, hiking in the countryside). (These are just random examples; you may disagree with any of them, or find that they do not apply to your life.) Come to a shared understanding of where and when, and where and when not, you or general social codes favour a tucked shirt.

Making a deal means offering him something he wants in return. It should be commensurate in value, and be 'good' both for you as individuals and for your relationship (not, for example, sweets), and also specific and limited, not 'fungible', so that it becomes a closed issue not expandable to other situations (money, for example, would be a bad choice, as it might tempt him, consciously or otherwise, to create similar situations to increase his revenue stream!). It could be something you already know he wants, or you can simply ask him: If you were to do this thing for me, what would you have me do for you in exchange? He might wish to be addressed differently, veto some aspect of your appearance when you are in public together, no longer be compelled to eat a disliked food but for which some substitute exists such that he won't starve or develop rickets. This might seem like a risky stepping-down from wholly justified parental authority, but communication is empty without agency on both sides. It will be for you to judge what minimum acceptable change you can trade with him for the invisibility of his shirt-tails. You will each have an equal freedom to suggest, reject, and accept elements of a deal, and to express what you consider reasonable (no trip to Disneyland for polishing his shoes). This is not a zero-sum transaction; both parties' positions are enhanced.

People in close relationships of any sort invariably have a list of peeves pertaining to one another. Sometimes hierarchy (at work), diplomacy (in marriage), or emotional immaturity (in children) prevent these from being expressed. If not in some others, in the latter case it is desirable that your son learns to express things that matter to him, to do so in a non-hurtful and solution-orientated manner. As a parent, it is important that you avoid the stress of butting heads with a person undergoing an exponential expansion of his private mental world.

Some issues, it must be borne in mind, may be irresolvable: Your choices will be between agreeing to disagree, or a permanent sense of frustration. The former course is to be favoured. Obviously, it is unlikely that shirt-tucking will fall into this category, but I mention it because such conversations can easily sprawl into other issues, reducing your chances of success either in having a calm discussion or in reaching a mutually satisfactory deal. Keep things specific, address distinct issues one at a time and not usually in the same sitting, and maintain as your yardstick of success that you both walk away not feeling that you've been manipulated into having had something taken from you, but happier in the belief that you've gained on your own chosen terms something you value - and made someone else happy in the process.


Dress appropriately for the occasion and follow social norms

The main structure for all kinds of details about dressing is to dress appropriately for the occasion and follow social norms. In this regard, overly formal is just as inappropriate as too informal. For a job interview at a traditional firm arriving with an untucked shirt would be considered inappropriate, but so would be arriving in a tuxedo and a top hat. And there certainly are industries and firms where arriving for a job interview in an jeans and t-shirt would be considered entirely appropriate, and arriving in a suit and tie would be considered too formal.

One important thing that needs to be resolved is whether "always tucked in" does actually match being dressed appropriately for the occasion and following social norms - by this, of course, I mean the social norms of the community/group where the son is spending his time, which plausibly are different from social norms in the parents' home; as the saying goes, when in Rome, do as Romans do.

The question seems to assume that "always tucked in" is equivalent to being dressed "properly", however, the described environment (of how the other boys in the community act) seems to indicate that perhaps it's not always the case, that in certain situations a tucked shirt is considered appropriate but in certain situations - possibly most everyday situations - a tucked shirt would be considered (by the community that matters, i.e. his peers) inappropriate, too formal. If that is true, then you would be mandating him to violate local social norms or change them, which most likely is not going to succeed.

The observation that there are some students that are always tucked in does not signify that it's socially okay to do so, it's plausible that they lose "social status" because of this. It's not trivial for an outsider (especially with a generation gap) to get a good understanding of what the exact nuances of social norms are in a community, I would presume that the son has a better understanding of what is appropriate in their community - just as I would presume that the parent has a better understanding of what is appropriate in other communities e.g. when visiting relatives or going to a wedding; I would suggest to focus the guidance on proper dress for occasions like these where the son is going out of "their" environment and in-group of peers.


This isn't about a tucked shirt, it's about respect for authority. If your 14 year old doesn't already have the respect for authority, and consider you a person in authority over him, you probably lost the fight a long time ago.

Bargaining with him will only show your weakness. If you had power, why would you need to bargain? He probably already has a sense that he's the one holding the power. You want him to comply and he isn't... so you bend your knee and beg (ie. start bargaining). He's the one in control and unless you're willing to jerk the control away from him, he's probably headed in a direction with lots of confrontations with authority that he will not be able to bargain with... ie. law enforcement, teachers, employers, etc.

Find what he values and pull them all away. Where does he get his spending money? if it's from you, cut it off. Who pays for his phone? If it's you, don't just take it away when he fails to comply. Drop the service on it until he goes a full 2 months in compliance. I don't mean turn the phone off or take it away, I mean terminate the service with the cell provider... forfeiting the number. Remind him of how his friends won't even have his number anymore. Does he have chores he's supposed to do? Triple them. If he doesn't have chores, no better time than now to lay them on him.

Kids these days have a sense of entitlement and parents are 100% to blame for it. They have a lack of respect for their elders and those in authority, again parents are to blame. If we, as parents, don't "jerk a knot" in our kids while they are young, they will struggle with making stupid decisions and the sometimes life-altering consequences of those decisions. They need a healthy respect for authority... whether they like it or not. And the foremost authority in their young lives should be their parents. Period.

A little rebellion is to be expected from time to time. Lord knows we all rebelled a bit when we were young. But, outright disrespect and flagrant disobedience must not be tolerated.

It's time to bring down the hammer and remind the boy that you love him, but you are the boss and there will be no questioning of that fact.

  • 4
    I strongly disagree with this answer. When she was a teenager, my fiancée was always being ordered how she was supposed to live her life by her relatives. She only started to feel better when she decided to live her own life, rather than blindly obey them. I definitely understand what you mean about authority, especially nowadays, but leaping into it without knowing what is going on, is going to be more destructive than anything.
    – Clockwork
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 9:56
  • 14
    Oh, this is terrible advice. You may achieve short term compliance, yes, but at the cost of a ruined relationship and a complete loss of respect. If this is the length you're willing to go over a tucked shirt I think there's a good chance that the kid will associate growing up with getting to decide how to dress, and never voluntarily tuck a shirt as an adult. I hope this is disqualified by OPs "non abusively"-caveat.
    – user36162
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 10:17
  • 7
    Either you are just trolling or you are confused. If the latter, your are confusing authority and power. A violent clown has power, but no authority. Wise parent don't need power, because they have earned authority. Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 12:56
  • 2
    Possibly. The question could certainly use some expanded details. Some take this as a fight over a tucked shirt. To me, it's more about respect for authority and obeying one's parents, with the shirt only being a symptom of a larger problem. From that perspective, I can only speak from my experience on how to successfully correct such behavior with tough love. It might not work for everyone, but that doesn't make it any less successful for me.
    – mikem
    Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 17:57
  • 6
    "The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers." - Socrates 470-399 BC (BEFORE Christ!!). I just felt forced to mention that one here.
    – Jessica
    Commented Feb 18, 2021 at 7:36

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