Dear Dr. Wallace:

I’m the mother of a 16-year-old daughter. She’s the love of my life but sometimes she drives me nuts! What gets under my skin is that she does ask me to borrow anything. She regularly dips into my makeup, my cologne and perfumes, my clothes and even my shoes! We wear nearly the same shoe size, and since her feet are just a touch smaller than mine, she can tighten up a few pairs of mine that have adjustable clasps and take off in them.

I don’t want to always lock up my room when I leave the house, but I don’t know what else I can do to keep her from raiding my private space. I’m at my wit’s end at this point, so do you have any suggestions for me? I certainly don’t want to start a big loud fight and alienate her from me over this.

— An exasperated mom, via email

Dear An Exasperated Mom: Communication coupled with clear ground rules is the key in this situation. You need to immediately sit down with your daughter and explain to her exactly what your rules are and why. Also, lay out whatever punishment you plan to enact if she persists in behavior that you have notified her in advance that is not acceptable.

Your letter did not mention what communication you’ve had with her about this topic to date, but in any case, I recommend that you start again fresh from here. Wipe the slate clean but be extremely clear right now what your rules and consequences are. I also suggest that you do allow her to borrow (or use and consume) a little bit of your items only with your explicit advance permission and with you present as she uses the products.

If possible, seek to turn this issue from an interpersonal conflict into an opportunity for a bit of mother/daughter bonding. However, once you set your rules, do not let them slide.

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.

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