I remember the first time I let my daughter dress herself. At three years old she had decided she was a big girl who didn’t need mommy’s help to pick out her outfit. Rather than argue the fact that her fashion sense was probably not yet developed, I decided there’d be no harm in allowing her to choose an outfit to go grocery shopping.
Reluctant to see what she’d picked out I peeked out of the corner of my eye and saw that my daughter had decided to wear a tutu from her ballerina costume, some colorfully patterned tights, rain boots and a sweater. Though I was desperately wondering what others would say about how she was dressed I decided, “what the heck, she’s three and trying to come into her own”.
Fast forward a few years later and my daughter has now reached adolescence. My fashion advice means absolutely nothing to her and she prefers to dress herself. Though I still don’t agree with all of her choices of style I will admit it’s a lot better than when she was three.
If you are dealing with a toddler or a teenager that is interested in dressing themselves. Here are some options you might consider trying to allow them to come into their own without going over the top.
Lead By Example
When your children are younger they look to you to give them guidance on everything. If you’re looking to sway their ideas on fashion then sometimes the best way to do this is not in what you say, but in what you do. For instance, if you’re trying to get your son to dress less like a gothic kid and more like a college bound student, then you might have your husband dress in preppy style clothing as an example.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that as a parent your child is going to test their limits. This is even true when it comes to wearing certain fashions. When you’re ready to allow your child to choose their own style of dress it is important to give a few rules so that they don’t dress inappropriately. For your daughter you might suggest that all dresses and skirts must be no shorter than three inches above the knees. While you don’t want to set so many rules that they can’t express themselves through their style, you do want to give boundaries that they cannot cross.
Compliments Are Necessary
No matter what your child might run down the stairs wearing it is important not to make them feel bad for their choice in clothing. As long as they’ve stayed within the boundaries you’ve set you want to support their efforts to express themselves through style. Find ways to compliment on their outfit or the concept so that they know freedom of expression is allowed and supported in your household.
Go Shopping Together
If you’re looking to bond with your child while also learning about their new sense of fashion then it is a good idea to go shopping together. Taking a monthly trip to the mall allows your child to see what fashions are available. As they’re making choices, find ways to give positive feedback on the things you’d like them to wear while not putting down the things they’d like to wear. You may find that you have a lot more in common than you think.
If your child’s sense of style is a bit over the top (too raunchy, not in line with school dress codes, etc) then you’ll need to find a way to compromise with them. This might mean allowing them to choose their own clothing on the weekends while you still have input on choosing their attire during the week.
As parents you want to always encourage freedom of expression as it is how your children learn how to express who they are and what they love most. When it comes to fashion and style, there’s nothing wrong with allowing your child to choose their own clothes as long as it’s within reason. As your child continues to grow into the awesome human being they are intended to be, it is important that they learn from you that there’s no shame in being who they are. Trust me, when you consider poor style decisions in the grand scheme of issues you’ll deal with in parenting a teen, this is likely a battle you don’t have to win.