The alarm clock rings and your little one insists on wearing his stained, too-small Spiderman shirt — for the fourth day in a row. While making a fashion faux pas isn’t life-threatening, you don’t want your kid to be teased. Nor do you want to be labelled a clueless parent.
“Consider your kids’ self-esteem before your own,” says Judy Arnall, a Calgary-based parenting speaker and the author of Discipline Without Distress. “It’s not a reflection of your parenting. They’re exercising their individual choice and that’s good.”
Temperament affects a child’s tendency to argue about outfits. Easygoing types will wear whatever you hand them. More intense kids are often more resistant to change and sensitive to textures. Here are some field-tested tips for dealing with a junior fashionista.
Trend-setting toddlers “I do it!” toddlers often say. Even if they can’t dress themselves yet, some insist on choosing their own clothes. To avoid wildly inappropriate choices, box away shorts in wintertime and sweaters in summer. Offer a choice of two items. But try to allow truly determined kids to wear what they like —and watch their self-esteem blossom.
Posh preschoolers Preschoolers exercise their power by choosing what they eat and wear. Don’t battle over clothing — you’ll lose. If your child truly needs to look spiffy, try problem solving together. Tell him, “I’d like you to wear this shirt for one hour so you’ll look nice in your picture.” Try to work out a compromise, such as letting him change into his favourite shirt right after the camera clicks.
Stylish school-agers From kindergarten to grade three, kids are all about fitting in with their friends. Most care what their buds think of their duds, which can be a good negotiating tool with a particularly stubborn kid. You could tell your child, “You can wear that bright Hawaiian shirt to school today, but you might get teased. It’s your choice.” With the decision in her own hands, your child is more likely to follow your sage advice.
The bottom line Letting your child choose his own outfits does mean you lose some degree of control. But the upside is that you’re building your relationship with him. When you do this, says Arnall, he’ll look to you for advice. It’s never worth fighting over clothes, hairstyles or bedrooms, she says. “Save your battles for bigger issues — like smoking!”