Yesterday, my 7-year-old daughter (who may actually be a 17-year-old living in a 7-year-old body, I’m not sure), came into the kitchen for breakfast dressed in a long-sleeve black sweater with flip sequins, fire-engine red leggings that have a gaping hole in one knee, bright blue and teal polka-dot socks, and hot-pink sneakers. She completed the look with an oversized sparkly purple JoJo Siwa bow in her hair and a teal-and-purple tie-dye mask. Now, the mismatch aside, if you’re reading this in September, know that my daughter was dressing for triple-digit temperatures in August. Yep— I nearly started sweating even looking at her ensemble. Did I question her clothing choice? Heck yes!— in my head. Did I say anything to voice my thoughts or order her upstairs to change? Nooooo. Why? Because years ago I decided to wave the white flag in any getting-dressed battle, and as back-to-school season kicks into full gear, I’d love to encourage you to let your kids start picking out their clothes and getting dressed themselves too— if you don’t already.
Admit it: it can be hard to watch your kids select crazy outfits, or dress entirely inappropriately for the season/weather, BUT, research and doctors show that allowing kids to start choosing their clothes starting in preschool, and dressing themselves, promotes confidence and independence, and allows them to practice asserting themselves (as if they don’t enough, amiright?!). And, as most of us moms know–or learn the hard way–it’s MUCH easier for everyone if you can allow kids choices versus directives, and in my opinion, what my kids wear has little– if any– impact on my life.
But, if you’re having trouble letting go of picking out your kids’ outfits, here are my top five reasons for considering changing your ways (#punintended). (Sidenote: If your kids wear uniforms to school, perhaps this will help reduce weekend-wear battles.)
So, why let your littles–or not-so-littles– choose their apparel, and dress themselves (yes, backward, inside/out, or wrong-foot shoes and all)? Because, in my experience, doing so:
- Encourages creativity. What better way to help your kids express themselves outwardly than by choosing their outfit? Many business leaders believe that creativity is the number one skill needed in tomorrow’s workforce.
- Deepens self-discovery/identity building. Kids have a lot of choices to make, or discoveries to unearth if you will, in terms of identifying and building who they are. Allowing them to get dressed without any guidance or input from you is a way to allow them to tap into who they are on the inside. I personally believe the more we can help our children make decisions based on what they want and think instead of what others think or expect of them, the stronger and more authentic generation of humans we’re raising.
- Promotes ownership and their power to make choices with their body. This is a big one. In my opinion again, kids need to learn that they have power and ownership over their bodies, and I feel that letting kiddos pick their clothes is an easy way to foster this sense of empowerment, making it that much easier for kids to get comfortable saying “no” or protecting their bodies from anything that makes them feel their boundaries are being crossed in the future. I know, it’s a serious point and an unfortunate one to have to think about as a parent, but it’s a point that deserves consideration, right?
- Makes for WAY less hassle in the mornings. Can I get a fist-bump and an amen? If you want to insert a bit more calm into your weekday mornings, and you’re not already letting your littles chose their clothes, OMG, Friend, get onboard! I’m all about you doing you as a parent, but this is SUCH an easy win. Yes, choosing one’s clothes could mean it takes your child longer to decide on an outfit and actually get dressed, but that problem is easily diffused (well, maybe not easily, but theoretically easily diffused) by getting your child in the habit of laying out an outfit the night before. PS, for “Five Tips on Speeding Up Your Morning Routine,” click here.
- Finally, self-selecting and dressing themselves helps kids learn that actions and decisions have consequences. I vividly remember my same aforementioned daughter’s epic tantrum when she was three years old and didn’t want to wear a jacket, despite the near single-digit temps outside. (Sidenote, again: Yes, I realize she apparently has an aversion to correctly dressing for the weather). I had her on the floor of the Dallas Jewish Community Center, where we lived at the time, kicking and hitting me and the ground as she fought to resist putting her pudgy arms in the puffy jacket holes. Eventually, sweating and near tears myself, I relented and pushed her outside in the stroller without a coat. Was she cold? Probably. But was I cold? No. I realized then that her choice not to wear a jacket had no impact on me, unless I fought her on that choice. She was cold, not me! And a few minutes later, predictably and I’m sure, relatably, she did quietly ask for her jacket. Kids will learn if they need to dress more warmly–or less warmly, in my recently sweater-clad daughter’s case. This will strengthen the decision-action-consequence loop without you or your child losing their minds.
Whew! There you have it. By the way, my kids are now 4, 7, and 7 years old, and fully able to dress themselves except for the occasional tricky zipper, but if you’re reading this wishing your kid could get his dang shirt and shorts on solo, this is a good article to get you going down that road. And then, just smile and look the other way when your tiny humans burst into the kitchen in a mix of neon, polka dots, stripes, shoes on the wrong feet, and parkas in the summertime.