March 2012 Parents magazine

How to Avoid Clothing Wars With Your Kids

Parents magazine March 2012Gone are the days of sweet dresses with Mary Janes. If your tween-ager is asserting her independence through her wardrobe, here’s how to make it work.

I fear what it will be like when she’s eight. My three-year-old has such a strong opinion about her clothes now, and I’ve been told it only gets worse. My first child was a precious baby boy, so when my daughter was born, I was so excited about shopping for little girl clothes. I’ve never been that into pink or bows, but there are so many more choices for little girls than guys. For a while, it was fun. And then one day last summer, my little one decided one day that she’d never wear a dress again. Her brother, who’s 18  months older than she is, hung the moon in her eyes. And if he was wearing shorts–she was too.

An article in the March 2012 issue of Parents magazine proves helpful to anyone who, like me, negotiates every morning with a strong-willed fashion critic. More than anything, the experts reaffirmed what I already knew: It’s not about the clothes as much as the independence.

“Kids are establishing their own identity and separating from you, and this is a safe, easy way to start asserting their autonomy,” says Susan Stiffelman, a licensed psychotherapist and author of “Parenting Without Power Struggles.”

Here were some of her tips on avoiding a style showdown:

Choose a store together: I’m still in the stage of making all the purchasing decisions while my daughter gets to choose her outfit each morning. But older kids want a say in what you buy. So before you go shopping, agree on the stores you both like. If either of you dislikes most of the clothes at a particular shop, it’s best to just avoid it, according to this article. While you’re shopping, try to be hands-off, letting her make decisions on her own.

Set a clean-clothes rule: Some kids like to find an outfit and stick with it, which makes getting dressed easy in the morning–even if a little less than clean. To avoid the overwearing issue, make a rule that pants and shirts must be washed after each wear. The article also advises giving in a little. If your little boy loves a navy T-shirt, then pick your battles. Buy him a few extra and be glad that’s your biggest issue at the moment.

Decide what’s appropriate: It doesn’t matter how many times I see it; my mouth drops when I see clothes at the store in a size 2T that would be more appropriate for prostitutes. It isn’t our imagination. The article points to a recent Kenyon University study that found almost 30 percent of clothes sold for girls had sexy traits like sheer fabric or a revealing cut. This is a slippery slope for girls. If you give in to your third grader, the argument will be even more difficult when she’s a ninth grader. Decide what’s appropriate for your family and stick to it.