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Coming to Terms with Fashion-Forward Kids

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It’s finally spring, so I guess it’s a good time to make a confession. I’m a bit of a fashionista. Having recently attended the inaugural Main Line Fashion Week fashion show, I’m thinking more about my warmer weather wardrobe—sans heavy woolen coat and shearling-lined boots.

So what is fashion really anyway? For me, the word embodies a unique marriage blending creativity and common sense. Magazine images of clothing in varying colors, fabrics and textures, worn in order to express a certain vision or mood, come to mind. The most important component of all: Clothing is an essential part of our everyday lives.

So what does this have to do with parenting?Photo: en.paperblog.com

Well, watching my three children experiment with their clothes in daily life or through games of dress up made me realize that choosing what to wear can truly be a sensory experience for them, too. Clothing is one of the first ways children learn to express their individual personalities.

If you’re a parent, think back to the first time you saw your daughter or son choose an outfit. The experience probably made you laugh or gave you a brief panic attack because the ensemble was at complete odds with the weather. Regardless of your approval, it probably made perfect sense to your mini designer. Who hasn’t seen their child don a T-shirt and shorts on a winter’s afternoon or a fancy, lace-adorned dress for playing at the park?

Letting children choose their clothing—while it may drive you closer to the brink of insanity—can help them feel a sense of independence in their otherwise grossly dependent lives.

When I only had one toddler, I thought these little power struggles meant a lack in my ability to parent properly. I’m supposed to be the boss, right? Now as a mom of three, I’ve learned to cut myself some slack and let them wear their choices with flair. I’m grateful for outgrown sales and the sale racks at the mall, which help make fun clothing picks affordable. Wardrobe experiments have almost become a way of life in our household, often giving my children more joy than some of their toys.

I asked some experts to weigh in on this situation, who largely agree there are great paybacks to allowing kids to exercise some creativity with their attire.

“In today’s fast-paced culture, we tend to regulate to such a degree that individuality is not allowed the necessary time and freedom to flourish,” says Dr. Chris Meyer, of Healthy Steps Pediatrics in Exton. “Simple acts like allowing children to choose their clothing allows for self-expression that can go a long way toward establishing confidence,” he adds.

Brandi Davis, a Philadelphia-based certified parenting coach, has a similar viewpoint, while highlighting the overall benefit to parents that comes from giving children such choices.

“Kids need to have opportunities to discover that they can.  Choosing clothes can be just that opportunity. When children have the liberty to choose their own clothes, it not only is a step in the good self-esteem direction, it is also empowering,” says Davis. “Empowered children tend not to push back as much. They feel respected, believed in and important. Small choices for kids, big rewards for both parent and child.”  

This may be a good perspective the next time you’re trying to get your strong-willed three-year-old dressed for pre-school or a day out.  

In my experience, I’ve given choices between the outfit my daughter wants and the one that makes more sense. If she still chooses that frilly dress for a park outing, I’ll let her know that it may be hard to slide down the slide or play on the see-saw. If she doesn’t relent, I may try a compromise by adding a pair of leggings underneath and a zip-up sweatshirt over top. The worst-case scenario is a quick change in the car or nearest bathroom. She will likely need to experience the consequences of being uncomfortable, hopefully ensuring she makes a more suitable choice next time.

The best advice I can offer, whether you have a strong-willed or go-with-the-flow child, is to let her flex those fashion designing muscles once in a while. In time, she may even want to take on some more helpful projects like making her bed, clearing the dirty dinner dishes from the table or feeding a pet.

 

Julia Sherwin is a freelance writer and mother of three who lives in Chester County. She is a former college journalism instructor who enjoys running, biking, swimming, traveling and cooking.

Email her at jsherwin73@gmail.com  and followe her on Twitter @JuliaSherwinPoPYou can also follow her other parenting articles at juliasherwin.wordpress.com.

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Photo: en.paperblog.com