We all want to encourage our kids to express themselves freely, and one of the most fundamental ways any of us can do this is through our clothes. Sometimes, though, you might not be too keen on their choices – when the colours really clash, for example, or they insist on wearing their Iron Man costume to Grandma’s birthday dinner. Should we be stricter about their wardrobes, asks Leanne, who is facing something of a struggle with her son.
“When do you start letting your kids choose their own clothes? My son is four and very determined to wear what he wants – he gets really upset if I try and make him wear something he doesn’t want to. (My sister’s wedding was a nightmare – he hated the outfit!) I want to encourage his individuality but if I leave it up to him, he picks some really odd combinations and often looks like he fell in the dressing-up box! Do I just put up with it and accept that we’ll get a few stares?”
Jessica Baxter – Real Home Truths
Jessica is an experienced writer and editor living in Cape Town, South Africa, where her two toddlers provide all the inspiration she needs for her blog. She enjoys sharing her no-filter views and experiences of motherhood – both the mess and the magic. You can read more at Real Home Truths or find her on Instagram as @realhometruths.
Let them be kids, says Jessica – being able to wear what you like without judgement is a wonderful thing.
“Both my daughter and son love to choose their own outfits and yes, they often look ridiculous – in fact, my son loves to wear his sister’s clothes. And yes, I let him! They’re just experimenting, testing boundaries, trying to express themselves – I think it’s absolutely harmless and also important.
“Of course, if it’s a wedding or other event you need to explain that there’s no choice, but once they’ve done their duty they can change into something else. Often these things are just passing phases. My son’s penchant for pink, for instance – he refused to wear anything but his sister’s pink dresses. After a few months he moved on and now he’s into dinosaurs, although he still loves pink.
“I think the best part of being a kid is being able to express yourself freely without worrying about what other people think. I wish we had the same confidence!”
Holly Olugosi describes herself – tongue firmly in cheek – as a ‘cool stepmum and dream wife’. She started her blog after she realised she was writing a lot of very long Facebook statuses all about parenting. A place where she says what everyone else is thinking about parenting but is too polite to say, The Prime Mumister has gained a loyal following – read it at https://www.facebook.com/ThePrimeMumister/
Find a balance, advises Holly – give him some leeway and he’ll be more likely to accept your choice when it matters.
“My eldest son is five and often likes to choose his own clothes. Before he was born, I was absolutely certain my child would resemble a Zara Kids advert and under no circumstances would any superhero, dinosaur or cartoon character appear on his clothing. I was wrong, wrong, wrong!
“Eventually, people started buying him things and it was hard to keep a real hold on what he did and didn’t wear without either a) wasting perfectly good clothing and b) coming across as some kind of anti-kid control freak. Nowadays, we find the balance by allowing him to choose his clothes on days when it doesn’t really matter. If we’re off to soft play or he’s going somewhere fun for the day, we tend to let him choose – it’ll only get messy anyway, and it gives him the freedom to start making his own choices.
“Also, this way, when we have more formal events where we want him to look smart, we’re able to explain that we are wearing smart clothes because we’re going somewhere very special. There’s no manual for this stuff, but this is what we find works for us!”
Safwan Hak is the founder of KinBox, which he started because he believed there was a need for a family forum that offered a mix of advice, topical stories, and emotional and/or inspirational personal experiences. A dad of three, he lives with his family in Essex, UK, and believes a male perspective is equally important when it comes to parenting issues.
It’s important for children to learn there are boundaries, says Saf – and sometimes, this means laying down the law.
“While we want our kids to have their freedom and express themselves in every aspect of their childhood, we need to remind them that there are certain norms one must follow, especially on important occasions. A wedding, for example, is not one where my child would have a choice; I’d sit him down and explain to him that this event is special, and we need to be considerate of those who invited us.
“As for other occasions, it all falls down to being appropriately dressed. As a father of two girls, I insist they wear something that is respectful. I have no problem with them wearing bikinis at the beach, but I wouldn’t support a similar outfit at the mall.
“And when it comes to a horrible choice of clothes, I often say – ‘If you met Prince Harry or your favourite pop or movie star, is that what you would wear?’ More often than not, it isn’t.”