Regardless of age, children are prone to want to do everything themselves, right down to the clothes they wear. Although your knee jerk reaction may be to keep a handle on what your kid wears (a tutu in the middle of winter isn't a great choice, no matter how excited they are, it might be a good idea to take pause. But before you rule out all of your kiddo's impractical decisions in the matter of what to wear, knowing the different messages you send when picking out your kid's clothes is important.
When you take full control over what your child wears, you could unintentionally be letting them know that you don't approve of their choices or that you don't trust them. Of course, not every message is a negative one, and believe it or not not, there are ways to pick out clothes for your child in a positive and empowering way. In an interview with Romper, Maureen Healy, author of Growing Happy Kids, suggests that choosing clothes is very dependent upon your child's age and development stage. There are ways to do it well and ways to do it in a potentially harmful way.
Parenting is a strange mix of empowering your child to make their own decisions and trying to avoid the constant embarrassment that often accompanies bringing a small child, well, anywhere. Whether you're a "relaxed" parent who has let their child choose their own clothes since they were able to put them on, or prefer for your kids to look at least a little bit put together, you're sending your child messages each time you do or don't pick out their clothes for them.
1"You Still Need My Help"
According to Healy, for younger children, assisting them with picking out their clothes sometimes sends them a message that they can make some choices on their own, but sometimes, they still need help. This message, of course, is specific to young children and will quickly turn more negative as they grow older.
You don't have to feel like you're crushing your child's spirit by giving them more practical suggestions for what to wear. "If a child is wearing a tutu and it's five degrees out, ask 'How can we choose something that keeps you warm?'" Healy suggests. "I love your outfit, but it seems not to be a perfect match for the weather.' The goal is to connect with your child and coach him or her to pick something more suitable." Or you could always let her keep the tutu on, over her snowsuit.
Although it is certainly important to let your child express themselves through their clothing, it's important to teach them what is and what isn't practical for everyday life.
2"I Believe In You"
Although allowing your child to pick out their clothes can seem to be a chore, Healy notes that when done correctly, it can teach your child that you have faith in their decisions. "If a child is attending school (preschool and up) I believe they benefit from learning to place clothing options out the night before, and choose their own clothes with parental final say the day of school."
This habit gives your child freedom to be creative and express themselves, but also teaches them that as their mom, you can help them choose what is most appropriate for each day.
3"I don't Trust Your Choices"
The worst case scenario when picking out a child's clothes, is that you'd send the message that you don't trust their choices or value their personal style. This is especially true once your child leaves the toddler phase and enters elementary school. An article from Parents notes that choosing your kid's clothes can go one of two ways, and the line isn't always an easy one. It's typically best to err on the side of giving them more freedom at the risk of them looking a bit silly (or you know, like the three year old they are), than to force them into clothes they don't love from an early age.
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