Let Them Dress Themselves

Picking out your kids outfits is fun, annoying and tiring all at the same time. We all want our little ones to be well dressed, comfortable and maybe even a little bit stylish. As hard as we try to make sure our kids look presentable, our kids try just as hard to make sure we know about their opinion of our clothing choices for them. My son came walking out of his bedroom the other day wearing camouflage overalls, rain boots and his San Francisco Giants Mike Yastrzemski jersey. My first thought was “what the **** are you wearing.” I took him into his room to change his clothes to something more “appropriate” and I came to a realization. What I realized in that moment was that my son was proud of himself for picking out his outfit, and I did not want to be the one who made him feel less for making those choices. I changed my mind and let him keep on his awesome outfit for the rest of the day.

If you do need to have a say in their clothing, try some of these strategies to mitigate issues:

  • Give them a few different choices for each article of clothing.
  • Make a deal. They don’t want to wear their jacket? Okay they don’t have to, but they do have to pack it with them just in case.
  • Natural consequences. Don’t want to make a deal? Okay, when they are cold this time they will figure out next time to bring a jacket (obviously if it’s literally freezing don’t do this).
  • If you’re going to a wedding or a some kind of fancy event, make sure you prepare them by laying their outfit out and letting them look at it so they have time to process.
  • Make sure you begin the dressing process early. If you know you have plenty of time until you have to leave, you are way less likely to freak out if they wear a tutu and sunglasses (and you’ll have time to work with them).
  • Reward them. When they do get dressed on their own, regardless of if they are wearing a tuxedo or camouflage overalls, reward them for doing what they think is right. As long as the outfit isn’t going to cause them harm or get you kicked out of a venue, you will survive.

It was really difficult to let go of control as a parent. We are taught that we are the authority figures in our children’s lives, that we need to guide them, set rules and boundaries. While we definitely need to be good examples for our children, controlling every single aspect of their lives benefits nobody. Something small, like letting them pick out some wild outfits, can grow their confidence and show them that we value their opinions and they are allowed to be their own people. We love our children very much and we want nothing more than to protect them from any hardship, but if we overdo it we have the exact opposite effect of what we are looking for. Beginning as toddlers, their brains start to figure out what they can do themselves and what they need to rely on us for. This article from verywellmind lays out a really interesting point of autonomy vs. shame and doubt during early childhood. The things we choose to let them do and the things we choose not to let them do have major repercussions on the decisions they will make for the rest of their lives.

The point of this message is not to make you stress about their decision making skills, it’s to know that by not stressing out about what they wear, you are honing your decision making skills. Life is hard, your kids will run into problems, but the important thing is that they know you are always there to support them and that you aren’t there to tell them how to live their lives. Yes, your kid might end up going to the park in a wetsuit or sleeping in snow pants, but the important thing is for them to know that their decision making is valid and can get them through life. This blog lays out a lot of great points of why you should let your kids dress themselves. Remember, you’re going to be okay, and so are they.

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