You’re rushing out the door, late for work and drop-off, and your kid is insisting on wearing the princess dress with ankle-socks and wellies or the super-hero costume with flip-flops! For the gazillionth day in a row! What to do? Should you let the kids dress themselves – yes or no?
The Importance of Freedom of Expression
When children reach a certain age, they start to have an opinion about what they want to wear on a daily basis. This can prove challenging for parents who, up to now, have enjoyed dressing them in a certain way, at a certain time, without fuss.
The important thing to remember, however, is that while your little ones are still kids, they are also growing people who are forming their own thoughts and beliefs about the world. With this in mind it’s essential to give them some freedom to express themselves without letting them take advantage of this new responsibility.
Sound challenging? Well, that’s because it is. Not only will they probably want to wear a Spider-Man cape to school which is totally not allowed, they might also want to wear pyjamas during a shopping trip!
Tip: give them freedom to express themselves but help to guide them gently with their choices if you can
Allow Choice, Limited Choice
This is your opportunity to set some ground rules and explain that they can wear what they like within reason. Try channelling their choices by saying they can choose whatever outfit they want as long as it’s a jean and jumper combo or a dress and tights – depending on the occasion, of course.
Or perhaps offer choices – the red sweater or the blue? Either that or compromise by laying three outfits on their bed and getting them to pick one – no arguments.
Tip: If the kids feel like they have had a say in their outfit, they will be less likely to do battle!
Confidence & Style
For some parents, letting their kids dress themselves is a win, win situation as it helps them develop both independence and style. It encourages them to use their brain, make decisive decisions and plan ahead according to the weather, event, occasion and such like.
Of course, kids will get it wrong. They might go out in summer wearing something too hot or in winter wearing something too cold but they have to learn somehow, right?
Tip: You might not agree with their choice of attire, but if they feel comfortable and confident in what they’re wearing, then that’s the most important thing for their self-esteem.
You might find A Parent’s Guide to Self-Esteem for Children useful.
Time and a Place
Okay, so there are many reasons why letting children dress themselves is a good idea, but while there are times you can relax and let them unleash their inner fashion diva, there are other times when guidance is definitely needed. If you’re chilling at home on a Sunday afternoon, for example, what’s wrong with letting your little one wear a Frozen fancy dress costume with basketball shorts and a straw hat? It’s creative after all :)
If they’re heading to school, however, ensuring they have a clean uniform on is a must. Students can get into trouble for breaking school rules so this is where discipline is needed. Believe it or not, many children actually like rules as it helps them to feel safe and secure, so don’t be afraid to stand your ground.
Being a parent can be a challenge, especially when your children go from being totally dependent on you, to suddenly wanting their own voice heard. The reality is, you won’t have complete control over them forever, so guide them as best you can, set boundaries when necessary, but also give them the freedom to experiment.
Tip: Set boundaries particularly for school but allow freedom at other times
Most children are eager to grow up quickly. And most love to copy the grown ups around them. But at what point is a heel too high? Or a style too sexy? When should a witty slogan raise concern rather than an eyebrow? Read our article on Kids Clothing: Where do we draw the line?
Tip: buy from recommended retailers that you can trust to let kids be kids.
Over to you now! Is it a good idea to let children dress themselves? Or, should adults lay down the law and dictate what they wear? What are your thoughts on letting kids dress themselves? Let us know in comments below.