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The Kids Clothes Battleground: You're Not Going Out Like That!


by Katriena Knights

We've all heard it--on a TV show, in a movie, or coming out of our own mouths--"You are not leaving this house looking like that." Whether it's too much make-up, clothes that seem too adult, or pants that hang so far down that everyone knows what brand of underwear your son wears, the battle over your child's appearance is a universal one.

Though the problem of kids' clothes and make-up is generally associated with teens, the difficulties start earlier and earlier these days. Even my ten year-old daughter's new fifth grade teacher brought up too-revealing clothing and make-up as a growing issue in her classroom.

So what's the parent of a pre-teen to do? It's hard enough to choose your battles during a time when children are becoming more and more independent. How a preteen chooses to present herself is an important part of that independence. But at this age, and bombarded with different messages from parents, the media and peers, it's hard for kids to work out what is and isn't appropriate.

How can parents guide their children through these decisions without creating additional conflict in a relationship naturally already fraught with it? The key word here is guide. If you can offer suggestions and options rather than inflexibly laying down the law, your results are likely to be more satisfactory, with less friction between you and your child.

Act as a Role Model
Though preteens can be famous for not wanting to do anything their parents do or endorse, modeling appropriate attire can't hurt. Even when they're actively rebelling, our kids pay more attention to us than we might realize. If nothing else, modeling a more moderate look can bypass the argument of, "You do it--why can't I?"

Work With Your Child's Interests
While often a current trends and celebrities are cited as poor models for make-up and clothing choices, sometimes it can go the other way. Find out what your child likes and cater to that in a way that helps your cause.

For example, my daughter started wearing Converse high-tops almost constantly because Will Smith, her favorite actor, wears them in the movie I, Robot. As we coordinated outfits with the high tops, we found a variety of cute combinations, from brightly sporty to surprisingly feminine.

With the retro look so popular, your own middle school wardrobe can provide a starting point. My best friend's daughter raids her mom's collection of 80s concert T-shirts, and they shop for clothes with a 70s or 80s look to round out her clothing selections. Tying clothes your children wear to trends or celebrities they enjoy, and which you approve of, can give them more of a feeling of connection to the choices you make together.

Be Willing to Compromise
As with any issues involving your kids, pick your battles. Don't put your foot down over an otherwise appropriate outfit just because you don't like the color or style. Save those battles for clothes you really feel uncomfortable having your child wear. Make suggestions, but if your child is determined to have a certain item, be willing to bend.

If it's something you don't think will get much wear, or that's outside your normal budget, suggest that your child pay all or part of the price out of his or her allowance. I did this with my daughter when she wanted roller skate tennis shoes. I paid the amount I normally would have paid for her for tennis shoes, while she paid the remaining amount with her allowance. Or suggest that you'll buy the item your child wants if she'll promise to also wear another item that you like.

Be Creative
Overall, if you can find ways to compromise and be imaginative about a wide range of possibilities for your preteen's clothing, much conflict can be avoided before it develops. Most of all, use this as an opportunity to strengthen your bond with your child, and to learn more about her and her interests. Increasing this bond through compromise and mutual respect can only be beneficial as your child grows into an adult you can be proud of.

Categories: Tweens, Children, Feature Stories, Newsletter,

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