Is It OK To Let Our Kids Choose Their Own Clothes?

My daughter and I are in an open dialogue about what she wears, and I plan to keep it that way
Today's children have more choice on what they want to wear than past generations, but is that a bad thing?
Nicki Kinickie
Today's children have more choice on what they want to wear than past generations, but is that a bad thing?

My mum and I got into a bit of a debate recently regarding clothes for children. She commented that she didn’t understand why parents allowed their young children to choose what they wore.

Born in the sixties, she remembers that as a child she had no choice in what she wore, and children’s clothes were of a certain (limited) style. She also pointed out that the children of today seem in some ways to be dressed as ‘mini adults’.

I hold my hands up, I myself am 100% that modern parent who likes to dress her daughter in the sort of clothes that I would wear. I do also allow my child, Savannah, to have a say in what she wears and am pleased that times have changed regarding fashion for kids (and expectant mothers too come to think of it).

While my mum wasn’t criticising the shift, she doesn’t understand it. Surely the child wears what they are told to, just as she was. End of. But while my daughter doesn’t buy her own clothes, I disagree with this concept, and feel this is actually about so much more than just clothing. It is about giving children a bit more choice and respect than they were allowed a generation ago, a chance to explore who they are, and an opportunity to be themselves.

Obviously with regards to fashion in general, times have changed dramatically; my mum was born in the decade where fashion really had its revolution and it has continued to grow as the decades progressed. In the years that followed, fashion and makeup became a form of self expression and liberation.

In today’s world, fashion is as big as ever. Of course, retailers clocked on to how much money they could make by producing mini versions of the adult clothing and shoes they already make, and parents were crying out for these items too.

Fashion and how we present ourselves to the world is something lots of us care about – it represents who we are. It is ingrained in us without us even realising it so wanting to dress our kids in the latest fashions is naturally going to be something we want to do. No doubt, it is probably one of the less important aspects of parenting, but it doesn’t hurt anybody, so what’s the problem?

For me, it’s about teaching my daughter that how we dress and present ourselves is important. Certain occasions call for her to wear certain styles of clothing – she also now understands that for sports activities or soft play she needs to wear comfy clothes and not a glittery dress. She knows that weddings and parties call for a dressier outfit and she must look smart for school. I am also more aware of the type of clothes she likes and in turn, the type of girl she is, and what she feels comfortable wearing.

Years ago, kids were not given so many choices. They were not seen as having their own feelings or opinions and adults made decisions for them. But I feel that giving your child the opportunity to make their own choices and have their own opinions while having your guidance teaches them to be assertive and confident in their own ability. Something that is detrimental when entering the world of higher education or work, even just adulthood in general.

When Savannah refuses to wear an item of clothing, I ask her why she doesn’t want to wear it, then we discuss it. Last summer she refused to wear shorts and once I realised this wasn’t a one off, it gave me an opportunity to point out that sometimes it isn’t suitable to wear a skirt, for example if going to the park to climb, and that shorts are more appropriate to wear. It also gave me the chance to teach her that all of her clothes cost people money and that her refusal to even try them meant loved ones hard earned cash was going to waste.

I intend on bringing up Savannah to know her opinions are valued and she can voice them confidently without being shot down. It is also important to me to offer her a valuable reason as to why sometimes her choice may be wrong so she doesn’t feel belittled and knows how to make the right choice next time.

I am a strict parent and passionately instill good behaviour, manners and respect in my child but in turn respect her as a human being too. She is a kind, clever, funny and independent little girl, and I want her to continue to develop those traits, which I feel is helped by letting her make her own choices now and then.

This post originally appeared on Nicki’s Lifestyle Blog.