Give your child a choice in what they wear

YOU ARE set for a family trip to an open farm and your daughter wants to wear a frilly, ankle-length princess dress. You think she’ll look ridiculous and tell her so.

Give your child a choice in what they wear

Is it worth battling with your children over their clothes choices? Children need to grow a sense of self – who am I? What do I like? What do I not like? says parent coach Val Mullally.

“Instead of locking antlers, parents need to see this as a healthy sign of a child’s developing sense of independence, part of their growing into maturity,” she says.

A good question to ask, says Mullally, is ‘what really matters here?’ In the case of your farm-bound princess dress-clad daughter, what matters most?

That you think she’ll look silly or that she wants to creatively express herself today?

But you might have to take a firmer line if your child’s wearing flimsy clothing in near-zero temperatures.

Hold back, says Mullally — rather than clashing, suggest she wear the dress outside for a while.

“She might very quickly decide on wearing something warmer. In this way, you help your child develop their own judgement and make healthy decisions. It’s about much more than her catching cold — it’s long-term, about her learning judgement in situations.”

Even when your child’s vetoing his school uniform, see things from his perspective.

“If you’re not emotionally present, take a moment to breathe and ground yourself. Reflect back to your child — in a calm, steady voice — what he’s saying: ‘so I hear you don’t want to put on your school uniform right now’. Wait for him to acknowledge this and then ask: ‘tell me more’,” says Mullaly.

You may get important information, says Mullally.

“He might say ‘I’m just too hot in this sweater’ or ‘my shirt is too tight’ or ‘so-and-so is teasing me’. By opening up the listening space, you hear things on a deeper level.”

What if your child wants to wear what you feel is an inappropriate outfit (perhaps frayed, torn jeans) to a formal event, like a family christening.

If you can predict this scenario, prevent it happening by offering the child a choice between two or three appropriate outfits/combinations. Having a choice helps a child feel more in control.

“We all need choice. Very often, a child gets resistant if he feels he doesn’t have any,” says Mullally.

What’s important is not to get involved in a power struggle — remember, ‘the more I persist, the more you resist’. “Think of yourself as being like Teflon – things fly off you – rather than Velcro where you get stuck”


* Buy dress-up clothes in charity shops to allow children experiment with clothes.

* Have range of clothes that children can choose from everyday.

* Have low hanging rail so children can reach it independently.

* Teach them to organise their clothes – dirty items in laundry basket, fold and put away clean ones.

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