Winning the Clothes War
By: Jennifer Lubel
When my son turned three, he developed a preference for the color yellow.
For at least a year, he HAD to draw with a yellow crayon or a yellow marker and always chose the yellow lollipop after his ordeal at the doctor’s office or at the kid’s haircut place. And, he HAD to wear a yellow shirt every day. Not only that, they had to be short-sleeved shirts.
All through the long, cold winter of 2010, my son was the only three-year-old chirpily running around his daycare with a short-sleeved shirt. And no, he never got sick. But I did get some interesting stares from the parents of his daycare chums.
I felt a lot better at a recent birthday party, when the mother of twin girls told me that one of the girls only ever wore purple. And the other twin wouldn’t get up in the morning unless there was a pink dress waiting for her.
So, I thought with a sigh of relief, It’s not just my kid. Eventually I accepted my son’s clothing choices, even if the three or four yellow shirts he owned continued to fray and accumulated some stains. Alex for the most part, is a good kid, I reasoned. If this was the only battle awaiting me, then I’d choose another one that was more worthy of my time.
Some parenting experts and moms seem to be onboard with this philosophy. Susan Tordella, a parenting expert, speaker and author of “Raising Able: How chores cultivate capable confident young people,” has some simple advice on this topic: back off.
“Empower your child and cheer on their creativity. Trust that they know how hot or cold they are. Trust that they know the clothing standards at school and with peers. You will reduce stress and improve your relationship with them,” she advises.
Others might think I’m allowing my child to walk all over me and that I’m not setting up enough ground rules. Connie Ozdil, founder of Amisol, maker of sun-protective clothing for children, and mother of two sons, believes it’s important to set up boundaries for children–even with clothing.
“I remember growing up I was not allowed to wear very tiny miniskirts and shorts, and I might not have liked it, but that was the rule. Children nowadays have too much freedom and access to other things much more than before. Things might escalate to other things if we as parents don’t set up ground rules,” she says.
Aricia LaFrance, a therapist and parenting coach with grown children, suggest some simple ways to work through clothing issues with your child. In dealing with a child who enjoys short-sleeved shirts in wintertime, “choose a few fun activities your child loves. Then as you’re getting ready to leave, give choices.” Such as: “Oh, it’s cold out. Did you want to wear the blue sweater or the yellow sweatshirt?” “Did you want to carry your jacket or wear it?” “And guess who can’t go with you unless you have on something warm?”
“Do this a few times until the child gets used to the idea that fun comes with proper dress,” she suggests.
It’s also a good idea to check to see if there’s a problem associated with a particular type of clothing, LaFrance says. Perhaps the child feels sick when he or she gets too warm, and feels constricted in a sweatshirt. “Maybe sweaters are scratchy or the tag in his jacket pokes him in the side. These problems can be easily resolved.”
We recently had a breakthrough in the shirt department. Alex has started accepting shirts in other colors. While he still prefers short sleeves, we’ve come to a compromise: long-sleeved hooded sweatshirts. He seems to like those better than long-sleeved shirts. Why this is, remains a mystery to me. At least he wears a warm coat and boots outside. Bring on the snow.
Do you wage war over clothes in your house– whether it’s what’s appropriate in terms of style, length, level of warmth? How do you handle? Is it a battle worth fighting? We want to hear from you!
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