Is That What You’re Wearing?!?!?!?

You cannot wear that! Go change!

Pull up those pants and tuck in your shirt!

Your skirt is just too short to wear out in public! What will people think?

You are not leaving the house wearing that!

Turn right around and go put on some decent clothes! What are you thinking?

Get your hair cut!

Pull your hair out of you eyes and off your face!

As you read this list, whose voice do you hear? Your mothers? Your fathers? A grandparent Your own voice? What was the battle you had with your own parents about the clothes, hats, or shoes you chose to wear? I don’t believe you if you tell me you had none. This parent-child battle over wardrobe choices has been going on forever!

When I was a child bell bottom jeans and short, short skirts were all the rage for teenage girls. Boys wearing their hair long, shaggy and unkempt was also in fashion. Google pictures of The Beatles or the model Twiggy to see pictures for yourself. Parents, including my own, were not fans. Teens were accused of being disrespectful for wearing such clothes. It was not unusual to hear young people referred to as dirty hippies or worse. It was equally common to have many high schoolers leave their home wearing clothes acceptable to their parents, only to change to another outfit entirely somewhere between home and school. I am told that this same practice is alive and well with teenagers today.

I’m guessing that the wardrobe choices of your generation were not the same as mine. But I am sure you had your own styles and fashions that were equally unacceptable and reviled by your parents and other adults.

Surprise! You are now the parent. And you are now facing your own similar battles with your child. For those of you with younger children the battle is probably less intense and not as loud. I am sure that you are having the battle none-the-less.

Take a minute to self-evaluate. How do you think you are handling your differences of opinions with your teen regarding wardrobe and makeup choices? (or maybe pre-teen or younger?) Are you asking what your child wants and listening to her answers and opinions?

Have you been able to arrive at an acceptable compromise between you? Or are you shouting using some of the phrases from the beginning of this article? Do you sound like your own mother or father when they spoke to you?

Remember that we are all born with the needs for power and freedom. And teenagers are especially driven by their need for freedom (from you, your rules and opinions) and the power to choose what is right for themselves. One of the places in your child’s life (and subsequently in your life) is the power and freedom to make their own choices about the clothes and makeup they wear, the hats worn or not, their shoes, boots, and so on.

Add on to this, children have the need for love and belonging. And during their teen years they want to be accepted and acceptable to their peer group. This includes wearing what everybody else is wearing! Our teens are making fashion choices not only to meet their needs for power and freedom, but also driven by the urge to fit in and belong with their friends including their “wanna be” friends.

This is all complicated by your own opinion and beliefs about what your child is wearing.

Some parents worry (and have worried for generations) that their daughters are dressing in a sexually provocative or promiscuous style. This may or may not be true. However, your knowledge, experience and wisdom regarding sexuality is much more sophisticated than your daughters.

Please do some research. What are other girls wearing? Are the acceptable and common styles continuing to become more sexual? Some girls, feeling uncomfortable with this trend have decided to start dressing in shapeless, genderless styles wearing baggie pants, jerseys or sweatshirts. For some of these teens their parents (frequently the mothers) complain about a daughter who chooses this style. Let me reassure you though, that your child’s understanding and appreciation of dressing so provocative is not at the same sexual level you fear and perceive. She just doesn’t see it, understand it, or get it at the level you do.

Look around and get informed about the style and fashion of your child’s peer group. That doesn’t mean you must agree or accept that. You do need to understand, appreciate and seek a compromise between your desires and hers. Remember she is much more likely to be dressing to be accepted and acceptable than to be sexual.

Adding to the complication is your worry and concern about your own reputation. Most parents see their children as a reflection of themselves. This includes how your children look.

Whether you are conscious of this or not, you probably worry what people will think about you as a parent if your adolescent son is wearing his pants so low his underwear is completely on display and breaking into a run is physically impossible because of his droopy pants.

The reality is that our children had to follow our wardrobe choices for them when they were infants and babies. Children had no choice and also had no awareness that there was a choice to be had. We has to physically dress them and we chose what they wore.

However, when your child approaches his second birthday he will begin to have opinions, preferences and sometime demands about what he will and will not wear. This expression of self thorough wardrobe choices continues daily for a life time. Part of our parenting job includes helping our children learn to make these choices responsibly — in ways that help the child meet her needs in ways that don’t interfere with other people’s ability to meet their needs — and respectfully — taking into account the feelings and opinions of the relevant people.

This doesn’t mean that you have to have a debate or compromise conversation every day about every choice or decision. However, having debates and compromise conversation about wardrobe choices is essential no matter your child’s age. Learning to do this together during the less critical and stressful times means you will arrive at better solutions during those important times.

Here are some tips to help:

Go through your child’s wardrobe and together decide what are the school appropriate clothes, the special occasion clothes, and the play clothes. If possible arrange the closet and bureau drawers accordingly. Be sure to include shoes, boots, hats, coats and jackets in your sorting.

When a big event approaches (wedding, recital, or some other occasion where your family is going to be seen by people you care/worry about) decide well in advance what each member of the family is going to wear. Be sure to be honest with your child telling her that it is important to you that she look her best as defined by Mom, not necessarily defined by her or her friends. Work together to create a compromise outfit.

Choose your battles. I know this is cliche, but it is cliche for a reason. Decide what area of your child’s wardrobe or fashion look where you are going to KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. You may not like what your child is choosing but also know this choice is not going to hurt your child or anybody else. It is not dangerous. You just don’t like it. Keep your opinions and thoughts to yourself.

During my son’s teenage years this area was the length of my children’s hair.One child wanted to wear his hair long and messy. I was not a fan. The other chose a crew cut. Again, I was not a fan. I was also aware that my sons were choosing very different hair styles from one another because they re identical twins Each wanted to carve out his individual style. Unfortunately for me I did not like the choice that either made. And I kept my opinion to myself. After all hair will grow back or can be cut. This was not a dangerous or permanent decision that either was making.

When it came to choosing a tattoo I did not remain silent. I told my sons that making the permanent decision about a tattoo now may have unintended consequences for later in their lives. They might decide to go into a job or profession where having a tattoo was unacceptable.

I told them when they turned 18 years of age, they could make their own decision about getting a tattoo and would not need parental consent. They agreed and each got a tattoo not long after their 18th birthday. They did each choose to get their tattoos in an area that could be covered with clothes.

Remember that this too shall pass. As I said earlier, during teen years when the battle of style and wardrobe becomes particularly intense, your child is attempting to express her individuality and uniqueness through her wardrobe choices. This helps him to meet his need for power and freedom. The more you disagree, argue, nag, command and demand the less likely you are to get what you want and to help your child. Please see this issue as the area where together you continue to express your differences and respectfully work out compromises that you both can abide by and live with. This is Peaceful Parenting in action.

Dr. Nancy BuckAnd, please remember I am always ready and available to help you. Purchase your one hour coaching session here.Having someone to confide in and share your unique parenting experiences is such a relief and gives you tools to use in situations such as the above (and there are many similar experiences that we can go over in our call as well). I look forward to hearing from you.