The fashion police are sure to take me into custody any day now. It’s my girls. They have insisted on picking out their own clothes since they were about two and a half. We’ve worn (well not me) dance recital costumes with cowboy boots to the store, dresses and shirts backwards – “just so you know your shirt is on backwards, that’s ok, but do you want to change it?” Generally the answer is no, and so we leave it that way. I would see other little girls dressed so cute in adorable outfits and feel a little pang “this is the only time in their lives where I will have the opportunity to dress them like this” and “this isn’t fair I have two and one at least should let me dress them”. I wish I could say that taking them shopping with me and allowing them to pick out their clothing helped. It didn’t. Even giving them outfit options didn’t work, they wanted full control. The more mix matched the better.
Initially I gave a little push back on their clothing choices – that lasted about 15 minutes. I decided quickly that this was not “The Hill” I wanted to die on. I have one that would probably let me pick out her clothes, but her sister isn’t having any of my input – and as you know obstinate behaviors in children are contagious. I knew I would have bigger battles to navigate with them in the future, and this one was not worth it. My only rule was that if we went out of the house, whatever they chose to wear must be appropriate for the season.
I also quickly realized that their little fashionista side wasn’t all that bad. I found that the girls were more likely to get moving and dressed if they were in charge of the task. The surest way to get the independent dresser dressed and moving in the morning is to tell her I’ll be picking out her clothes. To which I get a “nooooooooooooo!” But beyond getting them moving, giving your child some independence when it comes to dressing also has other benefits.
Self-esteem & self confidence
All young children want is to do things themselves, or at least try 100 times before letting you help. This is a huge confidence booster for bigger tasks ahead. The world is not going to come to a screeching halt, nor is anyone going to think that you are a bad parent for letting your child walk around in unmatched clothing. So let them build their self-esteem and self-confidence with a harmless task like this.
There are days that I feel like the FBI’s top negotiator would be seriously challenged trying to negotiate clothing options for the girls. I lay aside all the pattern clashes going on and only put my foot down when their choice is not appropriate for the season. If they pick a summer dress and it is winter, then a shirt and leggings must go under it.
Self-sufficient and Independent
Any parent of multiples will tell you that getting multiples self-sufficient and independent in tasks early on is the key to survival. Even if you don’t have multiples you would be crazy not to foster these traits when your child is ready to take the reins. There is nothing that warms my heart more than seeing them do tasks on their own. It may not be perfect, but who cares. Praise them and don’t point out what they did wrong. Like I mentioned, if a shirt is on backwards let them know it’s ok, but would they like to turn it around. My girls love it when I tell them about how I put my hooded sweatshirt on backwards when it’s too dark in my room (get it, the hood is covering my face), we all make mistakes.
I absolutely love watching my girls just doing “stuff” – you know the unstructured play stuff. No one dictates, there are no rules, they just have fun. They are in the “zone”, using their imaginations and could care less about who is watching. While the dressing task requires some guidance, try your best to let go a little and allow them to explore how colors and prints look together. This is their chance also for self-expression and problem solving.
Respect their independence
The more that you fight this minor issue the more difficult it will become. If you feel you need a little control, try buying only solid colored bottoms and print tops to try taming the pattern clashes. Just sit back, laugh, enjoy it, and take lots of pictures!
It’s not a question of when you should allow them to do this task, it’s a question of how are you going to handle your child’s desire to do this on their own. How have you handled this specific issue or other desires for independence in your children?