Kids and Clothes: Pick Your Battles

Sticking points. There are a lot of them. What are yours?

As my kids get older I’m finding that I have to let go of more and more sticking points in order to hang on to the ones that matter most: 1) Church—For now, for me, I make my kids go. 2) School—Failure is not an option. Does that sound diabolical? Cool. I always wanted to sound diabolical. 3) Behavior—You can’t be a jerk. Really, at this point, that’s all I ask of my kids. Maybe you have higher standards and, maybe, you are the Queen of England.

Believe it or not, I stay pretty busy working on  those 3 things with my 4 kids. The problem is, I care a lot about clothes.

I played with dolls a LOT as a kid—for much longer than you might consider “normal.” And since we’ve just thrown “normal” out the window, here’s something: though I had dolls, I spent most of my time playing house with a hot water bottle that I would dress in newborn baby clothes. The shifting weight of it was so lifelike! Except for having no head, arms, or legs, it felt like a real baby to me. I loved toting it around on my hip and couldn’t wait to be a mom someday because being a mom meant, of course, dressing your headless, arm-and-legless baby in cute outfits.

I was misguided in that aspiration.

My babies came with heads and arms and legs and sometimes they use them to protest outfits. They’re the worst. But here’s your take away: When it comes to clothes, pick your battles. You decide what you absolutely can not tolerate. Maybe it’s pantyhose being worn with a shirt instead of pants. I thought that was a firm “no” for me but sometimes when you’re desperate and your 5-year-old is really mean, you decide to pick even fewer battles.

I do ask that my kids wear something matchy and cute on Easter and for our Christmas photo. But even then it has to fit with their aesthetic. In other words, my boys will not wear jaunty fedoras under any circumstances—Easter or no.

I used to plan their outfits every day. I used to plan something really cute for school picture day. Now I don’t even order school pictures. If this saddens you, I am sorry. I hope your kids wear what you want them to, because kids look really cute with their hair done wearing clean, normal outfits. I have found that the more I back off, the more they comply. It’s hard to be the enforcer. You know how it’s good parenting to let natural consequences of a behavior be the punishment for kids? Well, the only natural consequence of wearing weird outfits is mom’s injured pride. They don’t care about that.

My older kids follow guidelines in terms of appropriateness, of course. I haven’t given up entirely. But I’ve found that if I let some of those battles go when they’re little—so it never becomes a “thing” or a power struggle—my kids don’t fight me on clothes later when it kind of matters more. In fact, my older kids now want to wear whatever I buy them because I have been gently shaping their aesthetic for over 10 years. My youngest is more of a hold out. We’ll see how that turns out. . .

It’s up to you to pick your sticking points, friend. And if you have a daughter and your sticking point is no pink, not tacky, and not sequined, I hope you are able to be strong.

A big thanks to Target for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

Do you keep your family festively stylish during the holidays? We’re giving away three $50 Target gift cards to brighten the season! To enter for a chance to win, simply comment on this post with a personal tip on how you dress your children conveniently and with style—during the holidays!
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