Dressing Your Kids

When to Let Go of the Shoe Laces

By Ann Marie Stonecypher | Photography by Simply Heidi Photography

As a mom, there is nothing more joyous than picking out clothes for your little one. It’s wired into our mommy DNA. We adorn barely-there hair. We fold socks over chubby little calves.

Then comes the dreaded day.

The clothes are laid out on the bed, like usual. But out of the blue, your child says the words no mother is prepared for: “I don’t want to wear that. I want to pick my own clothes.”

You blink and smile and say something like, “Honey, you love this outfit and Mommy picked it out just for you.”

Then the child utters something even worse: “I. Don’t. Like. It.”

The good thing is your child is one more step down the exciting road toward independence and self-sufficiency. Our fashion sense is one of the things that sets us apart from everyone else. The colors we wear and the styles we enjoy are often experimented with at an early age. Goodness knows they’re retooled as the years go by, but these early experiments are key to helping kids gain self confidence.

Michelle Brancaccio of Indie Kids shared some of her thoughts.

“Children pride themselves on picking out their own clothes. It helps develop their own personality. The physical process also helps with motor skills,” she explained. “I encourage parents to bring their kids shopping. Make a girls’ day of it with your daughter. Let them pick out their outfits and help by creating the combination.”

I also suggest parents try to let go of perfection. Maybe your child doesn’t want to tuck in their shirt or match their hair accessories to their shirt/shorts/socks. I promise the world will continue to revolve around the sun, just as it did yesterday.

Michelle added, “Make it clear that there are times when you will decide what is worn. Examples are things like weather conditions and special occasions.”

There’ll be some give and take. Like with everything else, you are still Mom. They can’t have Oreos for breakfast, and they can’t wear shorts when it’s 20 degrees outside.

When my daughter was younger, everyone at her school wore clothes from one mass retailer, who in my mind was the retail equivalent of the Antichrist. The store was overly perfumed, under lit, overpriced and undersized. When washed, the clothing underperformed.

Inexplicably, the kids lined up like sheep to buy this stuff. They looked like overly-sexualized California “Stepford Tweens.” And heaven forbid you didn’t blend in with the herd.

This sparked quite a debate in my house. Our compromise was if money was going to be spent on this clothing, it wasn’t going to be mine. I watched as the shopping went from “I want this this, this and this” to very judiciously chosen pieces. After a short time, she was just over it.

As time went on, I watched the evolution of my daughter’s style. She grew into a very fashionable young lady, earning the title of Best Dressed in high school and a bachelor’s degree in apparel design in college. Is this because I let her pick her own clothes? Who can say. But like many people, that’s just one imaginative area of her life.

The Bottom Line: Children express their creativity in many ways, and clothing is just one. As moms, it’s our job to offer guidance and wisdom, and just say no when necessary. As parents, we know bigger fish to fry are always lurking just around the corner. Wouldn’t it be nice if they all came with buttons and zippers? SWM

Models: AMS Models
Clothing and styling: Indie Kids
Location: Sky Armory

Ann Marie Stonecypher is an award-winning business woman and the owner of AMS Models & Talent. She is also a stylist, inspirational speaker, two-time breast cancer survivor and freelance writer. She lives in the Syracuse area with her children Taylor and Steven, and her dog Cocoa. She welcomes your style questions and comments at [email protected].