Mom Squad: Kids and the Freedom of Expression

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From Beth: 

When do you give your kids the freedom to express themselves and when do you pump the brakes? Well, my kids differ in age pretty dramatically, but my teenage girls have recently been trying out new looks and trends. My 12 year old is really into the “high waisted” shorts look lately and those can be really short sometimes. We just have to keep an eye on those. Other than that, their school is really good about enforcing a dress code so that the kids don’t look inappropriate. For example, no spaghetti strapped tank tops, shorts not too short, no half shirts, etc. My oldest daughter, on the other hand, has always been a tom boy , so it’s just t-shirts and jeans and converse. We did, however, let her shave the side of her head and dye her bangs blonde. She goes to an art school where that look is most definitely the norm and it actually looks really cute on her. 

What if it’s an outrageous style choice or “interesting” new look?  Are there limits to where and when? My husband and I have always felt that the more “interesting” the look, the better. Why would we teach our kids to look like everyone else? They aren’t like everyone else and they should have the freedom to express that. I would say, without a doubt, our limits are with permanent or semi-permanent body modifications. (Ironic coming from a Mom with tattoos) No piercings or tattoos under my roof! (Unless they’re mine =)) 

 

From Hilary: 

I think it is necessary for so many reasons to allow our children to express themselves, however, it is our job as parents to keep that "FREEDOM" under control...lol. I know this might sound strange but let me explain. I honestly feel there is a way to create a balance that allows my children to self express themselves within my realm of appropriate attire. I have three boys ages 12, 10, & 8.  As they are getting older I understand the need for them to express their own style and also that pure pressure is a huge influence on how they want to dress, as it is for many kids. I think it's important that we are sensitive to our children's desires to fit in without pushing past our boundaries. We need to be willing to compromise when we can (for example if your daughter has a skirt that is too short maybe letting her wear it with leggings) and I think our child will end up with a wardrobe that we both agree with. First and foremost I think it's important that we communicate what our expectations are. A few examples that we have in my house are no ripped pants or holes in the knees, no stains on our clothes, I absolutely hate wrinkles so you're not allowed to wear clothes to school there wrinkled. We do not allow long hair on our boys in our house except for one exception. If they come downstairs in something that is way out of the norm before I say no I try very hard to consider why they opted for that look. I think it makes children feel good if we ask why are you wanting to wear that and give them the chance to voice their opinion before we just put the kabosh on it. I also believe that if you don't agree with specific outfit for type of clothing....YOU DO NOT ALLOW IT IN YOUR HOME.  Don't even let it hang in the closet.  The only clothes in our house are the clothes that we are willing to let our boys wear.... This I feel very strongly should be the same for girls. I constantly hear mothers go "well she bought it with her own money so I couldn't stop her from wearing it." I call FOUL!  It's your house so you get to decide what is in there! 

Another thing I do different is back-to-school shopping.  I find by doing this it saves me a lot of money, headache, and time. I do all my back-to-school shopping for all of my kiddos online. First I pick out what I want or would allow for my child. Then I'll call them in and have them look through what I want and have them pick their favorites. This way they feel they have a bit of control. Plus by them picking they are more likely to wear it.  So much better than being in the stores!!!! And you find better prices online as well.

Now there have been times in which my kids love the specific shirt or pants that have a rip in it ... if I don't feel it's appropriate to wear to school then we set those clothes to the side and they can wear them for playclothes or wear at home clothes.  Now another one of my pet peeves is  (and I'm sorry to say this) I cannot stand cartoon T-shirts. So when my kids fall in love with them or they are gifted one those become a pajama shirt so then they can enjoy them, still wear them, but they're not wearing them out of the house. Now I've also let my children express themselves in little details. Four instance my kiddos love to wear miss matched socks. 

Now, I must also add that I know that mornings before school can be difficult times in a household. If a child insists on wearing something that is inappropriate....

They can also learn the lesson of consequences in not wearing appropriate clothing.  For example wearing a tank top on an extremely cold day. 

Finaly, I would like to add that there is also plus side to a child who insists on wearing an outlandish outfits.  It shows us as parents that our child is secure in themselves and confident in their decisions and that is the best gift of all :)