Competence is Catching!

Hi Readers — Here’s a brilliant idea that came in response to the previous couple of posts about how our kids can become more responsible when we back off a little. This mom not only liberated her OWN kids from too much help (however kindly proffered), she liberated a whole classroom! — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I always hated when my kids wanted to dress themselves — not because I was dying to do it, but because I would have to defend myself against the “bad mommy” accusation from the other preschool parents. My guys like wearing stripes and plaid or really odd color combinations.

One day I decided I had had enough. I made up “I dressed myself today!” stickers and rewarded my little guys for doing it on their own.  Pretty soon, all the little preschoolers wanted stickers too, so everyone began to dress themselves as well.  I stopped being embarrassed by the independence of my children and began to embrace it.  It can be hard to be the mom who doesn’t do it all for the kids, parents feel peer pressure too! — Sarah

The idea of “I did it myself!” stickers is incredibly powerful. Think of all the situations they could be used in, and how the idea of celebrating kiddie competence could catch on! — L

Okay, it looks like someone DID dress these kids (funny).

78 Responses

  1. I think we need a serious re-examination of our priorities if an oddly-dressed kid is a measure of the competence of the parent.

  2. That’s a great idea Lenore. I like the positive spin of “I did it myself” stickers. Especially the pride in the child’s competence and independence instead of pride in the perfection of the accomplished deed.

    It does seem ridiculous the extent to which we seem to judge children by adult standards (and often magazine photo shoot standards).

  3. HUGE fan of letting the kids dress themselves. I also made them put their own clothes away which means wrinkled garments. Has anyone actually LOOKED at a seven year old? I mean, other than their own kid? At the end of the day they all have food stains down the front, crooked hair bows and the boys have made every attempt at ripping out the knees of their pants. In other words, no matter how neat or ironed the kids left the house in the morning, they will not return the same. It’s a fruitless fight and I much prefer they learn how to tend to their own laundry instead.

  4. Wow. I could use ” I dressed myself today” stickers for my husband!

    My husband and I STILL laugh about the time a woman driving by stopped her car and yelled” Who dresses you?” to my husband when he was out mowing the lawn one Saturday morning.

    …ok, you should see his lawn mowing get up….

  5. My son(4) dresses himself everyday… it’s part of our bedtime routine to pick out his clothes and put them on the dresser, so when he gets up in the morning, he can just put them on.
    That said, I can’t tell you how many times he’s changed his mind about what he’s going to wear and come out in a completely different outfit.

  6. Sarah, that sounds like a line of stickers to capitalize on! (I will be making them for my son when the time comes.)

  7. Brilliant!! I will definitely be stealing this idea when Mini gets to that age. Well done!

  8. now THAT is clever. My kids wear uniform to school, but my littlest could do with some of those stickers for church!

  9. I need some “I’m almost 13 and don’t like to brush my hair or wash, or wear that new fangled deoderant stuff but my mother really encourages it, I promise” stickers for my son.

  10. I like the idea of those stickers, but it should be completely obvious to anyone who sees my daughter that she picks her own clothing! It’s even made other people smile when they comment that she must have picked her own clothes!

    I worry more in the opposite direction. In other words, I don’t want my daughter to get too caught up in what she wears and how she looks. She’ll get enough of that message elsewhere, especially as a girl. I refuse to buy everyday clothing that I care if it is ruined because my four year old should be out getting dirty.

  11. For everybody saying “Gosh, somebody ought to sell these!”, you’ll be pleased to note (or maybe disappointed) that people already DO sell these.

    Google search to prove it🙂

  12. Also, off-topic but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you like this Unshelved comic:

    http://www.unshelved.com/2011-3-4/

  13. I love the woman’s positive response to this. I am appalled that anyone would comment to another parent’s face about whether or not a child’s outfit matched. I am pretty sure I would have had a much more “in your face” response. Kudos to her!

  14. Right, note to self: This is an area of parenting anxiety that you should have gotten over sever years ago!

  15. BRILLIANT!

  16. When my niece was 4, my sister threw a birthday party “movie day” (it was a DVD, but the kids didn’t care) and the BIGGEST thrill for the 4-year-olds was they were all given a lot of GabyDollars (with my niece’s face on them) and were able to buy their own concessions – bags of popcorn, candy, cake, soda. The entire party seemed to be little kids going to the concession stand (run by older siblings) and buying their own stuff. They LOVED that they could do it themselves.

  17. I saw a mom the other day that needed one of those stickers. We were at the store, where, the thermometer said that it was all of 17 F.

    The mom, older brother and dad had coats on. The 7 year old daughter had on jeans and a tank top. She was hugging her arms around herself against the wind as they walked into the store. I am willing to bet that the girl had a coat on in the morning but left it at school.

  18. @Uly – love it, thanks for sharing!

  19. @Chris – I feel your pain! I think I might make some of “those” stickers up for our family.

  20. @Cheryl – it sounds to me like that parent taught her daughter a valuable lesson about appropriate dress and the consequences of not doing so.

    I think the idea of anyone caring about a 4-year-old’s clothing coordination is almost as ridiculous as the idea that a 4-year-old is incapable of dressing themselves.

    Where on earth does one get their own stickers made?

  21. Great idea! My youngest just loves to be a little (OK, a lot) off the beaten path. Because we always “go somewhere” after school, I didn’t always let her have complete freedom, but I’d always let her choose her own socks, and she’d inevitably choose the silliest pair and wear them the silliest way. Her gymnastics/dance coach always had a compliment for her socks! Now (at 4) she is pretty good at putting an outfit together, so I let her choose within broad guidelines.

    So what do moms do when it comes to kids doing their own hair? I’m not brave enough to hand this over to my long-haired daughter yet.

    Oh, and how about my other daughter who doesn’t even want to choose her own underwear by herself? Wonder if she’ll ever “step out.”

  22. For the record, my kids always dress themselves, and have since they were under 2 years old. What I haven’t always let them do is decide which clothes will be worn on a given day.

  23. I must come off as a negligent mother! My 2-year-old picks her clothes out, not only from the closet but from the store! She likes some weird stuff that I never would have imagined buying but it’s *her* taste. She has this knit sweater with a million colors and it has stuff all over it, like sewn onto it. It’s whimsical or gaggy, not sure which. She wears her pants proudly backward and her shirts inside out – but she does it all by herself.

  24. @chris

    I could go for some of those for my 10yo daughter. She needs a “I refused to brush my hair today and it has no reflection on my mother’s parenting” sticker.

    My almost 5yo dresses herself. She comes up with some odd combinations. Occasionally I try to encourage her to put on something less crazy only because sometimes I’d like to see her match or wear an outfit I bought that goes together (matching pants/top). Most of the time she refuses…you have to phrase it just right. But for the most part I just let her be.
    I noticed most of my kids friends’ parents must have similar ideas. The other day my 4yo’s friend (6) was over with non-matching socks and a top that was a bit too small and covered in something she spilled (maybe kool-aid). I just shook my head.
    My other dd’s 11yo friend was over in her pajamas in the middle of the day and her other friend showed up with 2 different socks on. These girls are in 5th grade. When I asked them about it they just shrugged. They’re a little old to be dressing like that but I thought it was funny. The little girls are always mismatched with some odd combinations of stripes, plaids and clashing solids. I love it

  25. I’d like some “My daddy dressed me today!” stickers for my toddler. Really, the outfits he comes up with…. Makes me realize why he wears a grey suit and white shirt every day.

  26. You know, I’m the youngest of 9 kids. I’m now an adult with my own (6) kids. Since we’ve been struggling financially the last 2 years, I feel like I need a sign that says, “I make my own financial decisions.” Too many of my siblings feel like they can just dole out whatever advice comes to mind or ask whatever (and as many) questions they want to ‘help us’, rather than being respectful of our ability to work through this on our own however messy it gets. But society (and my family) says you can’t complain about their nosiness because they’re just trying to be kind/helpful.

    I think ANY time we want to offer someone advice, we need consider what our TRUE motives are first.

  27. Hm, I guess I don’t think about kids getting dressed in the same way as most people here. I told my kids (now seven and eight) at a young age that they could pick their own clothes as long as the clothes (1) were appropriate for the weather (no tank tops or sandals in Minnesota in the winter; it’s a safety hazard to wear these when it’s -20 F.), (2) were appropriate for the occasion (no party dresses for playing in the mud; no muddy clothes for a nice restaurant) (3) fit, and (4) matched (unless they’re playing in the dirt; then it doesn’t matter!).

    I guess I think teaching my kids which things match and which are appropriate for various occasions (while still allowing them their own choices about style) was part of my job in teaching them to be competent adults. After all, wearing matching appropriate-for-the-occasion clothes is a useful adult skill. I would like my kids to learn now that it’s good to have fun with clothes and have your own taste, but when they go to a job interview or dinner with their new in-laws they should dress appropriately.

  28. Kinda cute idea I guess, but if the purpose is to make excuses to every passerby as to why your kid doesn’t match, it seems neurotic to me. I mean, who cares? The strangers on the street really aren’t paying any attention to your kid, and if you have other moms in your circle who judge what your kid is wearing, time to A. boot them out of your life, or B. stop giving a s*** what they think.

  29. I’ve been pretty good at having my kids do stuff themselves but a lot has been when my kids suggest they can do it themselves and it never occurred to let them try including:
    My 4 yo daughter telling me she could put her own tights on for dance class. (she’s now 18)
    My 9 yo son asking to walk two blocks to buy ice cream. (he’s 10 now)
    My other 8 yo son asking if he could ride his bike to school by himself every day. (still 8)
    And after they all started doing these things, we were all much happier with either the new independence, or the new free time it allowed.

  30. I think this is so cute and totally applicable to other areas of independence for kids. I love that it caught on in the classroom too! But how silly that other parents judge for this reason. I always love seeing little kids that have clearly picked their own clothes/dressed themselves; it’s a real indication of their fun, creative selves.

  31. How about “my Grandma dressed me today” stickers for the days when I come home from work and my daughter is playing outside in her warmest coat, winter boots, a scarf, hat and mittens on a lovely fall day when its warmer outside than inside? (my mother’s voice just popped into my head saying “but that wind….!”)

    Seriously, though, I have to admit that this post makes me feel guilty because just this morning I forced my toddler to wear her Mary Janes to church with her fancy winter dress when she really wanted to wear her gumboots! I really try to be free range, but sometimes my controlling urges get the best of me. Oh well, maybe I’ll be able to loosen up a bit next time!

  32. @SKL

    As for long hair on kids. I’ve always attempted to get a hairbrush through daily. Suggesting that they try brushing it first. As for washing depends on the hair. I have one that shampoo hurts her hair it is very fine and brittle so I do more for her than I have the others. Which if I notice it’s dirty will remind them to wash it at bath time.

    Oh, and how about my other daughter who doesn’t even want to choose her own underwear by herself?

    As for not wanting to choose I limited the wardrobe down to 7 pairs of underwear, tights, a few more in the shirts and pants/skirts. If said child doesn’t pick clothing then I guess she’ll be naked or in her night clothing when we go out. Only took once.

  33. My husband used to take my daughter (then 15-20 months old) to a play group and other mom’s commented that they knew weather I had time to dress her…when I didn’t she was often wearing tights and a tee shirt….that HE picked out…

    Since she was 2, my daughter always happily dresses herself (when SHE gets to pick her clothes).

    But my favorite was the day I did my daughter’s hair before leaving for work – straight part and 2 pigtails….when I went to pick her up from preschool, she had her pristine part and one pigtail with the other side of her hair lose…she said, “My pigtail holder broke.”…I said, “Oh while you were at school?”…”No, in the morning before daddy brought me.”. . .(her teacher smiled).
    I asked my husband why he did put the pigtail back up and he said he didn’t know how to do hair (he’s bald)…At first, I said, “All you had to do was pull the hair that was out into a rubber band”….”or if not, you could have taken OUT the band that hadn’t broken!”

  34. loose

  35. Taradllon, my guess is that he hoped the teacher would fix the hair!

    I get frustrated with the frequent loss of hair pretties at school. My daughter’s hair is so long and thin, though, it needs something to hold it out of her eyes. (No, I do not want to cut it. Can you tell I’ve heard that suggestion a few times?) I must figure out a plan for making sure those hair doodads find their way back home. Hmm, I have an idea or two . . . .

  36. LOVE IT

    Also want some “Daddy dressed me today” stickers for our 6 month old. you can always tell when Daddy dresses him because snaps are never snapped, leaving pants are wide open, onesies untucked and shoulders exposed. AND they rarely match. His theory is that the baby will just need changed soon, so why button everything up? Rational, but come on already.

    I totally get the desire to choose outfits, I love seeing my little one in cute clothes I picked out. DS doesn’t yet realize it, but he does help pick his clothes out. I hold them up, and he wears whatever he grabs.

  37. SKL- use ugly hair bands. or you could tell DD that if she remembers to bring them home all month, she can pick out some new ones!

  38. I hang a lot of the girls’ clothes in the closet as outfits. That makes it more likely that they will choose a matching combination. However, I have also talked to them about how good choices / matches are made, which they do take into consideration. It’s not rocket science, after all.

  39. SKL, is she losing the hair-things from the top or the bottom?

    It took me AGES to figure out how to keep barrettes on the bottom of the braids. I finally got a good look at another girl’s hair on the train and it was so simple – when you finish off the braid, and you put the barrette on the end, loop the hair around it first. So instead of just snapping it on, you’ve carefully looped the hair around the back of the clip, and then it stays put.

    If they’re losing them from the TOP of the hair… hm. Changing the number (and therefore the size) of ponytails might help. Smaller ones, or maybe larger ones. Otherwise, I’d suggest just getting cheaper scrunchies. We buy them 500 at a time at the dollar store in bright colors. They’re cheap, and they stretch out in no time, but we really don’t care.

  40. My daughter is now 10, my son 6. Uniforms during the week. Collar and “school pants” for services. My daughter I just weigh in on “appropriatenes ns” for services.

    My son has dressed himself forever. Almost all his tops are orange (his favorite color) and I just get him neutral pants (blue, black, grey, jeans). The orange thing is my fault. As soon as he could toddle, I started dressing him in orange so he could run free on the playgrounds in nyc and I could spot him easily…got imprinted somehow.

  41. My kids dressed themselves from an early age also. My only stipulation (due to day care) was that the clothing had to be weather appropriate so that the teachers didn’t have to worry about them. This led to some bizarre color combinations (one daughter LOVED to wear her hot pink shorts with her orange tshirt), stripes worn with plaids and polka dots, but I learned to close my eyes and compliment them on a job well done when they dressed themselves. Since I worked nights, sometimes the girls picked out their clothes the night before so that their father didn’t have to help them in the morning when things were really hurried.
    They also had to put away their clothes after I washed and folded them from an early age. This led to clothing on the floor, wrinkles, and spots, but they learned to be responsible for how they looked.
    Now, as adults, they usually dress very appropriately for the weather and setting. Some of their choices are very different from mine, but they have great fashion sense!

  42. My 11 year old thinks it is fine to put a patterned long sleeve shirt under her patterned jumper/dress. I don’t mind because she has lots of clothing and can pick. I do have some modesty related rules, but she pretty much agrees with me on them right now. (Which actually makes it hard to find the dresses she wants because many of them are not the modesty that either of us want.)

    We know two families who are in challenging circumstances. In both, clothes being washed is not a high priority of the parents, so the kids wear what they have that is relatively clean. One lives next to us now and leaves his socks at my house constantly. I wash them and send them home with him. At least a few times a week he at least has clean socks. I know this seems totally off the topic of what is being talked about here, but in a way it isn’t because some parents may feel like they are being compared to the parents of these kids. When in fact, it totally does not matter at all. And, when other kids dress like them, I think it makes them feel better and less deprived. So, let your kids dress themselves, it gives these two kids a bit of a boost in a life that has so much going against them.

  43. What a cool, simple idea!

  44. What a great idea!!

  45. “I hang a lot of the girls’ clothes in the closet as outfits. That makes it more likely that they will choose a matching combination.”

    So does not work with my child. She knows what outfits go together but still mismatches them anyway that she wants. I try to talk to her about matching and she tells me she doesn’t care. I think that she’s just always going to have a funky fashion sense. Or her peers will convince her to finally start caring about matching clothes as she gets older (although in my town that is less likely).

  46. I’ve told my 10yr old daughter that if she doesn’t mind being seen in public in her jammies with her hair a mess, I don’t mind taking her looking like that. She’ll be the one everyone stares at. That gets her attention and she takes care of the problem. She keeps a brush in the car because when I’m ready to go…I’m leaving.

  47. Uly, I think the problem with the hair thingies is that they get moved around or removed at nap time. And then who knows what happens. She told me once that she was putting them “in the hole” of her naptime cot – i.e., into the hollow leg. I told her not to do that any more, but I haven’t had a chance to find out if there is a large volume of hair pretties in the legs of the nap cots.

    My kid never wants braids when I have time for braiding. She wants them when I don’t have time. Would anyone here like to borrow her for a month or two??

  48. Ah, the terrors of naptime on hair.

    Yeah, I have no idea. There’s not much you can do if she’s actively thwarting you. Would a simple head band work instead? She can’t hide it as well, though they come with their own problems.

    And no, I for one have enough to do braiding the nieces’ hair. “You’re pulling my hair on purpose! I know your secret, you just want to hurt me! ON PURPOSE!” No, Ana, I *want* you to keep your head still so your hair does NOT get pulled, because when you yank it away from me and the comb is still trapped in your hair – guess what? THAT HURTS!

  49. My 8 year old is one of those kids with a funky fashion sense. I let her have it, although I do give her advice if asked. Floral with plaid, two types of stripes in clashing colors, it’s all good from her perspective.

  50. When I was a kid and came out of my bedroom with clashing clothes on, my mom would say “you look like a Christmas tree.” Meaning, get back in there and try again. I didn’t have much fashion sense (and really didn’t care), but I eventually learned to choose the combinations my mom would approve.

  51. Mine wear uniforms but my 9 yo is the only girl with long hair in her class who does it herself. She also packs her own lunch.

  52. I can’t help but feel uneasy about this one a little bit. Not to over think things, but a sticker saying that they dressed theirself seems to me like an excuse for their appearance? Almost like they’ve done something wrong and to make mommy feel better about it she put the blame back on the child? To protect their reputation as a good mother?
    I drop off my kids shoes on wrong feet and most times, unmatched shirts that are on backwards,and I feel so proud. The look on my little guy’s face when he’s put on his shirt of choice, all by himself is all I need to feel like a good mother.

  53. My daughter started dressing herself at an early age, and has always been a little quirky… she’s a teenager now and most days will choose to wear mis-matched socks. It used to bother me, but I gave up on it.

  54. I always let my kids dress themselves. In Australia, we have school uniforms so my 6 year old has no problems. On Friday I went to the supermarket with a fairy (complete with wings) and a doctor (complete with toy stethescope). My 6 year old wears the oddest combination of florals and stripes and has been to the supermarket wearing her swimmers over her tracksuit… whatever suits her. If people think I’m a bad mum its their problem!
    Our rule is on special occasions mum gets to choose 2 outfits and the kids get the final choice – they always put them on by themself.
    I have the 7 month old plus myself to get out the door… I don’t need more hassle doing stuff for my kids when they are capable of doing it themself!

  55. I don’t feel like letting the kid dress herself has to mean she goes to school backwards and inside-out. (Though I must admit that has happened a few times when I didn’t notice before leaving the house.) When my kids put something on wrong, I tell them what’s wrong and say “try again.” It takes a lot more effort for them to take it off, get it right-side-out, and put it on again. They are therefore motivated to try to get it right the first time, usually. Occasionally they will ask me if they are about to put it on the right way or not. But mostly, it’s not that hard – tags go in the back, most decorations go in the front. My kids could get it right most of the time by age 3. When they were much younger, I’d guide them on how to hold the garment before putting it on.

  56. The stickers are an adorable idea.

    Re. girls’ hair: You never know – those kids with really tidy hairdos may not see mom slaving away every morning.

    My daughter’s hair (insists on its being as long a possible) is nearly always a mess; just comes with the territory of letting her do it herself, me thinks.

    Well, friend of my daughter’s whose hair is ALWAYS perfect in lovely braids, was here playing and after she left I notice one of my daughter’s dolls had a really neat, tiny braid in its hair. C (friend of daughter) did it. Next time she was at our house, my daughter had a lovely, neat — better than I would be able to do — braid in her hair. C did it. It finally occurred to me to ask — C, do you do your own hair every day? Yes she does. She’s eight years old.

  57. @SgtMom — your husband reminds me of my dear ‘ol Dad. Does your husband’s lawn mowing ensemble happen to include black socks, old dress shoes and shorts?

  58. I always make a point of inviting the clean, well-dressed children over to our house to play… fixes ’em right up! Heh, some of them don’t ever seem to be allowed back, but most folks are glad to have their kids back exhausted, even if dirty and disheveled.

  59. Since my son was about 3 he has dressed himself. In the beginning he picked what he wanted to wear and if he couldn’t get it all on, he would come to me for help. The only time I give him any requirements about what he should wear is if its cold ( just pants and long sleeves) or if we are doing something where he needs to be dressed nice (wear a collared shirt). But even in those paramators, he is still choosing. It doesn’t bother me if he comes out in a bright red shirt and bright red shorts, or cammo shirt and plaid shorts. I don’t understand why other parents care.

  60. I had an interesting discussion with my daughter about this topic today. I walked by her bedroom this morning and she had an outift laying out on the floor and she was looking at it. I walked by her bedroom a few minutes later and she had put that outfit away and had another one out. Neither outfits matched particularly but it was clear that she was attempting to put something together that she wanted to wear. Having this thread in mind, I decided to ask her about it.

    Me – M that doesn’t match.
    M – I know but it’s beautiful.
    Me – Even if it doesn’t match?
    M – I don’t care. I just want to wear what is pretty to me.
    Me – Even if it doesn’t match?
    M – It’s my body.

    I don’t see any reason to argue with her rationale. The choices were weather appropriate. She isn’t just hapazardly throwing on clothes. She’s making a conscious decision as to what to wear and it looks pretty together to her. Who am I to say that she shouldn’t wear what makes her feel pretty?

  61. My daughter has been dressing herself since she was able. When she was little I’d give her fashion advice, but these days (9 years old) she’s able to put together a better outfit than I could. Sometimes I’m tempted to have her pick out my clothes for the day!

  62. My daughter has been dressing herself since she was able. When she was little I’d give her fashion advice, but these days (9 years old) she’s able to put together a better outfit than I could. Sometimes I’m tempted to have her pick out my clothes for the day!

    I still have to do her hair, though. It’s almost down to her knees, now, and a bit much for her to handle. She’s learning, though.

  63. Actually, if you think about this enough…you realize that the mom who wrote the original post still couldn’t handle criticism of her parenting as it related to her kids’ outfits, hence she made the stickers to make sure everyone knew it wasn’t HER her that did the dressing.

    Parental peer pressure about your kids’ clothing? That’s really sad.

  64. This morning with my 4-year-olds:

    Me: “E, time to choose clothes for soccer [today’s morning extra]. If you don’t come now and choose, I’ll choose for you.” (E comes immediately – the horror of having to wear what Mom chooses!) “What would you like to wear?”

    E: “A short-sleeved shirt, sweatpants and sweatshirt.”

    Me: “Which short-sleeved shirt [from the closet]?” She chose one. “Now choose your sweatpants and sweatshirt [from drawers].” She chose appropriate pieces and got dressed on her own. I did her hair only.

    Other kid:

    Me: “A, what do you want to wear today?” She pointed out an already matched outfit hanging in the closet, noting that she wanted to wear a short-sleeved shirt inside.

    Me: “Now choose your underwear.”

    A: “You choose my underwear, please.”

    Me: “It’s really simple, just open the underwear drawer and pull out a pair of underwear.”

    A: looks at me anxiously without moving. I get the underwear and socks because it’s not worth a morning battle – and she did choose her outfit and get herself fully dressed (I do have to halfway tie her shoes as well as comb her hair).

    Not sure if I should just be happy that I have one kid who won’t fight with me over every decision.

  65. We’ve had a policy of teaching them to dress for the occasion. As long as they are following the ‘occasion rules’, we don’t care.

    If it is a wedding, funeral, Christmas, or Easter, you wear dress pants, shirt, tie, and jacket as needed.

    If you are going to church, you wear pants that aren’t jeans and a shirt with a collar or a nice sweater.

    If you are going to school, you must wear clothes with no holes and minimal stains (unless it’s art day, which is how all those stains got there in the first place)

    Otherwise, don’t care what you wear.

    Because of this policy, we actually have boys who volunteer to wear ties to special occasions. Makes my life less stressful!

  66. I love that my kids dress themselves. As young as they wanted, we encouraged them to do so – shirts backwards, inside-out, pants backwards, shoes on wrong feet – it doesn’t matter. If they are comfortable and feel a sense of accomplishment – that is great.

    As they are getting older (10, 7, 5); we will point out that “we don’t usually wear navy blue with black, but you can if you wish”. And, sometimes I do put my foot down about clothing that is too beaten up to still wear (particularly for my ten-year-old that thinks appearances are unimportant).

    Our seven-year-old is a bit of a clothes-hound. The other two really don’t care.

    About coats – they will almost never wear them, but they are available and they know where to find them if they feel cold. My ambient temperature is not a measure of whether our boys are cold.

  67. THANK YOU SARAH! Finally someone realized it’s not about THEM, it’s about the kids. As much as some parents do what they do (shelter or do everything for their kids) because they think it’s for the benefit of their children, deep down, they know its mostly about making themselves feel better.

    I hope this becomes just as infectious as paranoia. Maybe it will counter all the negativity in some adults’ minds, and help in changing the way children are brought up these days.

  68. Not only Competence, but Confidence !!

    This weekend I took my 5-yr old skiing for his birthday. It was his first time, and I was not sure how well he would do. To date, our experience with snow-sports was sledding – where he took every opportunity to complain and express fears or discomforts in a loud argumentative, or teary-eyed protest.

    Armed with my snowboarding buddy’s experience of hovering when his 6-yr old went to ski-school last year, I checked him into ski-school, and left the area as fast as I could.

    Buddy’s experience: kid was distracted by his presence, constantly seeking the safety of daddy when he fell or needed to communicate with the instructors, and ended up being an anti-constructive experience.

    It was hard to not hover and videotape the entire 3hr class, or just be close by in case he fell or hurt himself. I expected that he’d be a mess after class, but on the contrary – he was excited to report and demonstrate what he had learned – he even went as far as telling me what was wrong with my technique.

    Needless to say, we’ll be going again in the near future.

  69. Beautiful story. I recently attended a Landmark Forum (Landmark Education) in which one of the issues that was addressed was our constant efforts to ‘look good’ in front of everyone else, and the distraction that effort causes on our becoming the greater person and building the better community, nation etc (my interpretations). So 3 cheers for a woman who cut through that and, surprise, surprise, found that a lot of other people were just dying for a way through as well.

  70. I like the story and the example it gives og “best practices”. My own story of teaching a low-vision 11-year-old (my youngest daughter) to use the subway from school and how that caught on in her class, is testimony to the same phenomenon.

  71. To those of you with teen girls, the mismatched sock thing is “in” right now. I have no idea how it started or when it will end, but it sure makes folding laundry easier!

  72. I just wanted to add that you are doing your kids a favor by teaching them that certain occasions have ‘uniforms’. Many of my undergrads are humbled by the experience of being the only one to show up for a big presentation in jeans, or wondering why they don’t get hired for internship jobs. Individuality is great, but sometimes you need to dress to the occasion.

  73. @SKL – I don’t think this is about letting the kids loose with whatever they choose. If that were the case my daughter would have gone to school in Little Mermaid sweatpants, an orange tanktop and snow boots with every single hair bob in her massive collection somehow fastened to her head. Moderation for crying outloud! You the parent set the parameters and allow the kids to make their choices inside that. Self expression with boundaries.

    More brilliant than the stickers is that we as a society quit judging each other. Children with trousers hitched too high and mismatched socks are learning to dress themselves and we should be applauding that, not tsk’ing the parent for failing to push little cookie cutter children out the door.

  74. I think we need a serious re-examination of our priorities if an oddly-dressed kid is a measure of the competence of the parent.

  75. I absolutely adore this!!! And can so totally relate to this experience!! I am going to have my 15 year old make some “I dressed myself” stickers tonight, not me, I’m waay too lazy!!

  76. Oh, I totally had this idea 20 years ago, when my niece (then a preschooler) was into crazy clothing combinations.

    I was just telling someone a couple of days ago that I totally plan to do that when my daughter (now 28mos) is old enough to start dressing herself!

  77. Great idea but have things really gotten so bad we have to worry about our kids not being dressed in matching outfits at school?! At some point we have to let kids be kids… Just saying

  78. Hooray Hooray for you and Thanks for the best laugh I had all day.

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