Thanks to our Parent Advisor newsletter readers who shared their tips on avoiding arguments about dressing for school. Many suggested limiting the choices and then letting their child choose. Others had creative ways to address the problem:
Don’t buy inappropriate clothing in the first place
A parent in Rhode Island says she only buys appropriate clothing and only keeps clothes suitable for the season in her child’s closet. She writes: “I always let my children dress themselves – the combinations can be quite amusing and it gives them a chance to express themselves creatively through clothes … it’s never too early to teach your children to be themselves without worrying about what other people think of them.”
To reason with her 16-year-old daughter, one Florida parent writes: “I tell her if that tank top is suitable for you, I’ll wear one also. I say this in a nice tone and with some excitement! That’s all I have to say and the garment is back on the rack in less than a second.”
Plan ahead and limit the choices
Several parents suggested choosing outfits for a week and then letting their child decide (preferably the night before) what to wear each day. Or with younger children, give them a choice between two outfits.
You make the rules
A mother of a 7-year-old establishes two sections of the closet: school clothes and play clothes. The child can pick only from the school clothes for school. For her 10-year-old daughter, her rule is that she can only have one pattern going on in her outfit. This decreases the amount of mismatched clothing ensembles.
Don’t be afraid to be firm and set limits
“As a parent there is no need to argue with a 6-year-old,” writes a Michigan parent. “You are the parent and you make the decisions about what is to be worn to school, especially if the school has a uniform or dress code policy. Parents give their youth too much control and then later they have lost all control of what their child says or does.”
Another parent writes that she lets her child decide, but her child knows that mom always retains veto power.
A California parent of a teenager has strict rules about underwear and outerwear: “Underwear is ‘underwear.’ The minute it becomes outerwear, it becomes a problem … If I see a thong sticking out once, I will give it a good yank. If I see it twice, I will cut it off and empty her drawers of all thongs. So far, it’s been three years and not one incident!”
Make the worn-out clothes disappear
Do you have a child who won’t give up wearing an item of clothing that is worn-out or stained? A Tennessee parent suggests “making it disappear” when you do the wash. Her son only asked once for his favorite worn-out shirt after that, and then forgot that it existed.
Restrict wearing favorites to a few times a week
“I tell my son that he can’t wear his favorite shirt every day because by washing it so much it will fade, become icky-looking and won’t last as long,” writes a Michigan mom. She allows him to wear his favorite shirt only twice or three times in one week.
Let the school dress code be your guide
If your school has a dress code, have a discussion with your child at the beginning of the year about what the school says is acceptable dress. Make the school’s rules your rules.
Lobby your school or school district to adopt school uniforms
Tired of arguments about clothes? Several parents wrote in singing the praises of school uniforms. They help eliminate arguments, competitive dressing and having uniforms cuts down on expenses (especially if the school has a uniform-swap at the end of the year, so parents can turn in their child’s uniform that is too small and make it available to others). Several parents commented that uniforms help kids concentrate on their studies rather than on what everyone else is wearing.