I often get this question: How can I win the dressing wars with my daughter?
Many parents tear their hair out over clothing wars with their daughters which can start as young as second grade. This timing makes sense. Around age seven, clothing styles dramatically change. Once girls outgrow size 6x, the ruffly dresses and pearl-buttoned cardigans disappear. They are replaced with styles making seven year old girls look like they are fifteen. Leather, plunging necklines and skirts which barely cover the buttocks. So what’s a parent to do?
A lot. First, if your gut tells you that you’re daughter (whether she’s seven or seventeen) shouldn’t go to school looking like she’s stepped out of a bar, don’t let her. You’re in charge- after all, who pays for the clothes? This is one war that’s worth fighting and there are some ground rules you can set to minimize collateral. Be assured- you need to fight this war because, while many parents shrug and pass lewd styles off as a shifting trend, don’t be fooled. Our girls are being inundated with sexual messages that do harm them. We know that marketing sex to girls increases the likelihood that they will become sexually active at a young ages, (for more on this, see my book Your Kids At Risk.)
Here are some guidelines that really work. First, always shop with your daughter. Before you go, tell her that her body is precious and beautiful and therefore, she’s going to have to wear clothes that highlight her beauty, not ruin it. How do you find clothes like that? Tell her that you both will look for clothes that cover her private areas, not expose them. After all, we protect what we think is beautiful and special.
Second, while the two of you are shopping, only go into stores that you know will offer her alternatives to skanky clothes. You set yourself up for a war if you go to places like Abercrombie, so don’t. Third, start pulling lots of pretty clothes from the racks and show her that you’re happy to consider lots of options that she can choose from. Let her try on clothes that you vet first. This is especially important when looking for bathing suits. Set guidelines in your mind before you pull things from the rack. For instance a two piece shouldn’t be a string bikini. You can find cute “boy cut” two piece suits. Or, look for ones with a small skirt on the bottom. Trust your instincts, if it looks modest enough to you, go with it. If not, don’t.
Fourth, when she gravitates toward clothes that you think are too skimpy, simply shake your head, smile, and say, “Sorry, you’re much too pretty for that one.”
If you fill her closet with clothes that you have helped her pick out, that will greatly diminish the battles. She can get up and put on whatever she wants.
Here’s the bottom line. Regardless of your daughter’s age, you have not only the right to monitor the clothes she wears, you have the responsibility. One day she will be twenty five and look back at photos of herself at ten. Don’t ever give her the chance to ask you, “Mom-what were you thinking? Didn’t you care?”
So don’t be a wimp. When you hear, ‘but everybody dresses like this and I don’t want to look like a geek,” just smile and tell her that she’s not the geek- you are, and she’s stuck with you.