Mom vs. child: Wardrobe wars

Jul 19, 2012 at 5:00 p.m. ET

How many moms have had that dreaded wardrobe war? That outfit showdown — where Child wants to wear this and Mom wants her to wear that.

With children (namely girls) starting to have opinions about what they want to wear as early as 2 or 3 years old, moms may have to go into battle before they're ready.

But when should Child get to decide and when should Mom have veto power? Read on for expert tips on how to handle yourself next time your child puts on that awful ensemble.

No mother wants her child to leave the house looking atrocious. But most will agree there's a fine line between telling your little one how to dress and stifling her creativity and individuality. (And who's to say Mom knows what looks better anyway?) So what should you do if your child wants to wear something that makes you cringe?

Much like any other parenting dilemma, the first step should be taking a step back from the situation and deciding if it's a battle worth picking.

Pick your battles

Not all moms cringe even at the cringe-worthy. Or even if they do, they bite their tongue like Tracy Repchuk, bestselling author and mother of three who recognized she wasn't the one wearing the questionable outfit. "Most people hate my answer to this question, but you don't battle your child," says Repchuk. "The key to having your child become a self-motivated, self-confident and responsible adult — is to let them make their own decisions — and live with the consequences they created."

"I didn't battle them — even when at a young age socks didn't match, dresses were ugly, pants too small, too big... Instead I would say: ’Do you know your socks don't match? (Yes, I do.) OK, so you want to leave the house looking like that? (Yes I do.) OK, let's go.’"

Find out why

Not all moms could have that conversation — let go of that much control and allow their child [to] leave the house wearing whatever they want. Repchuk says to give it just 30 days and she believes harmony will be restored in your home. But if her approach makes you cringe — as much as the ensemble — because it resembles a Halloween costume or perhaps is a Halloween costume, Dr. Julie Gurner has another solution. "Explore the whys," says Gurner.

"Look at the outfit she has in mind, and ask her questions about it. What does she like about it (colors, animals on the material, etc... )? Knowing this information can help you incorporate the things she likes, in a style you prefer. It opens the door to make suggestions to switch things around and keep the things she loves."

Take her shopping

Once you have a better idea of why your child likes to wear certain things (even that Halloween costume), step away from the closet and into the mall. Gurner suggests taking your child shopping. But before you get too excited, the goal of the trip isn't necessarily to buy her the clothes you want her to wear, but rather to help foster her independence. "Not only is it a wonderful time for bonding, but children are far more likely to wear outfits that they select themselves. Even if you are steering your daughter in the general section of clothing styles/stores you prefer, she'll likely appreciate the experience."

Nurturing independence at any age >>

Don't lose sight of what's important

In the midst of a closet showdown, it's easy to forget that your child's opinion about what she wears is part of her developing personality and individuality. Even that Halloween costume should be considered important because it's important to her — at least for today.

Jennie Aguirre, life coach and mother of a daughter with "very strong opinions about what she wanted to wear from the age of 3" says she understands the frustrations of wanting your little girl to wear all things frilly and pink, but that it's important to "accept them for who they are." She says, "There is a reason we call them phases. The quirky, eccentric dress will not likely last forever but how we regard our kids, the way they feel when we disapprove or embrace their choices — that is the stuff that sticks."

Tell us

What are your biggest clothing battles with your kids? How do you handle it?

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