Time to pick apart this little internal rule and see if it still applies...
Is this true? Of course you want to say yes, but can you imagine a household where children are allowed to dress differently? Where they have a little more freedom to be themselves and decide what temperature they are in their own bodies? If you stretch your imagination, is it possible that your child is not cold? Or is actually comfortable in what they are wearing? Is their comfort of any relevance to you or is it only important what other people think? Have you ever been forced to wear something that you don’t want to wear?
How do you feel or what happens when you believe this? Do you shout at your child? Do they end up wearing something that they hate and being uncomfortable all day? Perhaps they fight back and you end up literally pinning them to the floor and forcing them into something ‘more appropriate’? Does it become a battle of the wills ending in tears and drama?
Who would you be in the same situation without this thought? Consider for a moment that you’ve had the frontal lobotomy I mentioned in my last newsletter. You can no longer think this thought that your child should be dressed appropriately. So there you are, scantily clad child in front of you, ready to leave the house. What happens? Chances are that you perhaps pack an extra change of clothing in their bag in case they want to change later and hop in the car. Smiles and hugs are exchanged, you may even comment on how pretty she looks. You leave the house on time, happy, relaxed and chatting to each other like old friends.
Let’s turn it around and see if this might be relevant.
1. Children should not dress appropriately.
Again, if they’re not dressed appropriately then that is reality and fighting with reality is a sign of madness and the main cause of stress in our lives. I’m not saying you can’t suggest something else or add a change of clothing to a school bag, but fighting about it is crazy. Let’s work with reality (and our kids) rather than against them. As you have seen, it is a much happier, friendlier life where parents and their children can actually respect and enjoy each other as real human beings with different feelings, desires, and temperatures! Just because you are cold, or like to wear specific clothes for specific occasions does not mean your kids feel the same way. We are all individuals. I’m sure that you know of some adults who are in t-shirts when you are in thermal gear? And what about Madiba arriving in his brightly coloured casual shirts to formal government functions? What is appropriate for one person is not necessarily correct for all. And would you really want your child continuously conforming, or would you prefer them to express their individuality (think peer pressure and Nazi Germany if you need more persuasion)?
2. Parents should dress appropriately.
As we have said before, children learn from how we are and what we do ourselves. Show your children how much you enjoy dressing beautifully for special occasions, how much you enjoy your winter woolies and how special pyjama days are if you’re not wearing them every day. This may not change their immediate perspective, but I guarantee it will have an effect over a lifetime.
3. Dress (or clothing) should not appropriate children.
There is more than one definition for the word appropriate. It can also mean “to make one’s own” or to “take for one’s own use without permission”. Do we want clothes to take over our children without permission. Surely they should have a say in what they wear and when? If someone told me that I had to wear an extra jersey when I wasn’t feeling cold I would feel quite put out. Likewise if my husband or friend told me they thought I was dressed inappropriately. Surely we should treat our children with this same basic respect. Children need to enjoy their lives and explore their worlds and if they are so uncomfortable that their clothing is interfering with their lives then I see that as a problem. If you would like them to wear something else you really should have their permission. Children have rights just like the rest of us. It is their body. It is their life.
Children are at a phase in their lives of exploring the world and finding out what works for them. If they are comfortable in their pyjamas why shouldn’t they wear them out and about? It is hardly different from a tracksuit. If your child is in pyjamas or has mismatched socks or is in shorts in mid-winter and this bothers you then you need to take a look at your own limiting beliefs about life – that you should keep other people happy, that looking good is more important than having fun, that children should obey their parents, that you know better how your child feels in their body than they do. Question question question: Is it true?
If you’re having difficulty digging out those limiting beliefs, give me a shout. Freedom lies on the other side of your comfort zone!
I’d love to hear your dinnertime experiences or any feedback you have. Please add your comments below and let me know if this has been helpful to you, or if you have any wonderful suggestions to add!
(This is the second part in a series of articles on Debunking Parenting Myths. If you’ve just joined us and would like to embark on the rest of the journey, sign up here.)