When Should Kids Be Allowed To Pick Their Own Clothes?

I remember one Christmas many moons ago. As custom with our African mothers, my mother already bought my Christmas clothes weeks before Christmas. I totally fell in love with the outfits –a pair of jeans and jacket—that when she showed me, I instantly wished I could fast forward Christmas so I could rock my new outfit! The prospect of wearing my new clothes was thrilling coupled with the general magical ambience of the season, I was beside myself in joy! Couldn’t stem the excitement.

Finally, it was Christmas day! But the unexpected happened. I developed a strong distaste for the outfit. I suddenly did not wish to wear jeans trouser and jacket on Christmas, and told my mom I wanted to wear something else entirely. Wait for it, one of my old dresses!

She couldn’t believe her ears. Imagine a mother that already meticulously arranged her daughter’s outfit the previous day, arranging the shoes and other accessories only for her to wake up and turned up her nose at them. But trust African mother, the Nigerian breed especially; she heard me quite all right, but she was having none of that. I was seven year old.

I started crying, throwing all manner of tantrums and even succeeded in winning my grandmother to my side. She, tired of my persistent wailing, sued that I be allowed to wear my desired outfit which was a dress I wore for my fifth birthday two decades ago! Okay, I added a bit of drama. It was two year old dress. I’m rocking a mighty grin right now at the memory of it all. If this is not funny, then I don’t know what else is.

I was willing to dump a new gorgeous outfit that I was initially excited to have in favour of a two-year old dress, a beautiful one, but still an old dress! My mom was frustrated but then, she was not ready to tolerate my ‘nonsense’. She instead decided to negotiate with me. Told me we should reach a compromise; that I wear my new jeans and jacket clothes to the Father Christmas grotto she wanted to take me, then I change to my beloved yellow and black dress when we get back.

That stopped the flood of tears instantly as it appealed to me. And now look at us today, we all live happily ever after! A Father’s Opinion on When To Allow Kids Pick Their Own Clothes

According to this dad, allowing children to choose their own clothes is a way of teaching them critical decision making skills. He said he will rather guide them along this path by helping them group their clothes into 3 categories, so they know which category to choose from and when. As long as the kids choose from the right category, he is not bothered about how they combine it.

He however hinted at the ‘war’ he had to face from the mother who apparently always have a better alternative on whatever outfit the children turn up in.

Parents need to note that it is not always tantrums when kids insist that they do not want a clothing piece. It might be that it is too tight or scratchy, or just plain uncomfortable. They are the one wearing it, so they should know better. That is not ruling out stunts like what a 7-year old me did though. In such cases, parents need to be firm while not being brash.

Guided Decision Making as The Way Out

Some kids could be pretty much opinionated quite early on. I have seen a case where a 3-year old would not allow adults pick her outfit for her. You pick this, she picks that and will insist she is wearing what she picked. Otherwise, your ear drums won’t have peace from their persistent wailings.

So what do parents handle this situation? Do they hang up their hands in exasperation and allow them unmitigated freedom? Can that 3-year old be able to pick weather appropriate clothes? Say for instance, we are in harmattan and your kid whom you have given unbounded freedom decides on knickers and tank top only, will you, as a responsible parent, allow that on the altar of ‘I want her to start making decisions’? I guess not. This is where their budding decision making skills still need a bit of adult guidance until they are old enough to be given complete freedom.

You can go the route of that dad I mentioned earlier, or that of a mom who prefers to lay out three different outfits for her kids, then step back to allow them pick. That way, there is room for them to cultivate critical decision making skills while they still end up in suitable clothes.

Thank you for reading!

It’s a super beautiful Thursday and we are so grateful to be alive, and well! These days more than ever, that can no longer be taken for granted. Being alive and bubbling in good health is indeed a great gift, and we hope everyone gets to enjoy that for a very long time.