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You’re Not Leaving the House Wearing That!

You’re Not Leaving the House Wearing That!

Does accepting our kids choices imply approval?


There it was, a plastic sparkly blue hat, and my two year old son found his treasure. He just loves hats.

My wife was away and I am getting my children ready to go to the pizza shop for supper and my son insists on wearing his new blue hat. His two older brothers would have nothing to do with it. We are not going if he wears that hat. I, on the other hand, was completely at peace with it. There was no reason to be embarrassed for no one could suspect me of choosing his getup.

When your child is two it’s relatively easy not to be embarrassed by their choice of attire, but what about when he or she is 12 or older? Then it’s not as simple.

Clothing is a common source of tension in many homes. Parents and their teens often bicker over acceptable mode of dress. We really have to take a moment and ask ourselves: Is it worth the fight?

The first thing I suggest we do is introspect into the true motivation behind our battle. Are we fighting because we feel it is unhealthy for the child to dress this way or is it because we are embarrassed about what our neighbors and friend will say? This takes a great deal of self honesty but if we do come to the recognition that it is really our pride that we are worried about, then we are probably better off forgoing our pride for the sake of our relationship with our child.

If we are not prepared to forgo our honor, then I suggest we at least be honest with our child and tell him that we feel uncomfortable when he or she dresses this way and not hide behind another agenda. When parents preach that which is not in line with their true motivation, their children can sense the falsehood and it hurts their ability to trust and listen to their parents down the road.

Now let say you allow your child to dress in a way that bothers you, (or he doesn’t give you much of a choice) how are we going to deal with this situation going forward?

We can make disparaging comments every time our child comes down the stairs – You’re not really going to go out like that? – but what will be accomplished? We are just creating a wedge between ourselves and our child. Remember, the number one asset parents have towards helping their children develop is a close relationship and constant criticism and disapproval will only hurt that asset. They know already we don’t like their taste in clothing, so why constantly rehash it?

Embrace your child as he is.

We have to learn – probably the most difficult aspect of parenting – to embrace our child as he is. Parents commonly confuse the following two words - acceptance and approval. We fear that if we accept our child for who he is he will think we approve of everything he is doing.

But the two are clearly not the same. I can hate the blue hat you are wearing, but love you to death. I can even disapprove of your behavior and still love you to death. The two should never be confused and when they are – serious problems begin. When we confuse the two and show our child less love because we don’t like what he is doing, then we will have hurt him deeply and only weakened our chance of helping him down the road.

I think most of us would be great at helping the neighbor’s child if he was assigned to us for help. We would find a way to embrace him despite his current challenges and shortcomings. We would show him love and patience and do a masterful job of helping him grow. It is our own child where our anxiety and frustrations take us over, leading us to unhealthy reactions and behavior. The neighbor’s child I can happily walk down the street with my arm around him – even in his funny blue hat, but with my own I could never bear.

This is something we need to overcome if we want to help our child. We have to realize he is not our child that we own and outfit as we please – he is God’s and we were the ones assigned the holy task of holding his hand and guiding him with grace and pride.

Don’t worry about the neighbors; be confident and happy knowing that you are following God’s directive of lovingly taking care of the precious child He entrusted you with. Ultimately your child will give you so much to be proud of.

January 25, 2014

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Visitor Comments: 12

(8) scott, January 28, 2014 9:06 AM

Can't disagree more with your advice.

"We have to learn to accept our children for who they are" Are you kidding? A 12 year old has no idea who they are. They don't know how to dress properly. Your job is to teach them. If my parents decided that who I thought I was at 12 should have been honored...I'd be a terrible person today. I was selfish and disrespectful and disorganized. I didn't work well with people and I dressed in a way to offend or attract negative attention because that's what my life was was about-attracting attention.

Did you ever think that your kids is pushing the boundaries of what he knows is acceptable just to see if you're paying attention and care enough about him to correct him? Maybe the problem is that your reluctance to parent-especially the unfun parts like setting rules and getting upset about his behavior-has led him to believe that you don't really care.

My parents did not let me leave the house dressed in a way that was inappropriate. They did not let me have inappropriate hairstyles of behave rudely or disrespectfully without consequence. They were my parents and knew better about who I was and who I would become than did the 12 year old me. Thank G*d he actually gave me parents interested in being parents instead of buddies and spectators. I needed them. I never doubted their love. I always knew that they cared.

You can do everyone -his teachers, his neighbors, his employers, his future spouse(s) and children a big favor and parent him. Set rules and enforce them. Establish a dress code for your family-why does the idiot on the street have the right to set his dress code and you his parents don't?

Or you can continue to be a wet sponge and take Mr. Validate your children's unacceptable behavior advice and raise another spoiled,ungrateful adult that comes back to Mr. Validation and his buddies to spend $400 and hour to hear how you never showed that you cared about him.

talmid, January 30, 2014 12:55 AM

way off

scott you are basing all of your thoughts on one very false premise... I quote "my parents", "I would be a terrible person today", "my parents didn't" -the world is completely different than it was when you grew up. children are much more disrespectful and that is a fact.. I sincerely hope you are not in a position of chinuch right now because your opinions will lead to a disaster. stop liking people who agree with your ideas- you are only validating yourself. how about taking an honest fresh deep logical and profound look at what you just read and for the productivity of society and yiddishkeit please try to apply them. hatzlocha

scott, February 3, 2014 4:32 PM

It's not people like me who are the problem.

The world is not different. The sun still rises and sets. People still study torah.

Children are more disrespectful today because parents allow them to be. It's a hard thing to discipline your kids. You have to be willing to be unpopular with them. You have to be strong enough to stand alone and not accept your neighbors values as the values of your family. And you also have to care enough about them to spend the time coaching respect and good behavior.

I'm sorry but its not me that needs to avoid positions of authority with kids.

Leave your kids with me and they won't come home drunk or tattooed or having had inappropriate contact with others. They will not embarrass themselves or their families. Mainly because I set the standards in my house, on my team and in my care and enforce those standards. Kids respect that. They respect me. And they respect themselves. And they come back year after year. Boys and girls. Special needs or not. They know I care.

Children crave discipline-not physical discipline or harsh words-but rules and structure. They want strong parents. They need authority figures and will behave badly until someone cares enough to push back.

In my family children are not disrespectful because they are disciplined. My nieces and nephews are delights. Yes maam and no sir and home on time. They dress like decent people and are as completely trustworthy as children can be. So much so that the eldest boy traveled across the country to do his senior year college visit unaccompanied.

I challenge you to find many kids who have earned that level of trust from their parents.

It all starts with things like "You won't leave the house dressed like that." Teams have uniforms. Gangs have uniforms. And families have standards of dress. Which leads to standards of conduct and standards of morality. It's how you raise your kids to be good people.

(7) Anonymous, January 27, 2014 6:45 PM

Limits to Establishing Dress Guildlines

I understand that parents wish their kids to dress in a refine manner and not wear an outfit that will embarrass them and and the family. As once a teenager who was obsessed with the latest style (still am), I can understand why kids feel frustrated and almost incline to challenge their parents authority when is comes to establishing a dress code. While I believe a dress code serves some purpose, being draconian about it has proven to be a futile effort. Growing up in a strictly religious environment where modesty was overemphasized, I couldn't understand why I wasn't allowed to wear pants in public past a certain age nor saw the harm in not wanting to wear stockings or thick long socks in the summertime. I was resentful and wanted to dress like everyone else or at least be comfortable. Anything that was too tight, revealing, and short for my community's modesty guidelines were automatically repelled.No matter how hard my parents tried to force me to conform to the community standards of modesty, I eventually stopped caring. Looking good is what only mattered to me and I wasn't going to seek approval from anyone anymore. If they found my choice of clothing to be too provocative, they would have to learn to tolerate it. I have been berated before and it had no affect on me. The point is that I understand that parents what to protect their children's dignity as well as the family reputation but when a child veers off the path of what is suppose to be appropriate attire, biting criticism is pointless. Not all children want to wear black and white, loose clothing, calf-length skirts or stockings. I find it offensive when people refer to such individuals as sluts. Establish guidelines but don't push too hard.

(6) Anonymous, January 27, 2014 3:29 AM

You're Not leaving the house wearing that !

I am guilty of scolding my dear mother when I was a child, for wearing brightly colored clothes. She was from a foreign country where extroverts and bright colors were normal , but I was a product of the a more conservative country I grew up in. so as a 9 year old I would say "Mom, are you really going out like that?", worried that her "eccentricity" will somehow reflect on me , and losing the acceptance of the community. Four decades later I apologized to my mother for telling her off !
She on the other hand thought it was quite funny.

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