Wardrobe Wars

How to Resolve More Clothing Conflicts

Clothing Conflict: Your son wears the same outfits over and over (and over)

One important rule: Clothes have to be clean. To help put the kibosh on same-ol', same-ol' dressing, make a blanket declaration that pants and shirts don't get more than one wearing without a dip in the washing machine. But if your child is willing to help you with midweek laundry detail, there's no harm in letting him stick with what's comfortable. And let's face it: Boy clothes all look kind of the same anyway. The more you demand that he diversify his wardrobe, the more he'll dig his heels in, so pick your battles wisely. If he'll wear the sweater you chose when you go to Grandma's house, agree to buy a few more of the plain navy-blue T-shirts he loves.

Clothing Conflict: What your 8-year-old wants to wear is too sexy for third grade

Think a lot of the clothes in the kid section look way too, um, mature? You're not just being a fuddy-duddy. One recent Kenyon University study found that almost 30 percent of clothes sold for girls had sexy traits, like sheer fabric or a revealing cut. While a crop top on a 7-year-old may seem innocent, your child's clothing choices now can set the stage for what she'll expect to wear as a teen. "If you're fighting with your third-grader over the length of a dress, those arguments won't go away in the ninth grade," says Richard Bromfield, Ph.D., author of How to Unspoil Your Child Fast.

So it's smart to establish some standards now. For instance, a short dress is okay as long as your child wears a pair of leggings under it. Other family rules could include no pants with writing on the bum or no graphic tees with inappropriate sayings.

Clothing Conflict: The designer sneakers your son wants cost more than a week's groceries

Even young grade-schoolers pick up on the idea that certain clothing brands have a cachet that helps kids fit in. "Children start to worry about their image at a pretty young age," says Dr. Bromfield. That pressure can feel very real to your kid, so when he begs for a brand, ask him what he sees in it, suggests Stiffelman, then acknowledge his anxiety. "You can say, 'It seems that you think everyone is wearing that kind of sneaker, and you're going to be left out.'" Even if your child's afraid that not wearing the "in" clothing means he'll be teased, you don't have to drop adult-size wads of cash on his gear. If he's dying for $150 high-tops, offer to chip in a reasonable amount, say $50, and let your son make up the difference with his own money. Or set a shopping budget for the 'must-buy' items before you hit the mall, then let him get a coveted brand-name item with leftover cash. The deal will also keep your kid's eye trained on the sales racks -- a smart lesson in financial management.

Originally published in the March 2012 issue of Parents magazine.

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