Kid: (Holding up a pair of denim bib overalls) I bought this for you to wear to work.
Parent: Are you out of your mind?
Kid: What do you mean? What’s wrong with them? They’re comfortable. They don’t cost a lot, so it fits our budget. And they are easy to launder.
Parent: What’s wrong with them? Is this your idea of a sick joke? I work at a corporate law firm. If I come to the office wearing overalls, people will think I’ve either had a nervous breakdown or am a complete buffoon. Or maybe both.
Kid: So what you are saying is that you just want to wear what the “cool lawyers” (kid waves his fingers in simulated quotation marks) are wearing? You think the point of clothing is to impress other people?
Parent: Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. If I’m going to be a successful lawyer working downtown and meeting with clients, I can’t dress like a hayseed.
Kid: Do you have any idea how much the clothes you want to wear actually cost?
Parent: Yes, of course. We’re business casual, so I wouldn’t have to wear a suit, but still a dress shirt, a good pair of slacks and decent looking shoes would probably cost about $300. And I’d need more than one outfit. So the total wardrobe would run about $2000, give or take.
Kid: And you’d spend $2000 on clothing when a pair of sturdy overalls only costs thirty bucks? All because of stupid peer pressure? When are you going to grow up and learn to become an independent person? Is that all you are learning at the office? What about becoming a better lawyer by studying harder? No, you’d rather just throw away money on new clothes, even though you know our family is on a budget. That’s it buster – no golf for you this weekend. You’re grounded!
So, when you find yourself arguing with your kid about clothing, what you are really saying is, “In order for you to make your way in the world, you are going to have to learn how to get along with other people. The clothing you wear is just one small choice among many, but first impressions matter. I’m going to try to undermine your happiness and do what I can to make sure that you don’t have friends at school and are regarded as an oddball by making you wear clothes that help advance that goal.”
Is that really the message you want to send your kids? I didn’t think so. By middle school, if they can’t dress themselves, you are failing as a parent.