I see it all the time.
As a store owner of Fierson’s an upscale children’s boutique in Bronxville, NY, I bear witness to the disturbing trend I see among parents who eagerly ask their children (who are at an age when they can barely string together three or four words, much less offer a cogent opinion) if they “like” a certain outfit being considered for purchase.
I don’t say much, but I want to scream. I mean, I’m not even so sure it’s a good idea to ask our husband’s THEIR opinions on clothing much less our toddlers?!!
While I was certifiably mad for my late husband, he could not, under any circumstances, be viewed as a style maven or arbiter of good taste. In this blogger’s humble opinion, MOST men ( read: “straight” men) are NOT style icons, nor do they want to be. Why then, would I ask him his opinion about clothes? (Whether they be mine or others.)
So why the recent compulsion to ask our children ??
Do they have a highly developed sense of style at two? Or are we merely placing on them a responsibility that they may not even be interested in assuming?
A recent article in The Washington Post pointed to a Connecticut-based survey that found that parents often “asked kids’ opinions, regardless of age, about products they planned to buy for the kids or whole family. More, it found that about half sought kids opinions about products the parents wanted for themselves.”
Why are we doing this? To teach them independence? To let them express their individual sense of style? Style is learned over time. Yes. Let’s let our toddlers develop it. Uhmmm…on their American Girl dolls. Not on an outfit they’re going to wear to Sally’s birthday party or Uncle Nick’s first Thanksgiving.
I’m all for asking toddlers key questions:
- Ask them if they want to go potty.
- Ask them if those were the puka shells in the bowl on the coffee table or the sweetie candies next to it that they just swallowed.
- Ask them if they’d like to start reciting the alphabet or the names of all fifty states.
But DON’T ask them if they “like” or (even worse) will “wear” a certain outfit.
Who’s in charge here? Who is the parent??
Did Jackie Kennedy ask John John if he would wear that short double breasted coat and those knee hi’s he wore when saluting his father’s casket at the funeral?? I’d hazard a guess that she did not.
What would have happened had John F. Kennedy Jr. had his say on that fateful day? Would millions of teary-eyed Americans be watching a young boy in a collarless T-shirt emblazoned with the reigning cartoon characters of that time (I think George Jetson and his dog Elmo may have been right up there in popularity in 1963).
Would the solemnity of the occasion have been appropriately conveyed via the caricatures or would something be askew?
Children will learn to make their own decisions in time…why rush it? American children don’t get to vote until they are 18 and with good reason. Not to put words into the mouths of our founding fathers, but I’d have to say that these esteemed gentlemen simply realized, that with time, experience and maturity, our children will be in a better position to make reasoned choices.
So then, is it really necessary to give our children voting and veto power on clothing at two?
If it were up to our two year olds they’d be wearing their Pink-alicious PJ’s to great aunt Polly’s wake.
Just as a child will go for the Fruit loops over the steel cut oats, the gummy bears over the apple slices, so too, will they opt for the cheap and flashy over the simple and refined. A Disney character will always beat out a cotton pique sundress or Brooks Brothers blue and white oxford shirt. That understood, do we really want or need to give our young children this much control? Who says they have to get a say in every aspect of their life?
Do our children have a say about brushing their teeth? About combing their hair? About saying “please” and “thank you” at appropriate times?
No. Why is that? Because they need to learn, to be taught about decorum; both in terms of behavior and appearance. Similarly, they need to be taught about appropriate clothing choices. Let them evolve into their own individual style…in time, and through a parent’s guidance.
For parents who insist on giving their young children some power, my advice is: If you MUST, then PLEASE make sure it is LIMITED in scope. If fascism on a personal level doesn’t appeal to you quite as much as it does to me and you feel that you MUST give them some input, then give them a choice, a choice between two options. Two items that YOU, as the parent in charge, have already selected.
It’s about baby steps. Give them input as they mature. Give them an option of A or B if you must, but not carte blanche. You be the parent. Let them be the child.