Last week, we heard from a mom whose daughters, ages five and eight, are bigger girls who sometimes want to wear clothes that don't fit their bodies well.
"We are trying to let them pick out what they want to wear, but it usually ends up in a power struggle if the combination of clothing they choose does not fit them well," she wrote.
"Shopping for clothes is a struggle in itself, as it breaks my heart when they love something but I have to say no because it does not fit their bodies. Our main concern is the language we choose - we want to teach our girls to love their body shape and to find clothes that work for them. How do we advise our daughters and respect their sense of self-expression without the power struggle?"
Here's what our parent educators had to say:
I t's still possible to express yourself with limited choices. As long as the clothing fits, your girls can choose all kinds of colours and styles.
This isn't a judgment of their bodies but a simple fact that we all have to think about when we are choosing clothes.
Normalizing these kinds of experiences while accepting their feelings of disappointment is key. You can empathize by saying, "It is so disappointing to find something you like and then discover it doesn't fit properly."
At the same time, you can also be clear that they are limited to buying things that fit. Limits and empathy work hand in hand.
Kids need to know two things: that you understand how they feel and that you can handle how they feel.
This provides them with emotional safety and a sense of being loved for who they are and how they feel. It also keeps you in a position of guiding them rather than arguing with them.
What can make things go sideways is when we overcompensate or feel sorry for our kids. That turns healthy empathy into sympathy. Feeling sorry for our kids leaves them feeling incapable of dealing with the givens of life. Sympathy can make them feel simply pathetic.
It can also make us bend over backward and then feel resentful.
Normalizing intense feelings and learning to live with them is all part and parcel of growing up. If we try to protect our children from the natural ebb and flow of life, we can undermine their abilities.
Changing what we can but accepting what we can't change is an important part of living a healthy life. It's a given in life that things aren't always fair, people aren't always kind, everything changes and ends, things don't always go according to plan and pain is a part of life. Accepting this and finding creative strategies to effect change where we can leads us to a sense of empowerment.
Finally, another powerful influence is how you regard your own body. Remember not to cut yourself down or complain about any flaws you perceive in yourself. Be kind to yourself: Your children are watching.
Allison Rees Parent Educator LIFE Seminars
I think it's great that you're working hard to preserve your daughters' positive body image. It's important that children do not feel they must aspire to some sort of cultural standard of size and shape.
Children often have difficulty making good choices in many areas - clothing is just one of them. When children are exposed to popular media and peers, they sometimes want to emulate what they see in magazines and on TV. They often don't understand the notion of time and place for certain outfits. Fit, style, comfort and appropriateness to the occasion can be complicated and as parent, you will need to take the lead.
I solved this for my own children by never taking them shopping for clothing. I was able to choose appropriate clothing in the correct sizes. My children could then choose what they wore each day from the selection in their drawers.
I also separated play clothes, party clothes and school clothes into separate drawers and parts of the closet, so that they could simply choose from the correct drawer. Once in a while there were a few tears because I refused to buy outfits that they had seen elsewhere and coveted, but I held firm and over time, they understood that they couldn't be in complete charge of clothing.
They did manage to put together a few unfortunate colour combinations, but I never worried about that, as my focus was that they wear clothes that fit our family's values and were appropriate to the occasion.
When clothes became too small or worn out, I simply rotated them out of circulation. Occasionally, the children would receive a gift of something I would never let them wear, and if it could not be returned, it went into the costume box.
The key to this is to take the lead as a parent and make clothing choices for your children until they are old enough to make good choices on their own. Along the way, you might open conversations about how popular media objectifies young women and why strong girls do not get persuaded to copy unfortunate clothing styles just to be cool.
Jean Bigelow Parent Educator
Next week's question:
We live on a street with many children, and there is a group of boys ages 5-13 (most in the 6-9 range) who play together regularly, mostly uneventfully. About nine months ago, a new family moved in with two boys. The boys are here every other week, since their parents recently split up.
We were told when they moved in that the younger one "has some challenges," but we are beginning to realize they both do.
Since their arrival, the number of extremely loud screaming matches has gone from a couple per week to several per day, and recently, since the boys all like to play with foam swords, it's escalated to more physical violence. The younger boy frequently (and loudly) loses his temper.
The new boys also do a lot of trash talking, which of course the other kids are now doing.
Originally, we wanted to do whatever we could to help the boys, since we believe it does take a village to raise a child. However, they seem to have no consequences for their actions (other than being talked to) - we've never seen them grounded or have privileges or sweets (which they are constantly eating) taken away. The situation is escalating and we are very frustrated.
We can't simply cancel playdates - we live next door, so the kids keep wanting to play together, and we don't want to create animosity among the adults. Values and treating each other properly are very important to us, and we have had no trouble, along with the other parents, in dealing with issues as they have cropped up in the past (our children are certainly no angels and have occasionally behaved atrociously, too), but we can't seem to get a handle on this. Help!
Do you have any advice for this parent? Are you struggling with a parenting dilemma? Write to email@example.com. Please put "the parent rap" in the subject line. Questions about children from infants to teenagers are welcome.