What do we teach children today about personal style? Do we tell them to copy certain fashion icons and other people around them or do we ask them to find themselves and create their own personal style that reflects their personality? And what is the parents’ role in the development of children’s personal style? Do they still have any voice or is fashion and media taking control over children? Have they lost their children to fashion? And if this is the case, what to do to give parents their power back?
Children start to choose their outfits at the age of 2-3 when they learn how to control their own lives. Parents’ role is to allow children experimentation within certain boundaries and to offer guidance and explanation; but not to restrict. Let your child play dress-ups, create mood boards of different outfits or combine different colours together. It will develop their creativity and help them to find clothes that make them feel most comfortable.
Between the age 3-6 parents’ influence is the strongest as they’re still more important than friends and idols from TV, music or sports. As in this age the inner beauty concept is still foreign to children and visual stimuli influence is the strongest, parents need to look good to achieve children’s admiration. Only then the child will be willing to listen to the parents’ guidance regarding what clothes to wear. I remember when my mum was taking me to nursery or then to school and I was always so happy to walk next to her as she always looked impeccable; same with my granny. Till this day I consider both of them my biggest style icons. If you don’t walk the talk, your position as authority on the subject will be diminished in child’s eyes. So instead of telling your children how to dress, show them.
Children of age 6 onwards are already subjected to external influence as they begin to socialise more and be exposed to media, advertising, fashion and idol culture. That is presenting various risks including body image issues, confidence issues and a danger of becoming a slave to fashion. In these years children dress to fit in a social group or gain friends so they don’t think about comfort, expression of their personality or about what’s appropriate. Parents’ role is to set child’s priorities right. Teach them to accept themselves, understand who they are, respect their preferences; this will build their confidence and allow them to choose safely. Teach them what’s appropriate generally and in specific situations, e.g. interview, special occasion, date. Show them that comfort is more important than being fashionable, especially with regards to shoes. Tell them how to use clothes in a purposeful way and what style is.
However what parents should do to ensure that their children will become leaders of their own style rather than followers of someone else’s?
As we know people that have their own personal style are those that have a strong identity and are confident. People that only copy other’s style are either lost, not sure who they are, lack confidence or are in search of their identity. Self-awareness and understanding is a key to strong identity and confidence. Therefore respecting your child’s right to a style will make you an allay not an enemy. You will be invited by your child on the journey of discovering who they are.
After speaking to a number of parents about their children’s personal style, I identified one crucial thing that majority of parents could do better. They treat their kids as copies of themselves. Please remember that your children meant to be who they choose to be, sometimes different, sometimes similar to you. If they are pushed however they will resist so help your children to identify these differences and embrace them as their own.
Show them that it is ok to be different than you and others, especially the models in the adverts. Teach them to embrace and accept their differences. Always repeat to them that they are beautiful the way they are and help them to believe in themselves. Show them that their uniqueness is their true beauty; that they don’t need to look like this model or that singer to be amazing. Being themselves and only themselves makes them the most incredible people in the world.
The process can be as hard or as pleasant as you will make it. The child will follow your authority if you walk the talk. If you actively accept the search process that every child naturally is undergoing this could be a journey you are invited on; if you resist, it will be a struggle. This is an amazing opportunity to maintain the healthy influence onto your child growth, it can be a great adventure for both of you.
If most parents will do that, we will create a generation of strong-minded and independent people.