Child-Friendly Parenting in One Sentence

Having our children select their clothes for school the night before is such a logical thing to do, but it really is a helpful behavior management tool.  It cuts down on one more thing to have to figure out in the morning, and it helps to win involvement and investment.

By involving our children in the task of selecting their own clothes for the next day, they have an opportunity to practice their decision-making skills and their planning-ahead skills.  With the weather warming up, a relevant question is, “Pants or shorts?”

By creating space for our children to be invested in something as simple as what they are wearing to school the next day, it wins cooperation when the next morning comes and they remember that they’ve already picked out their clothes.  It kind of kick-starts the morning.  School-age kids really seem to have a connection with their shirts and their pants and their socks.  It matters to them what is on them.

This itty bitty practical tip is representative of child-friendly parenting because it gives children a voice and choice in planning ahead, in the nightly routine of clothes selection, and in the morning routine of following through with their previous decisions.  (Of course, if they change their mind, they are free to do so!)

This contrasts greatly with the urge some of us parents have to control every detail of our children’s lives (while we still can, we think).  But it’s very important to look for practical ways, like selecting clothes, to give our children the room to express themselves, be individuals, and act upon their likes and dislikes (within reason).

Also, this makes a deposit in the relationship bank that reaps dividends over time.  Additionally, it (having our children select, the night before, their clothes for school the next day) has the potential to provide numerous teachable moments.  It’s helpful to use child-friendly scripts, in these teachable-moment instances.  For example, what if our children pick out something that isn’t consistent with the weather?  Shorts when it’s 20 degrees outside won’t work.  We can say something like, “Hmm, it’s supposed to be really cold.  Like freeze your butt off cold.  What do you think might be a better selection?”

Or what if our children pick out something that doesn’t match?  It’s counter-productive to encourage our children to wear whatever they want if the other kids are just going to make fun of them.  We can say something like, “These are awesome colors.  I know you like these red and black shorts and this orange shirt and these purple socks.  But sometimes when we wear clothes in public, like at school, it’s a good idea to choose colors that match.  Would you rather wear this combo or that one?”

And what if it’s just not school appropriate?  Hot-head Raphael swingin’ his sais (is that the plural of sai?) gets a call home in some schools (as does tank tops and spaghetti straps).  We can say something like, “You can totally wear this at home, but at school, they want you to wear things that don’t show violence (or that cover your shoulders).  What would be a better school shirt?”

Having a game-plan (complete with script ideas) at our finger tips really helps if things don’t go as planned (I know I am not the only parent in the world who has ended up with a meltdown on her hands on account of clothes and the selection of them).  And on the days when it seems like our children don’t care what they wear, then we get the honors of making those decisions for them (a sigh of relief from some of us in some cases).

The main thing that really helps develop trust, cooperation, and respect in our relationship with our children is to create space in every day ways for our children 1) to have a say (voice) in the way things go for them/happen to them and 2) to make their own choices (choice) within reasonable parameters.  This is as close to summing up child-friendly parenting in one sentence as we can get!

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