Oh, isn’t it funny how time flies? Just a few years ago, you were picking out your children’s clothes, dressing them in perfectly coordinated outfits so they could go to school and possibly win the ‘best dressed award.’ Not only was shopping for your child’s clothes fun and fairly inexpensive – it was a no brainer. As long as the turtleneck wasn’t too tight and the stretch pants or jeans didn’t have itchy spots – you knew your child was going to wear it. And, back in the day – it was pretty easy to find clothes that fit. By fit, meaning they actually provide some sort of cover to their bodies.

Just last week, you spent the wee hours of weekday mornings telling your teenager to go back to their room and change. Again. “You are not wearing that to school,” you would exclaim hoping they would understand why the halter top and jeans with the whole in the butt were inappropriate – only to have them come back downstairs in something else that leaves little to the imagination. And sadly, this doesn’t just happen when you have teenage girls. Teenage boys today are dressing pretty poorly as well. Honestly, is there any sense in wearing pants at all if they are just going to show their boxers? And are ripped jeans with shredded holes really academically appealing? Or what about t-shirts with often obscene or at least risqué comments or pictures? Is that truly a fashion statement?

As long as there have been parents and children, there have been disagreements about what is appropriate attire to wear outside of the home. And in nearly every generation, clothes have been a main fighting point between parents and the children they raise. Children have been putting clothes in their backpacks and changing as soon as they were out of mom and dads sight for eons. Call it one of the major aspects of every generation gap, or simply a lack of judgment for the youth. One day, you will use a pointed finger to send your child back to their closet to change clothes.

The question is, WHO is buying the clothes? And, if kids are buying their own clothes, WHO is giving them the money to do so?

Another important question, is whether or not the risky clothes sold today – such as bootie shorts and tank tops, or tight fitting shirts and ripped up jeans are actually following the rules of your child’s school dress code policy?

Parents need to do a few things. First, they need to get a copy of the appropriate dress code from their child’s school. It should be outlined in the standard operating procedures manual. Most middle and high schools require students and parents to sign these handbooks at the beginning of each year and copies are available to parents online. Familiarize yourself with the dress code. Memorize it. Because it can be your best friend. This way, when your children want you to spend $40 on half a shirt or ripped up jeans, you can blame your non-compliance on the school dress code. When your child comes back with, “Everyone is wearing those,” you can state that you and your family are rule followers. End of conversation.

Parents also need to pay attention to how kids spend the money they are given on clothes. If your child is going to buy clothes, they are certainly going to try and wear them. Yes, even to school. If it is your money – then you have some level of control over what it could be spent for. Honestly, you wouldn’t give your children money to buy drugs or alcohol. You wouldn’t give them money to go gambling. So choose not to give them money to buy clothes that are inappropriate. Make sure that when they are spending your money on their clothes, that they have some boundaries and parameters to follow.

The good news about this day and age, is that while super short and too revealing seem to be in style (especially on MTV), there are plenty of fashionable options that do look appropriate. Abercrombie sells more than one style of t-shirt. Old Navy has lots of school worth clothes with their logo on it. Skirts do come in various lengths. And you can buy jeans that don’t have holes. If you set boundaries about clothing, and are clear with your reasoning, (even though your children won’t ‘get’ it), the issue won’t be so much of an issue at all. In this situation, correcting an issue is much more difficult than making it sure it doesn’t happen.

Children do not always have the gift of thought that adults do. You have learned your own lessons about life and have a responsibility to your children to teach them how wearing inappropriate clothing can be detrimental to their reputation and future. And at the same time, you have to remember what it was like to be a teenager yourself. Give them some freedom to choose their clothing as well. There is no way that you are going to like or love every single article of clothing that your child wants to wear or tries on. And that is okay. Allow them to follow their creative freedom and teach them how to make sensible decisions about their clothing while staying true to their personal sense of style.

When all else fails, (which it definitely will from time to time) – send them back to their room with a stern, “You are NOT wearing that to school,” and try not to get too worked over the matter. You are simply experiencing a parental rite of passage and probably being paid back for some of the awful things you tried to get out of the house wearing to school.

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