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3 Tips on Avoiding Teen Wardrobe Wars

3 Tips on Avoiding Teen Wardrobe Wars

Jennifer B. gets annoyed when her artistic daughter dons her boyfriend's way-too-big pants. "I can't have her going out like that," says this frustrated Circle of Moms member.

Latisha and her teen can’t agree on anything, from what to eat to where to go to school, and especially not on the need to wear a coat when it’s cold.

Yet another member, Kathy, is concerned when pre-teen girls wear skimpy clothes: "On one hand, it's their body and they can dress how they want. On the other hand … I do think modesty is a good virtue."


As these moms' fashion conflicts with their daughters reveal, it's not uncommon for parents to cringe at their kids' clothing choices once they enter their tweens and teens. If this kind of a wardrobe war is brewing in your home, consider these three tips from Circle of Moms members.

1. Broach the Subject Carefully and Lovingly

Teens often experiment with clothing to express their character and to feel more confident. Thus, says a mom named Michelle, tread carefully so that your criticisms don't breed insecurity. Referencing her own experience growing up, she cautions that worrying excessively about appearances will distract your child from much more important things:

"I missed out on a lot worrying about what I looked liked, my weight, my hair, makeup, fashion ... it all prevented me from being me and having the confidence to be independent and a go-getter."

With her own daughter, now 23, Michelle has focused on letting her be herself. Her daughter used to dress entirely in black, which collided with Michelle’s more feminine sensibilities. "I didn’t like it, but I let her be her since her character and personality didn’t reflect her choice of style." Michelle advises letting your child know "that you're okay with it," but also offering loving advice on "how sometimes certain clothing is best," and why.


Recognizing that her 11-year-old daughter wants to fit in with classmates who are dressing in styles that are more risque, a member named Jennifer is also finding that thoughtful conversation, rather than criticism, is the way to go. When shopping, she also steers her daughter away from stores that sell "crazy stuff" to pre-teens.

Another member (screen name "Momma"), adds an important point: that it's important to help shore your child up against peer pressure:

"I think to not let them do everything they want just because their friends are doing it builds a leader, not a follower. I think that you need to allow your child to be able to use you as a scape goat, and you need to tell them that."

2. Define "Decency"

When helping your child to make better clothing choices, it’s important to define what’s acceptable and what's indecent, say Circle of Moms members. Many moms are concerned in particular about clothes that are too skimpy. But moms need to define "skimpy" clearly for their daughters, says a member with the screen name "Fit2Bme," citing spaghetti strap tops as a style that's tricky because it's not always clear when it's appropriate and when it's not.

A mom named Kathy agrees that appropriate dress is difficult to define. "I am not totally convinced we need to crack down on all skimpy clothes. My nine-year-old wears spaghetti straps. There is nothing a sexual about it," she says. "Figure out if they are dressing for themselves or if they are dressing in a way that is objectifying. Dressing to please yourself — even if it is spaghetti straps? Cool. Dressing in a way that objectifies yourself? Not so cool."

Another member, Dove, keeps things simple by asking her daughter to follow school dress codes even outside of the classroom. "My guideline is that if the bottoms aren't appropriate for school, they aren't appropriate. No off-the-shoulder shirts. Tank tops and regular T-shirts are fine."


Mom Isobel defines "acceptable" for her 11-year-old daughter as follows: "If you're wearing a spaghetti strap tank top, you must be wearing long/loose shorts. If you are wearing shorter shorts, you must have sleeves."

Isobel adds that her daughter now has "a pretty good handle" on what will be allowed and what's not, and that "finding a happy-medium between giving her complete freedom to dress as inappropriately as she wants (because she really doesn't understand the ramifications of projecting a particular image to the public) and keeping her in a burka will keep an open line of communication as she grows up."

3. Pick Your Battles

Finally, when it comes to clothing, many experienced moms advise doing your best to let go. "Hair, clothes, makeup, and food may be minor battles compared to making sure there are no drugs, alcohol and sex," for instance, says a member named Sarah.

Tonya agrees that clothing, hair styles, and makeup choices are often "not worth fighting over" when it’s more important to make sure your child is not being exposed to people who could harm her or lead her into a bad situation. This is especially true when your child is trying to become more independent, says a mom named Patty:

"If she chooses not to wear a coat and becomes sick, or worse frostbitten, that would be natural consequences for her behavior,” she advises Latisha, the mom whose teen resists her advice on everything, adding, "As for the clothing issue, no breasts, no butts, no cracks, no straps is my rule, the rest is okay."


Several moms say it's a waste of energy to get upset when kids wear pajamas or other inappropriate gear out in public: "At least they're wearing ‘something," says a member named Sylvia, and a mom named Cassidy feels that, "If that's what they wanna wear, as long as they have clothes on, I could care less."

Finally, as a mom named Liz recalls from her own teen years, kooky clothing choices are almost always just a phase:

""The more [my mom] pushed one way, the more I pushed the other. My mom told me years later that she spent a lot of time shaking her head at the choices that I made. She admits that when she decided to ignore those things that I wore, things got easier for everyone in the house. Clothes, food, and hair are not worth the stress. Being at odds over these things could push her away when it comes to the really important stuff: Smile, hug her, tell her you love her, then go out of her sight and shake your head in disbelief."

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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