Mother Knows Best

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This Web Page by Pauline Harding for Art Nurk.
Contents may be copied if credit is given.

Parenting is all about power. When our children are small, we have almost complete control over where they are, what they do, what they eat, and what they wear. As they grow, we gradually turn over control to them. They experiment, sometimes make mistakes, and learn. We keep a watchful eye out for problems, gradually letting them experience the consequences of various choices, some good and some bad. From this they learn.

Some children are ready for a lot of responsibility early on, some take longer. Some children learn from the advice and examples of others, some children need to experience things for themselves.

So it is with clothing.

In the beginning, Mother buys the clothes and decides what baby will wear. Some children are happy this way for a long time. (Some grown men are happy this way!) Other children have strong opinions about what they wear from early childhood.

Mother begins to offer choices - "Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red one?" Sometimes she insists on something. "You must wear a dress to church." Other times she merely recommends, but allows the child to make their own choice. "You'll probably want a sweater today. No? OK, it's up to you." And helps the child learn from their experiments. "You were cold at recess? Hmmm... What should we do about that? Take a sweater? What a good idea!"

Mother teaches important values this way. She teaches the importance of certain occasions by insisting on appropriate dress. She teaches about being prepared and thinking ahead. She teaches initiative, creativity, and self-reliance by helping the child create their own clothing through sewing, knitting, painting, and tie-dye. She teaches thrift when a piece of clothing comes from a cousin, not a store, then is handed down to siblings, and on to younger cousins and friends.

Sometimes, the child wants something they cannot have. Mother talks about "wanting", and how it is different from "needing". Mother explains that people must make choices, and set priorities. Mother explains that people must work to get what they want and need. "This sweater is really important to you. How much does it cost? Can you save your money to buy it? Would you like to do some extra jobs for me to earn some money? Would you like Grandma to teach you how to knit?"

The struggles that parents and children experience, over clothing and other things, are part of the learning process. Taking the easy way out is not the best way in the long run. There is no substitute for the ongoing teaching that parents do, in little pieces every day. The school should not and cannot parent our children.

Taking away choices will not help our children learn.
School Uniforms take power away from parents.
Remember, mother knows best!