Your girl is so many wonderful things. She’s smart and thoughtful. She’s creative and daring. She’s curious and strong. Despite all those amazing inner qualities that we want to reinforce daily, it’s likely that as she’s gotten older, you (like so many other parents!) have found yourself getting into at least a few arguments over her outer appearance—the clothing she chooses and the way she chooses to style herself.
Maybe she wants to wear a tux to a school dance, dye her hair blue, or dress in all black with heavy eyeliner—and you’re simply not into the look or think she’ll regret these decisions later on. But before you put a moratorium on her preferred style, take a minute to see things through her eyes.
“Your girl is starting to develop her own identity, and fashion and style are a creative way for her to express her individuality and interests,” says Girl Scouts’ Developmental Psychologist, Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald. “When you dictate what she can and cannot wear based on what you like and don’t, you’re stifling her self-expression, which can affect her ability to make friends and connect with other like-minded kids.” Beyond that, it’s important to keep in mind that many middle and high school age girls already feel self-conscious about their looks, and giving them the freedom to express themselves through clothing they feel good in can boost their confidence.
Of course that doesn’t mean you need to let your girl wear anything and everything she desires, though. “There will be outfits or items that you will say no to because they might not be age-appropriate,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald, “but the important thing is to never say no without an explanation. Let’s say she picked out a dress that you think is too revealing—rather than shutting her down immediately, ask her what she likes about that dress and see if you can come to a compromise.” Chances are, it won’t be hard to find another item that evokes her style—be it emo, boho, edgy, or something else—but with a bit more coverage.
The key is to make sure your girl feels heard and that she can feel good in whatever she’s putting on. If you veto the look she wants to project, she’s far more likely to think you simply don’t respect or value her opinion—neither of which are true!
Besides, you might not agree with your girl’s decision to get a pixie cut or wish she would wear clothing more suited to your own tastes, but really—is your daughter dyeing her hair pink really going to affect anyone in a negative way? “Probably not,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald. “And besides, there’s going to be way bigger stuff coming up in her life that you really may need to put your foot down over for her own safety and health. It sounds cliché, but this is one of those times where it helps to choose your battles wisely.”
Forcing her to be friends with kids she doesn't click with isn't a good idea.