Allowing Children the Freedom of Self-Expression

Allowing Chidlren the Freedom of Self-Expression

When my children were little, I had total control over what they wore. I took pride in their appearance and took care to ensure that their outfits were matched and clean and their shoes were polished. Sometimes I even coordinated them to match each other. Gosh, that was fun. Nowadays, I have no control over what they wear, and I am happy to let them express themselves.

Sometimes when we go out in public, we’ll get a quizzical look or even a frown, but I think I notice much more than my children do. Whether it’s a messy shirt, a mismatched sock, or a necklace my son fashioned for himself out of mechanical pieces, the choice is their own, and I know that they take pride in that.

Who needs a designer label when you have a one of a kind belt made out of an actual seat belt?

My five-year-old daughter loves to choose her own clothes and even modify them. With scissors. I have reservations about taking her out in a shirt that was inexpertly cut up in places with a clashing skirt over a pair of jeans, mismatched socks, or no socks at all. If I ask her to change, she stares at me like I have three heads. Her outfit is beautiful, what’s my problem?

My kindergartener gets very attached to his clothing and it’s impossible at times to get him to change a faded ratty looking shirt for a newer, nicer one. He also likes to roll the waist of his pants down which lifts them up in the ankle. He doesn’t care what it looks like, it’s comfortable for him.

My thirteen year old wears basket ball shorts and tank tops in the winter, even when there is snow on the ground. I know many parents who complain about this, so at least I’m not alone in my plight.

My high schooler wears his father’s jeans a lot of the time, because they are convenient. They are short in the length, but too big everywhere else. He also likes his little brother’s T-shirts that are two sizes too small and barely come down far enough to meet his pants. He manufactures belts for himself out of seat belts that he finds at the junk yard, and wears jewelry that he makes for himself out of random “cool looking” junk.


Yes, my children are a fashion disaster. I know plenty of parents that wouldn’t let their children out of the house in the clothes they choose for themselves. They would insist they change, and even throw away the clothes that have worn out and need to be replaced or have been purposely cut to tatters.

I fondly recollect my teenage years when I became old enough to finally choose my own attire. I took pride not only in the clothes I selected, but the fact that it was what I wanted – not what my mother wanted for me. I’m sure she grimaced at the Chinese throwing star I wore for a necklace, skull earrings or the fact that I mixed floral print body suits with combat boots and bell bottoms (in the nineties). I certainly got some stares around school for my eclectic ensembles, but I felt confident because I dressed to suit myself.

Allowing my children the freedom to choose their clothes, even when I’m tempted to walk just a little ahead of them at the grocery store, has nothing to do with my not wanting to bother. If they wouldn’t mind it, I would pick out all of their clothes and dress them the way that I want.

Allowing them the right to personal expression is a very important element to their becoming the people they wish to be.
When children are allowed total freedom of self expression, they learn to be confident in their choices and less reliant on what magazines and brand name designers try to tell and sell them.

If they want green nail polish, I’ll buy it. If they want blue hair, I will get it and color their hair myself. If my teenagers want piercings, I will allow that too. I try to honor their choices and respect who they are, because I like these people I am raising, and I respect their autonomy.


Destany Fenton, Author of They Are All of Me
Destany is an artist who works from home while raising her four kids, who range in age from teens to littles. A self proclaimed cheapskate and “maker-queen,” her do-it-yourself attitude compels her to promote self-education, frugality, and taking responsibility for our global community. She is attentive to her children and works to foster and maintain a deep connection with each one, while finding harmony within herself and remembering to take time for her husband. When she is not painting, cooking, gardening, knitting or playing with her kids – even the big ones, she is blogging about her life at They Are All of Me, where she shares crafts, recipes, and crazy mama mishaps that are bound to crop up when living with pets, teenagers and little ones.

Photo Credits

Photo Credit 1: Adapted from Saint Francis Academy Photo Credit 2: Author

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