Noel Ocol is Filipino and his wife Patty is half Sindhi. They are raising two young girls in Canada. In this article Noel gives his perspective as a father on how parenting values make their way into something as simple as a shopping trip and how they teach their daughters about making the right choices.
Masalamommas: We’d like to hear your thoughts on how you teach your kids about picking the right clothes and making appropriate choices. Let us know your thoughts in our comments section below!
Shopping With My Pre-Teen Daughter
By Noel Ocol
When shopping with the family on Saturday afternoons, I’ve recently noticed that my nine year-old daughter likes to go off on her own and look at clothing that she likes. She’ll pick out shirts and skirts that she likes off the rack and asks for my opinion. Normally I’d give her my two-cents, not give it a second thought and move on. However, I’ve also noticed that she’s becoming more aware of what other girls her age and older are wearing. Now is that a problem? Of course not. Its just part of growing up. However like many fathers, the last thing I want is my daughter to be like some of the pre-teen girls that she sees in the shopping malls, who are dressing and acting like hormonally charged sixteen year olds.
Ok so call me naïve or old fashioned but as a father, I’d like to help my daughters maintain that natural cheerful youthfulness and innocence that seems to be slipping away from our kids at a much younger age than ever before. When I look around, I see very young girls acting much older than they really are and perhaps their demeanor is unconsciously amplified by the way they dress as they try to be more like the superstars they idolize.
So when an opportunity to attend a parenting seminar entitled, “Parenting Style: Fathers and Teen Fashion” given by author and fashion consultant, Mary Sheehan Warren, I eagerly attended hoping to get an understanding of how a father could participate positively and with some credibility in this foreign activity which is normally a mother-daughter event. Like many dads, I’ve taken my wife and kids to the mall many times but like most dads, I’m guilty of suggesting that they “meet me at the Sony Store in an hour,” the minute I get bored. And off I go.
From this “Parenting Style: Father and Teen Fashion” seminar, I picked up some interesting pointers for us dads who are genuinely interested in trying to gently influence your tween-aged daughter’s personal sense of style towards a stylish yet modest standard that even you own grandmother would approve of.
The way I was raised definitely transcends they way I raise my kids.
Here are some ideas that I’m trying to put into practice:
- Know Your Competition For Your Daughter’s Attention. Know about what’s being advertising to kids her age. Know about the styles that kids her age like, Know about her favorite movies, shows, music and friends. Check her social networking accounts if she has any. Just be aware of what you are competing against if you are going to go down this road. If you don’t you’ll have no credibility eventually come across as clueless.
- Have a Role Model That You Can Point To. Luckily for me, my wife Patty is gorgeous and dresses very well, so I commonly mention to my daughter what I like about what mom is wearing. Not only do such comments help form my daughter’s opinion of what’s stylish and elegant, but I also get bonus points from my wife!
“I teach the girls that being fashionable is about being elegant and dressing for your body type,” says Patty Ocol. “There’s a lot of stuff out there that’s pretty skimpy. You can layer your clothing in order to make it look appropriate. I say to our girls if you like that top, why don’t we put a tank top underneath it. I think what helps is that I’m a parent that does like fashion. They like what I wear, so they learn by example.”
- Let Her Know Often, That She’s Beautiful and that everything that she wears should make her face the focal point, opposed to any other part of her body. When she asks my opinion about a shirt or skirt that I don’t like, I’ll ask her if she thinks it will add or take away from her beauty. Eventually a conversation down that road leads to: “yea dad you’re right. I like the color but the skirt is too short.”
- Always Stay Positive. Regardless of how I may dislike a piece that my daughter is looking at, I’ve stopped saying, “What the hell is that?”, or “Why in the world are you looking at that for?”. My wife often reminds me, that the reason why she is looking at a shirt or skirt, is because she’s trying to decide whether she likes it or not. I’ve learned firsthand that making negative comments isn’t the best way to influence your daughter towards one direction or another.
- Look Your Best And Provide Inspiration. Become a credible source of fashion advice for your daughter. Don’t leave that job to your wife alone, no matter how easy it is to her and how difficult it is for you. No more wearing black socks and sandals or old white t-shirt with yellow armpits for you, or me.
- Set The Rules About Lengths And Heights Early. Along with my wife Patty, we’ve established rules about the lengths of skirts and heights of neck-lines. I do this with the hope that my daughters get used to such rules from an early age so that lengths and heights aren’t suddenly “imposed” when she’s sixteen and wants to wear that super short skirt that American Eagle is promoting that year.
“You have to do things by example,” says Patty. “I don’t think it’s about coming down hard on your kids. All of a sudden your daughter turns 16 she’s walking out the door. She may not be wearing something you approve of as goes out the door, but how can you all of a sudden tell your daughter when you haven’t had any involvement in her dressing or parenting that she should dress differently and wear something more appropriate. They’re not going to want your opinion at that age, it’s got to start earlier.”
- Mention What You Like About What She’s Wearing. I find this to be very difficult because like most guys, I don’t usually focus on details let alone articulate why I like it. However by often mentioning what you like about what your daughter is wearing reinforces in her mind that what she’s choosing to wear is “on the right track”. She’ll be more confident about it even if it’s not the “hottest” trend worn by Lady GaGa and when you offer suggestions or alternatives to a shirt or skirt, she’ll value your opinion now and take it seriously as she gets older.
Yes, this seems like a lot of work. Will it work? I don’t know. Ask me in six years when my daughters are thirteen and sixteen. Only then will I be able to tell you that I just wasted my time in writing this article, and your time in reading it or that I’m a parenting genius and you should have listened to me.
However, here’s how I see it. I could be proactive now and try to form my daughters perception of what I believe is stylish yet modest or I could be like many dads who unwittingly leave it to pop-culture to influence their daughters sense of style, and then wonder why we’re always fighting about what she can and can’t wear when she sixteen and wants to go out with her friends to meet boys.
Now don’t get me wrong. I fully understand that she’ll eventually hit an age where my opinion on clothing and style will be irrelevant to what she eventually chooses to wear and how she chooses to dress. However I would rather spend the time and effort now while my girls are still young, and hopefully not deal with the stress later on. After all, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine 1 (Jan 20 2006: 59-66):
Daughters who perceive that their fathers care a lot about them, who feel connected to their fathers, have a significantly fewer suicide attempt, fewer instances of body dissatisfaction, depression, low self-esteem, substance abuse, unhealthy weight and are significantly less likely to engage in actions to seek male attention.
About Noel Ocol:
Noel Ocol, a father of two young girls and a vintage motorcycle aficionado, is the Manager of Communications and Public Relations at Our Kids Media Group. He encourages you to regularly check out the blog and the Our Kids Newsletter for parents and Dialogue Newsletter for educators for fresh web-exclusive content. For more stories written by Noel Ocol or information about OurKids Media visit: www.ourkids.net
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