Read on to get our six easy and expert tips for teaching boys aged 5 to 25 how to dress well at different stages of their lives.
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Tip #1: Be Your Boys' Biggest Example
The first step in getting your children to adopt good dressing habits is to show them how. This can begin at a young age. As you are getting ready to go to work, talk to them about why you are wearing that suit or dress. Help them identify which clothes go with certain social situations. If you can differentiate the difference between outfits at a young age, they begin to learn that it's appropriate to wear shorts and shirt to class, but they need to wear a suit or dress pants to the office.
It's also important to remember that at this stage in their lives, you are their top example. There will be times as they get older that this may not be the case. Young children often want to dress themselves, so modeling good grooming and dressing habits will give them a subconscious template that can last a lifetime.
Tip #2: Instill Pride
Good hygiene, grooming and dressing can seem prohibitive to boys because it can take a long time. Instead, make the basic grooming steps of life as easy to do as possible — and teach them to take pride in outcome. For example, after they have learned the basics and can pick out their own clothes (around age 5), it's time to take them to the next level.
By 10 years old, your child should know how to take care of his clothes. He can help you with the laundry, fold his clothes, and with supervision, use a steamer to take out the wrinkles. The expertise with which he completes these tasks may be questionable, but with time and practice — and lots of positive reinforcement from you — he will become a master.
Most children relish the sense of independence, so teaching your boy how to complete basic grooming tasks on their own can make him feel empowered, infusing him with self-confidence. Don’t forget to point out the fruits of his labors in front of any mirrors you pass so he associates the work with a sense of personal pride.
Tip #3: Make the Experience Enjoyable
Children — and most especially young children — learn best while they’re having fun. Using fun products, tools, and games to get dressed will hold your boy’s focus as well as help your lessons sink in. You want to create an environment in which your child is excited to get dressed and look good.
As your child enters the tween to teen stage and games lose their effectiveness, try a new tack: let him shop for his own school clothes. Each year, give him a budget and let him pick what he wants to wear that year. You may accompany him on these shopping trips and offer advice, but let him have the final say. However, undergarments like undershirts, boxers, and socks should not be optional.
Then go through his old clothes with him and determine what should stay and what needs to be thrown away or donated to the thrift store. For example, teach him how to tell if an item no longer fits well, and to throw away clothing with unmendable tears.
If you haven’t already, use this stage to introduce accessories for special occasions. Let him pick a tie or bow tie for religious services, parties, and other occasions. Gift him a watch for his 12th birthday. Small details like these can help fine-tune your boy’s sense of aesthetic.
Tip #4: Answer the Question “Why?”
No one does chores for fun — at least, I don’t! But when you give meaning and purpose to each grooming task, your child is more likely to do them every day. Your son will most likely beat you to it, asking that question beloved by so many children: "Why?"
When your boy heads off to college (it’ll happen sooner than you think!), he'll be on his own. He can wear whatever he wants, whenever he wants. But that doesn't mean this independence means he can look sloppy all the time. While there is a time and place for relaxing, as you talk about the life lessons of adulthood, remind your child that first impressions happen only once. Whether it’s impressing a cute girl, professor, or potential employer, his clothing will help determine where that relationship goes. Don’t nag, but having open communication about what he plans to wear to a date or job interview, will reinforce childhood lessons.
As we mentioned before, when you take pride in what you wear, you get a natural boost of self-confidence. Remind your child of this as he makes his way into adulthood and he's out on his own.
Tip #5: Encourage Along the Way
At any stage of life, a boy can use encouragement in his dressing habits. Be gentle all the way through the life cycle, using positive words and gentle reminders, because compulsory dressing can have an effect opposite from what you want. When he is young, incentivize his grooming and dress decisions with a sticker chart that rewards good behavior (combing hair, taking showers, brushing teeth, putting on deodorant, getting dressed on time, etc). When he is older, a simple compliment on his appearance will have a similar effect.
Tip #6: W.I.S.H.
There's an acronym that you can teach your children at a young age and remind them of it as they get older that will help them remember what it means to dress well for any occasion. The acronym is:
W: Wash your clothes
I: Iron your clothes
S: Style and Say...
H: Hello, Handsome!
This is a fun (if cheesy) acronym, but you would be surprised by how well it works. Everyone needs a little positive self-talk when getting dressed. But this acronym also reminds them the steps necessary to look styled and polished.
Ready to Get Groomy?
Don't expect your boys will immediately adapt to all of these tips — after all, learning takes time. By starting young and going more in-depth as they grow older, simple lessons will eventually turn into lifelong habits.