On Teaching Kids It's Okay To Be Different

posted on: 8.21.2013

Tate started first grade last week, and for the most part it's been really positive. She's in a new school, so there is more adjustment than normal, but that's not something she's not used to, having been to two other schools already. 
Last year I noticed it a little, her need to fit in. But this year it's really seemed to be at the forefront of her mind. Things we've already discussed are: wanting peace signs on all her clothing (something I'm not a fan of), noticing that she has different head bands than her peers, what? The week before school we spent an hour discussing the difference in tennis shoes, and she politely, but persistently, pleaded her case for a real pair of running sport shoes, instead of the canvas tennis shoes she's always worn and loved. Then last night, almost in tears, she told me and Wyatt over dinner how "no one at school has a lunch box as big as hers". She thinks the kids stare at it, and think it's silly. She said everyone just has square, soft lunch boxes (she has this one). She told me one of the kids said "wow, that holds so much food!", and how that embarrassed her so much. I tried explaining to her that she could have mis- understood him, and that he probably meant it in a cool way, because most kids think the bigger, the better! She didn't buy it. She wants a new lunch box. I totally felt for her. She's new, and I don't want her to feel insecure, even if she misunderstood the child or not.  
I don't give in a lot to what everyone else is doing, just because everyone else is doing it. I really try to show her being unique is awesome! For the most part she's really good about that. I won't shop at Justice, she's never been allowed to watch Sponge Bob, and she doesn't even know any different. 
I'm okay switching her lunch box, to her defense, I picked it out without her opinion last year. I might even lose out on the tennis shoe battle (although I'm going to wait until she outgrows her canvas ones). My question and concern that I battled with last night was, how do you really implant that self confidence in your kids to know that it's okay to be different? To make it clear, I completely know it's normal for her to want to "fit in", I know I even do the same. I think I just want to be aware to the level of which it becomes so that it's not a problem in the growing years. If she likes the lunch boxes everyone else has better, that's one thing. But if she only wants them because everyone else has them that's another. I think I feel such urgency about this too because I want her to be able to stand up for Tuck, and all kids, if needs be, and to fully understand that although people are all different, we're really not that much. This lunch box thing has really opened up a can of worms!

I will continue to show her through my example that it's okay to be different, and to encourage her to find out what she really likes. What do you other moms do? Have you seen this arise in your little ones?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

*Just to clarify, as I think there may have been a bit of a misunderstanding given some of the comments. I am such a fan of letting kids express themselves through their clothes, and very much so do. Tate chooses most of her clothes already, believe it or not. Peace signs are about the only thing I've had to say no to. I've gotten lucky I think since she's never really been into much glitter and attention- it's the tomboy in her. There was that super fun year that Tate dressed like a boy:)
I struggled more with the fact that something as small as a lunchbox being different made her feel insecure. Something she hasn't really expressed before. 

18 comments:

  1. We need to talk about this in person! I am right there with you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, let's do. I had a feeling you'd be on the same page!

      Delete
  2. having boys is probably wayyyyy easier in this aspect, so I don't have any advice. maybe it's best to go school shopping a week aaaafter school starts? who knows. Parenting is so hard. You're doing great though. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really? Good! Do you think it's easier being in another country? Don't your boys ever talk, or compare about being different? How COOL if they don't!

      Delete
  3. I totally struggle with this with my kids. I don't think it's quite as much about fitting in as it is that we share different tastes. :) But sometimes I will put certain clothes on them and they say, " I look wierd!" They don't want to stand out too much. So we always compromise a little bit. Or, in the case of me wanting Milo to wear jeans with suspenders, you can bribe with money. It works. Haha. (Wish I had better advice for you. I think it's just part of childhood, wanting to fit in. Just wait until high school when she'll want to be totally different. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree Abby, it's a lot of that too. Me and Tate's tastes are different for sure. She would probably LOVE Justice, while I love Olive juice, ha. We meet somewhere in the middle though, to please us both. It's getting more than that now though- more about "being like the older girls". Eeek! And I agree, I said that to Wyatt last night, it's a fine balance between wanting her to be her own person, but also not wanting to be soooo far different that we can't relate at all (like those dreaded teen years:)

      Delete
  4. Yeah, this is hard I'm sure because Tate has always been your little doll. Ezra was mine and is now really expressing his individuality. He doesn't like everything I choose for him and it takes a lot of my own courage to not care what other people think to allow him to wear a teenage mutant ninja turtle backpack. Funny thing is, his school has uniforms (for which I'm grateful) and they wear the same backpacks too (just found out yesterday - too bad we've already used the tmnt bkpk). I am sure you are doing all the right things to instill confidence in Tate. I do think it is good to allow them to choose some of what they wear and I think that is hard for us style conscious moms.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is HARD! Ella tends to march to her own beat, while Gracie notices others more. I want to let them "like what they like" within reason. Sometimes this is easier said than done (for example: Ella just got a new pair of "real" tennis/athletic shoes, they're Velcro, Hello Kitty, with silver sparkles...Yep! Lol! But she thinks they're awesome and they make her happy). Wanting to be different takes a lot of confidence- you do a great job with teaching her this at home, but home feels safe. We've now crossed the realm into peer's opinions mattering more (ugggg!), which is difficult at times. I'm trying to build their confidence by supporting healthy/good decisions, and not placing as much importance on the material things (pick your battles- let her wear the peace signs... lol!). I don't know... let's chat again when they want purple hair and nose rings! ;) Love ya.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's really true and something I haven't thought of- she may feel very confident and safe at home, but school is a whole new game. Argh! Her teachers have always said she's very confident and independent, but she does tend to just want to be like everyone else, and I struggle with being okay with that.

      Delete
  6. Yep, it's a tough one! I guess I always figured that you set the line where it allows for their creativity and fashion sense(or lack thereof) but doesn't forsake your core beliefs...for example issues of modesty, dressing their age, budget etc. Totally hear you, though, because it does break your heart just a tiny bit when you see that quirky, confident, kind of oblivious to outside influences kid start second guessing themselves! You're doing a great job with Tate, though, and you do have these conversations with her, which is great!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have always been different. After having kids and seeing the similarities between Stella and me, I knew she would be different too. Not only just personality wise (and the fact that she has glasses and a lazy eye and asthma and celiac disease that makes her different from most other kids) but also in the fact that we are not mormons, in a predominantly mormon area. Instead of teaching her it is okay to not be the same and it is okay to be different, we have taken a different approach. We have tried to instill in her that it is amazing to be different, and to strive for it. Being the same as everyone else is boring. I would tell her stories of times in my life that I was different from other people or didn't fit in and how sometimes it was hard but that ultimately my differences have drawn people to me, and helped me develop friendships that are deep and meaningful. Being different is preferable in our family. We love being different. We have tried to teach her that her differences are what make her special and the reasons why we love her.

    Stella and Weston have both started developing their own tastes and styles. I used to say that I would NEVER allow my kids to wear character clothing (ie. Disney princess shoes, etc) because I thought they were cheap and tacky. However, they have both gotten to the age that they now can tell me the things they want to wear, and sometimes it is a pair of light up character shoes or a t-shirt with Cookie Monster on it. My first instinct is to say no, but then I started realizing that if they pick something out because they like it, and I say no because I don't like it, then in their young minds they feel like I am rejecting them and the things they like. They are learning to express themselves and learning to what they like and if I shoot it down, then they think I am shooting them down and when that happens they become insecure. I was super strict with the princess character thing with Stella when she was little and I noticed that it was affecting her when she stopped telling me the clothing she liked or decor for her room, or a new bedspread. She didn't want to tell me what she liked, because she didn't want to feel the rejection of me telling her no and that I didn't like it. Seeing my child struggle because of my own parenting was really hard and I realized that making sure they are dressed a certain way wasn't worth making them second guess their own opinions. So now Weston has light up Darth Vader shoes, and Stella has a shirt with a white tiger and sparkles on it. Things I never thought I'd buy, but I did and I tell them how cute they look in them and I tell them they have great style. I've decided that when it comes to the kids clothes, I am going to let them express themselves and I'll just help them make sure their clothes match. When they are adults, it won't matter that they wore character clothing but it will matter if they still haven't figured out their own likes and dislikes because I always did it for them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Chelsea! Just to clarify, as I think there may have been a bit of a misunderstanding. I am such a fan of letting kids express themselves through their clothes too, and very much so do. Tate chooses most of her clothes already and always has for the most part. I'm never going to be the type of parent to let her make all the decisions though. I've gotten lucky I think though (when it comes to my style tastes) since she's never really been into much glitter/ princesses and attention- it's the tomboy in her. There was that super fun year that Tate dressed like a boy:)
      I struggled more with the fact that something as small as a lunchbox being different made her feel insecure. Something she hasn't really expressed before.

      Delete
  8. Super Hard! One of my tricks is to point out things I am doing/wearing/singing that I like but isn't considered "popular". Especially when one of my kids tells me I am wearing or doing something "weird". :) I make sure to tell them I like being weird and if I like it that's all that matters! I also make them wait until a Birthday or Christmas for a "popular" item. Sometimes they don't want it anymore. Try "A Bad Case of the Stripes" by David Shannon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sarah! I love all of these suggestions so much, and am going to have to check out that book.

      Delete
  9. Excellent post! I know as one young in parenting I wonder this same thing. How can I teach self confidence in my kids so they don't care what others think and they can stand alone if needs be. I was sitting in a meeting one time and heard some great advice. The guy speaking was speaking on this very subject and he said teach your kids WHO they are and not WHAT they are. You and Wy are such amazing parents and have good relationships with each of your kids individually and i think because of that your kids will be just fine. I think what Tate is going through is totally normal. Even as adults we do this at times. We all just want to be loved and accepted. Thanks for a great read and putting yourself out there. You always do such a great job. We love and miss you guys. Wish we could discuss this over dinner!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. These are the worries that occupy the mental space that Friends episodes used to!!! Seriously, though. . .these are the worries of motherhood. "How can I help you be self-assured, and to not care if your gigantic lunch box can house fifty Oreo cookies?" (totally love the lunch box, btw)

    I get that this isn't about the clothes, it's about instilling a comfort in her own skin that comes from not being exactly like everyone else. It's interesting to see your own children's strengths and weaknesses, for me Owen is my helpful/kind/everybody's friend/please'er personality and Luke is my creative/funny/sensitive/dosen't care a flip about what people think kid... It's a heckava lot easier to parent Owen at this stage but I worry more about what could happen during those teenage years when he wants to please his friends more than his parents. Luke just came with an inner comfort of who he was, he doesn't have nearly as many friends as Owen because of this but I'm more at peace with the what if's for his teenage years.

    This ain't for whimps, yo!! For me, I find catching them being good works so much better than vice versa, so I try to praise Owen when he goes against the crowd and chooses the right or when he stays true to something he'd rather do than what his friends want to do. I do it subtlety too--kids these days are smart and you can't let on what direction you'd like them to choose (on things that don't matter, obviously). Just a casual comment or gentle praise. I'm sure now that you're aware of it, she'll improve gradually over time.

    Jamie

    P.S. Stay strong on the princess/Justice hard line---simply dreadful that stuff is. Lily has dress up princess costumes but not a single princess or cartoon t-shirt. We pick out clothes that we are BOTH okay with, and there's nothing wrong with that!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Chelsea, I have one that feels the need to fit in-the one that knows, and loves, your Tate and boys ;) and I have one that loves to be different. I think it just depends on the kid. It took 14 years, a pinterest account and some ombre highlights (at least that is when I noticed it) to give my oldest child some confidence to stand out a little. I think we all have our vision of what we want for our kids or how they should be. Now I just stand my ground on the important stuff. ~H

    ReplyDelete

thanks for stopping by, please be kind.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

YOURS TRULY All rights reserved © Blog Milk Powered by Blogger