When debating how best to raise kids, parents stand divided on many issues: breast or bottle, clothe diapers or disposable, and co-sleeping or cribs. While many moms feel so passionate about their beliefs they flood internet forums with personal manifestos, I tend to stick to the sidelines cheering “go mom, whatever works for you.”
That is until now.
On a recent park trip I saw a young boy wearing a t-shirt with the expression “Too Kool for Skool.” While it very well might have been the boy who picked the shirt out of his closet to wear that day, it was definitely not the boy who earned the money to buy the shirt and put it in the closet to begin with. Some parent, grandparent, or well-meaning relative clearly thought it was funny?… clever?…ironic?….enough to purchase.
I couldn’t help but wonder, what message did those parents think they were conveying to their son? Did they think, at the age of five, he would understand the irony and it would only reinforce the importance of education? Did they think he would laugh it off as a clever joke? Did they think anything about it at all?
New research comes out all the time that reinforces the impact of what we wear on other people’s perception of us and our self-perception. The term dress for success isn’t only a catchy platitude, but an insight into the effect clothing has on people, a phenomenon scientists call enclothed cognition. For example, a well-dressed man is not only viewed as more fashionable, he is also perceived to be more confident, successful, flexible and a high-earner.
In another study, students given a white lab coat to wear during a test for sustained attention performed significantly better when they were told it was a doctor’s coat versus a painter’s smock. According to Dr. Adam Galinsky, the principal investigator, “clothes invade the body and brain, putting the wearer into a different psychological state.”
If you browse around online clothing stores long enough, you will see that there are outfits that walk a fine line between funny and inappropriate, and then there are those that take a flying leap off that line. “Too Kool for Skool” may just be teetering on the edge, but there are plenty of more offensive options to choose from. As a fellow mom trying to raise a happy, well-adjusted kid, I encourage you to think about the effect of that stripper onesie before you buy it. What message are you sending your child? What message are you sending society about your child?
The messages we surround ourselves with on a daily basis, as subtle as they may be, are important. They start a long chain reaction that shapes our very being.
Subtle environmental cues influence the way we think about ourselves. The way we think about ourselves affects our behavior. Our behavior changes the way people perceive us and likewise, treat us. And others perceptions and treatment feeds back into the way we think about ourselves.
If we surround ourselves with positive messages, even something as small as a slogan on a shirt, the effects can be far-reaching.
Want to see some particularly heinous offenders? Here are the top 7 outfits you will never see Oliver wearing:
1) If you consider buying this for your child, please get a matching one for yourself.
2) Because gun violence is always funny.
3) If you are going to get #2 you might as well get this one also.
4) My son still hasn’t said mama yet; maybe it’s not too late to work on MILF instead.
5) Or if he can’t quite get milf down this one might be easier.
6) This shirt might as well say “proud to be a racist parent.”
7) I really hope this kid is hiding a sandwich in his onesie. Come on, do we really need to sexualize our kids?
Just to be clear, if you choose to put your kid in one of these outfits, it doesn’t make you a bad parent. I’m guessing you love your kid just as much as I do mine. I do urge you to think about the message you are sending though, because “I have a great sense of humor” is not likely what most people will hear.
There are some companies out there that provide apparel with positive messages; one of my favorites is tinyrevolutionary.com. (Nope they didn’t pay me to say that. I just really dig their clothes.)
And now you know the real reason why every other outfit Olive wore as a baby said “I love mommy.”