T-Shirt Parenting. Can it Work?

mama-to-mama1111Today I went online and bought younger son a t-shirt with a funny, clever slogan.  This is nothing new — I do it all the time and he loves it.  Sometimes I buy them for older son, who likes it OK, but doesn’t love it like younger son.  Daughter doesn’t like it at all, and pretty much refuses to wear them unless they have lyrics by The Beatles.

There was Real Men Read Poetry. There was Sure it Works in Practice, But Does it Work In Theory? There was Eat, Sleep, Read and Obama Surfs.  Then there was the great quote by a Greek philosopher … in Greek , but a month later we couldn’t remember what the translation was.  When they were ‘tweens, and I was trying to make a point I bought 3 of Gay? Fine By Me! (never worn). Later, they started having their own custom-printed, like There are things you know, and things you don’t know.  In between are the Doors (a quote from Jim Morrison).

You probably get where I’m going here. I think it’s great when my kids wear ideas or sentiments that encourage them, and those around them, to think and be better people.  It’s subliminal.  It’s insidious.  But does it work?  Can you teach via a t-shirt?  Is there such a thing as “you are what you wear”?  I wish I’d started even sooner when they were younger and more impressionable, but I think it goes something like this.

When they’re little, and you’re picking the clothes, just dress them in the theme of the day and take it from there.  Since they can’t see the front of their shirt very well you’ll probably have to read it aloud several times.  This has the added benefit of reminding both of you about today’s message.  Then later, at strategic moments, you can ask … “hey, what does your shirt say today”?  I LIKE it!

As they get a little older they can help choose, and give you creative ideas of their own. It’s just another way to teach without pontificating.

Some ideas for parenting t-shirts for the smaller set:

Read to Me
You Have to Love Your Brother, Even When He Doesn’t Deserve it
We Share in Our Family
It’s Not Really Sharing if You Only Give Away the Broken Cookies
Kids Aren’t Supposed to Have Clean Fingernails
Use Your Words
If You Toss the Ball to Another Kid, He’ll Probably Toss it Back
More is Not Always Better
Whiners Usually Play Alone
Don’t Say You Brushed Your Teeth if You Really Didn’t

There are hundreds … no, thousands of possibilities.  From baby-wear to teen outfitting, imagine the time, heartache, and eye-rolling you could save if you just let the t-shirts do the heavy lifting when it comes to parenting.

Send us your parenting t-shirt ideas.  How about a MamasOnCall fashion line?

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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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