How many of us have seen them, strolling gamely down the street: a child who looked like she ran blindfolded into their closet and put on the first few things they found by sense of touch, no color, pattern or style coordination whatsoever? Usually finished off with a tiara, pair of fuzzy antennae, fairy wings, or a knee-high pair of Ugg or galosha boots? The big question as a parent is – should kids choose their own clothes?

“She dresses herself,” the mom usually says when she catches you gawking. By accident, of course. “It fosters creativity and personal growth.”

OK. Perhaps it does. Within reason. But some parents think nothing of having their kids traipse around looking like they were caught in a hurricane in the local mall. Everyone is allowed their own course in life, but for those of us who are a bit more moderate about free-spiritedness and like to walk on THIS side of the fashion line, this isn’t the way to encourage creativity and personal growth. Boys are pretty simple to dress; it’s normally the girls you see this quandary in.

Should kids choose their own clothes themselves? Absolutely—but within limits.

One of the biggest things about growing up is learning how to dress themselves. Not just the nuts and bolts, the zippers and buttons parts, but the FUN stuff, such as how to coordinate items and colors and patterns. When our babies are small, they are our living dolls, but as they get older and their personalities manifest themselves more, we should give them more leeway. However, in my opinion, setting a kid loose in a closet with no guidance doesn’t give them any kind of structure. How will they learn how to dress stylishly, for one, but more importantly: how will they know how to dress for an occasion?

Imagine that spritely little mismatched moppet fifteen years down the road in an interview room for a great job—for which she’s eminently qualified. But she’s dressed…well, not right. And for that reason alone, she doesn’t get it. Sorry, it happens. In today’s ultra-competitive market, image is important, especially in certain fields. Sure, this is a dramatic and hyperbolic example, but think about the issue a little. Kids need guidance in their choices. No rules means confusion.

The best way to offer kids more control over their wardrobe choices is to have them start with one piece they want to wear. Then, offer a choice of other pieces that will coordinate, and let him/her choose further. This way, they learn matching, style and appropriate attire, all while having the majority of the control over their outfit.

Take your kids shopping with you, once they have gotten old enough to behave themselves, or allow them to pick out a wish list of items online. Help them to choose items that are versatile, not too trendy, and yet basic enough to wear well. Good style is inborn, but it can also be trained, too.