Predictability gets a bad rap nowadays. Especially for men.
We lionize the crazy ones. The dynamic ones. They’re seen as fun and interesting.
If you’re predictable you must be boring!
But being predictable is one of the greatest traits a man can have. And it has a monumental impact on the mental well-being of children.
Predictable doesn’t have to mean boring. You can be predictable and still be a risk-taker. You can be predictable and still be fun.
Predictability just means that the people around you know how you will probably act or react in certain scenarios. The reason they know that is because you have demonstrated it to them over time.
They know they can trust you. Being predictable means people can see the real you.
There is an ease to being around someone who is predictable. You know who needs that peace of mind?
I grew up in a very UNpredictable household. I could never be sure how certain family members would act. This made me feel as if the foundation on which I lived was unstable. This caused me to retreat into myself and become very anxious.
As adults, we tend to forget how scary being a kid can be. Often we scoff at that notion by thinking, “What do they have to be scared of? They are fed, clothed, and housed and don’t have to work or worry about money.”
Yes, all that is true, but they don’t have the perspective of an adult to realize it. Remember, their experiences are all new for them.
The sound of a rainstorm blowing over the garbage cans? As adults, we know exactly what that sound is without having to look for ourselves. Your four-year-old may have never heard that sound in his life and immediately concludes it must be a monster.
Kids have no control over their own lives. Grown-ups determine what they do, what they wear, what they eat, and where they go every single day. They need to be able to predict how those grown-ups will behave if they hope to have any mental equilibrium.
Now, with that being said, in order for that predictability to be beneficial for the well-being of children, the predictable behavior needs to reflect reliability.
Because the two are not the same. Predictability does not equal reliability. You can be predictably unreliable. That’s just as bad as being totally unpredictable.
Case in point: I had a friend growing up who was a ton of fun to be around. Unfortunately, as we got older, I realized the only real defining character trait he possessed was his unreliability.
Every word out of his mouth was suspect. You could never tell if anything he said was true. This translated into our group of friends never relying on him when it came to plans. We would all get together assuming this guy wouldn’t show up, wouldn’t call, and then ghost us for days. Once I became an adult I recognized that having any sort of true friendship with this person was impossible.
He was predictable. But he wasn’t reliable.
So, how do we use our clothes to communicate our predictability? And why is that important?
Well, we have already established that children already feel like their lives are unpredictable, since they don’t have any personal control over what happens to them. Now, think about what your child would think if every time you went to work you wore something completely different. One day you wore a tailored suit, the next day you wore a graphic t-shirt and sneakers.
Now, think about if every time you left for work your kids saw you in the same exact uniform. Sport coat and chinos, for instance. It would be something constant in their minds. In their chaotic little brains at least “Daddy going to work” always looks the same.
I believe it’s important for kids to be able to predict exactly how “Daddy going to work”, “Daddy relaxing at home”, “Daddy going to church”, and all the other myriad iterations of your personal style will look.
One of the best examples I can think of to illustrate my point is that of Fred Rogers. One of the most iconic bits from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was when he came through the front door, hung up his jacket, put on his cardigan (with that trademark “up/down” zip), and then changed his shoes.
We can all replay the exact sequence in our minds. We knew exactly what Mister Rogers would do when he walked in the door and then we knew exactly how he would look for the remainder of the show.
Yes, it was the consistency in behavior that was most important, but it wouldn’t have been as comforting or effective had he donned a cardigan one day, a t-shirt another day, and a hoodie the next.
There are so many things in our kids’ lives that we cannot control and cannot prepare them for. But there is always that one spot that we have complete control over: our clothes.
And that’s one small avenue through which we can provide them some much needed peace of mind.