Jody Kerzman
Lizzy, Morgan and Lexi Kerzman. (Megan Milbradt)

Lexi Kerzman. (Megan Milbradt)

Lizzy Kerzman. (Megan Milbradt)

"Wear whatever you want, whatever shows your style and your personality," I said.

Famous last words.

What was I thinking?

I was thinking that I need to let my girls express themselves, and be themselves. There is so much pressure these days and I want my daughters (ages 14, 6 and 3) to learn at young ages it's OK to be unique, different, quirky and even silly.

So, I told them to wear whatever they wanted. It was an experiment of sorts. I wanted to see if they chose "safe" or if they really did choose to express themselves.

Of course, my 14-year-old chose "safe" -- she's a teenage girl, and she's shy. She's never been one to rock the boat, but she is slowly learning to stand up for herself. Her outfit: leggings and an oversized tank. No jewelry (besides the tiny earrings she rarely takes out) and those popular shoes the kids call Vans -- they look like the shoes my grandma used to wear, but everyone tells me they are very "in," so I try to keep my old fashioned fashion opinions to myself. When I asked Lexi to describe her outfit, she replied "lazy."

The little girls did not disappoint, and they did not go the "safe" route.

Six-year-old Lizzy chose an old prom dress we bought at a thrift store for playing dress up. It's a little big, but she put her creative mind to work and used a ponytail holder to cinch it to the right size. She completed her outfit with pink shoes and mismatched earrings. Totally Lizzy.

And then there's Morgan. At three and a half, she might just be the strongest willed girl I've ever met. I've read that that is actually a good thing -- it will help her stand up for herself as a teenager. It's sort of good for me too -- it's taught me not to sweat the small stuff, like her outfits. For this experiment she chose purple Daisy Duke shorts, a bright pink tank, a doctor's coat, a sparkly headband, sunglasses and a purse. At one point she also had a headlamp flashlight around her head. I had to bite my tongue and remind myself to choose my battles.

So what did I learn from this little experiment? Here are the top three lessons I learned:

Lesson No. 1: Each of my girls is unique. The way they dress is just one way they express their individuality. As their mom, I need to let them make their own decisions. Before freaking out at their mismatched earrings or grandma-like shoes, I need to take a step back and decide if it's worth starting a fight. If not, I need to let it go.

Lesson No. 2: Watching my girl's ham it up for the camera reminded me of one of my favorite sayings: "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken." It hangs in Lexi's bathroom to remind her it's OK to be yourself. That can be a hard thing to remember, especially at age 14. There is pressure to fit in, pressure to look like everyone else, pressure to do things you might not want to. My mom always talked about self-esteem and how important it was to have a high self-esteem. As a teenager, I pretended I wasn't listening, but the truth is, I was. I have to remind myself that my teenage daughter is doing the same thing. So it's important I teach her to have a high self-esteem, while still being true to who she is.

There is research to support the importance of having high self-esteem. Studies find that seven out of 10 girls believe they are not good enough or don't measure up in some way, including their looks, grades and relationships. The same researchers report that 75 percent of teenage girls with low self-esteem engage in negative activities, like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking and eating disorders ( So find something to compliment your daughter about. Maybe it's her hair, her outfit, her grades or her smile. Compliment her often. Her self-esteem will soar, and you'll have a confident, strong daughter.

Lesson No. 3: Enjoy every moment. Eventually, Morgan may ditch the doctor coat and Lizzy may actually wear a matching pair of earrings. But I want them to make that decision because it's what they want, not because they feel pressured to. I want my girls to know it's OK to say no and I want them to be confident in themselves. How do I teach them that? It takes creativity, as teenagers (or in my case, even 6 and 3-year-olds) don't always listen to their moms. I've started sneaking positive notes into their backpacks -- a little note to make them smile. Sometimes it's a joke. Sometimes it's a Bible verse. Sometimes it's words of wisdom like "Happy girls are the prettiest girls." Google and Pinterest are great sources for these notes. They take only a few minutes to write and could change your daughter's entire day.

As for their outfits, you can bet I'll let them choose their own outfits again. It's just one way I can learn from my girls. Their creativity makes me smile and reminds me that I also need to be myself. And you never know, maybe their fashion sense will rub off on me -- next time you see me I may just be wearing mismatched earrings, too.

Jody is married to Brad, and they have four super-busy kids. When she isn't at one of their events, she's probably driving them somewhere.