Do you dread getting your child dressed in the morning? If so, you are not alone, I promise. Here’s how to stop those tantrums getting dressed, but…
They may actually be a good thing. Let me explain.
We stood in front of my daughter’s closet. She was 4 at the time.
It was January and even though we live in Arizona, it was too cold for the outfit she insisted on wearing: A puffy purple skirt with no tights and a short-sleeved pink shirt.
“Cam, it’s freezing.. How about these pants?”
“NOOO! I don’t want to wear pants”
Here I was thinking.. Oh my gosh, my daughter is going freeze. She’s going to complain the entire time we’re at the zoo. Other parents are going to judge me.
“Cam, just PUT. ON. THE. PANTS”
“NO! No, pants!”
Oh my gosh. I’m going to scream.
Preschool power struggles are the worst. And it seems that one topic that our kids love to argue with us about, is what to wear.
We picture our kids dressed like those in GAP commercials, but what really happens is so far from that
Instead of neatly dressed, our children leave the house in mismatched clothing and hair askew because they refuse to let us brush it.
Not exactly the GAP commercial of my dreams.
And then we see those perfectly dressed happy preschoolers in public think, “What the hell? How did their parents even do that?”
(Spoiler: It’s witchcraft)
No, in all seriousness, the preschoolers who are well dressed probably insist on it. It is their personal preference.
Before you beat yourself up, know that your child’s tantrums getting dressed are completely normal.
According the psychologist, Dr. Jim Taylor, “it’s not uncommon for toddlers and preschoolers to use clothing as their first declaration of independence and first assertion of their own unique personalities.”
But we as parents also need to find some way to live with their unique personalities… am I right?
If it’s an emergency
The best way to eliminate tantrums over getting dressed is to plan ahead.
However, sometimes life gets so busy that we simply don’t have the time to take steps to prevent problems and we have to…
However, if you do, here’s how to prevent the clothing struggles in the future.
Plan important outfits in advance
If you have a special event, like a wedding or party where your child needs to wear specific clothes, plan this outfit in advance.
When you know what your child will object to a clothing item, you can easily make substitutions a few days before versus a few minutes before.
And sometimes, you can give up the fight entirely.
When my daughter was in preschool, there was a talent show each summer. The type where each class chose a song and then danced and acted on stage.
4-years-old at the time, she already had very strong opinions over what she would and would NOT wear.
Her class decided to dance to the song, “Who Let the Dogs Out.” All the students would dress as dogs.
HA! Fat chance…
She put her foot down. No, she would not be a dog.
I pleaded. I begged and then… I gave up.
We sat in the audience together and watched as her entire class ran around stage and barked.
I have to say… I could see her point.
If I had made her go through with it, she would have fought, cried and probably resented me for it.
And for what? So she could dress as a dog?
As a parent, it’s ok when your child defies norms. It may seem uncomfortable at the time and you may feel they are being too obstinate, but if they feel that intensely about not dressing a certain way…
Most of the time, it’s not worth the struggle.
Let him choose his outfit the night before
As part of his bedtime routine, my son chooses the outfit he will wear the next day.
He lays it out on his floor like a melted man and that gives us a chance to discuss.
Say, it’s the middle of winter and he’s chosen shorts and a t-shirt..
Nighttime is when I suggest adding a jacket.
This has saved us so much time each morning.
No more crying and no more whining about not being able to wear something, because it’s all decided already.
Let natural consequences take hold
But say, there’s still a fight.
The best teacher is natural consequences.
My son fought us EVERY MORNING on wearing long sleeves during the winter. He told us, “It’s ok.. I like the cold”
You and I know the difference between “liking the cold” and playing outside in 50 degree weather in a short sleeved shirt.
But kids, don’t know that yet.
One morning, my son refused to put on his blue sweatshirt hoodie before going to school.
We went back and forth for a bit but eventually I let him win.
Well… kind of.
I shoved the hoodie into my bag and let him think he won.
He hopped into the car while it was in the garage. But when we arrived at preschool, the second he jumped out of his seat, guess what?
He was cold.
“Do you want a jacket?”
“Here you go.”
By letting natural consequences take hold, I didn’t have to fight.
Now, everytime I suggest a jacket, my son at least walks outside to check how cold it is instead of fight against me.
That’s really all we can ask for – that our kids take our suggestions into account before making their own decisions.
This fight against what to wear represents our kid’s growing independence. As much we think its about us, its not. They are simply exerting authority over something that they should have complete control of – their body.
By talking about outfits in advance, laying out clothes the night before and letting natural consequences do their thing, we are helping our kids make informed decisions that all of us can be happy with.