Getting your child dressed and ready in the morning is a battle for many parents. It is frustrating when it takes an extra 30 minutes to convince your child that wearing only underwear or dirty clothes, isn’t acceptable school attire. In this article, we give insight into why children behave this way in the mornings and how parents can avoid fights when getting dressed.
It’s natural to seek independence
Resistance to getting dressed is a universal behavior among toddlers and young kids and a hassle for parents. Why is getting dressed such a nightmare? According to research, experts say the reason is that clothing is one of the few ways small children have to express their autonomy or independence.
Toddlers and young children go through a stage of development called “autonomy versus shame and doubt,” identified by physiologist Erik Erikson. At this stage, children want to be independent. But according to Dr. Sally Beville Hunter, the problem is they’re not fully capable of rational decision making. If you don’t give kids enough space for independence, they feel shame and doubt their abilities.
With toddlers and preschoolers, there are ways for you to respect their need for independence without getting into a debate over a pair of pants. One way is to offer choices. You can encourage independence while keeping their outfits seasonally appropriate by offering your child two or three reasonable choices. If you let them fully dress themselves without input you may end up with a child in their swimsuit and earmuffs in 20-degree weather.
Pick your battles
Another thing for parents to remember is to pick their battles. For example, if you have a child who will only wear skirts and dresses even when it’s snowing outside, don’t fight their preferences. Instead, you can lay out a few choices of warm dresses and pair them with leggings or tights and shove the whole outfit into a snowsuit.
As kids get older, the battles change but you have to give in to some extent. Allowing them control over the majority of their clothing makes them more likely to listen when you do make outfit suggestions. This is because you haven’t tried to eliminate their independence.
No clothes at home?
Next, it’s good for parents to know that nudity is normal. Lots of kids prefer being semi-naked at home, which falls into that “pick your battles” category. Your kids should know that nudity isn’t acceptable outside of the home, at places such as a church, but is it worth fighting your 2-year old to put pants over their diaper in your living room? According to Dr. Hunter, you can set boundaries on nudity by designating some period of time, such as between bath and bed, where it’s okay for them to be in their diaper.
If the fights over clothing are prolonged, exhausting, and causing your family to avoid going places, it may be time to call your pediatrician.