Trouble Getting Dressed

Questions & Responses:
7 year old girl refuses to get herself dressed!(18 responses)
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Questions


4-year old daughter is so picky about clothes!

July 2014

OK, BPN, I've reached crisis stage. I've tried everything. My 4-year-old DD is super picky about what she wears. If things are too big, too small, the wrong color, the wrong length for THAT DAY (they could be just fine tomorrow), she goes into a hysterical fit and wont get dressed. We tried picking clothes out the night before, but that doesn't help because in the morning she doesn't like what she picked.

The only rules we have for her are: 1) she must wear leggings with a dress/skirt to protect her knees at preschool --their rule, not ours, and she wears dresses every day and hates wearing pants, and 2) She can't get clothes out of the dirty laundry basket. Otherwise, she can wear whatever she wants. Most of the time, even PJs. We let her wear the same dress/skirt every day if she wants assuming it's not filthy. She chooses her own clothes-whatever she wants. We gave up fighting that battle 2 years ago. But sometimes she will stand in front of her closet naked and say she doesn't like ANY of her clothes. She'll say that she thinks they are ugly. She'll try something on and be happy for 5 minutes, then collapse into tears and take it off saying she doesn't like it for no discernible reason. Then she'll repeat the process and refuse to get dressed because she says doesn't like her clothes.

When we take her clothes shopping, we insist she picks out her own clothes, tries everything on, and that she says YES she likes it and YES she will wear it, but that's not always a guarantee. We have discipline if she's not dressed by the time she needs to go to school or isn't wearing pants, which is effective in getting results (not without serious crying, which we are working on as this is an ongoing issue), but it's STILL a battle nearly EVERY day!

Does anyone else have this? Do you have any tips? I am open to literally anything at this point. I try to listen to her and acknowledge that if she doesn't feel comfortable in something, she doesn't have to wear it and try to buy clothes that fit and she likes, but I have no idea how to get her out of the house without a battle. HELP! Tired of the clothing battles


Sounds like your daughter may be anxious....my anxious daughter would get like this about certain things. We consulted some experts and they all suggested using rewards charts for these situations. You describe the desired behaviour, getting dressed easily, break it down into small steps, and give small rewards each time they do it the way you want them to. Then they earn a big reward when they have done the thing for a week or whatever makes sense. You keep using the chart until the new behaviour is mastered. I wish I'd known about this when my kids were younger like yours is. It really works! another mom


You may want to look into Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Your daughter may be having sensitivity to certain clothes and may not realize that it's happening. When my daughter was younger, she couldn't tell me why certain clothes bothered her. My daughter will also agree to clothes at the store, but then after wearing them for a few hours, they become painful to her. I now believe that she would agree to certain clothing at the store in order to please me, but when it came time to actually wear it, she just couldn't. Some days, she can wear an item of clothing, some days she can't: it depends on the day. I have a little touch of this, too: I can't wear jeans at all, and I hate the feeling of anything with a tight waistband. Some tags in clothing irritate me to the point of forming a rash. Luckily, by the time my daughter was exhibiting these behaviors, I knew what it was and could accommodate her (for the most part). Even if your daughter doesn't officially have SPD, look on the websites about it for some tips on how to help kids with clothing sensitivity. I just allowed the kid to wear what made her feel good; most of the time it was the same stained clothes over and over. I had to learn to be okay with that and not care what the rest of the world thinks. Just recently, as she neared the end of elementary school, she began to care about how she looked and became willing to try some new clothes. Good luck dawnm


Our daughter would procrastinate getting dressed in the morning because I think she wanted to hang out with us more in the morning. We were able to speed her up in the morning through rewards. I put a timer on for the time we have to leave. If she gets dressed, hair brushed, teeth brushed and sunscreen applied before the timer goes off she can play I pad games in the car on the way to preschool. Worked for us! Andrea


I am sorry to hear about your struggle. I do not know why your daughter behaves the way she does, but one possibility might be sensory processing issues. Does she complain about the style and the colors, or about how clothes feel on her skin? Does she like not wearing clothes or only super soft fabric, loose fitting, etc. I may be way off, but it might be worth taking her to get an OT evaluation anyway. Good luck


Are you sure it is the clothes? If she isn't fighting about her nightgown or pajamas, maybe it isn't the clothes at all. Maybe she doesn't like what she is expected to do after she gets dressed. Is everything okay with her school/daycare/nanny situation? I doubt it. One option to try is to dress her the night before and put her to bed in the clothes she will wear the next day. See how she reacts to that. Maybe that will work and the battle will be over. Anon


Hello, and sorry for the late reply, I would like to echo the other responder who mentioned anxiety. Our son was/is anxious and we have learned that anxiety is an amazing chameleon, and can often be difficult to recognize. Our son would freak out about his hair or clothes or all sorts of other things to avoid a situation that he was anxious about. Anxiety can cause all sorts of disruptive behavior as a child creates a wreck in order to stop something from happening. Once we recognized that what was really was going on was avoidance behavior, it was so much easier to manage. I can't be sure that's what is going on with your daughter but it sure sounds familiar. I found this book helpful along with years of therapy: http://www.amazon.com/Helping-Anxious-Child-Step---Step/dp/1572241918 Best of luck! mom of anxious guy
 


Dressing 2.5 year old in the morning 

Nov 2012

I have a 2.5 year old boy. Every day, we struggle on getting off his night time diaper (he is almost day trained) and his PJs. I have tried setting a timer, letting him pick the alarm sound, letting him pick his clothes, using a sticker chart and explaining. 4 out of 5 times he will not comply and then it is a struggle with screaming, crying and kicking while I get him out of his PJs and diaper and into his day clothes. He is very verbal and will tell me ''I want to fuss/struggle.'' I will sometimes get angry and need to leave the room because it's so hard. I really don't want to let him wear a dirty diaper and PJs to his school or daycare-and I want us to have a pleasant morning because I won't see him for the rest of the day. On the weekends, it's a little less of a struggle because the time element is not as pressing. I don't want this to be a daily issue and I worry about damaging his self-esteem and independence somehow with this daily struggle. Any advice you can share would be appreciated! Sad and Frazzled Mom


I wonder what time your child is going to bed and if he is getting enough sleep? I can't remember what 2.5 yo's need in terms of sleep, but I think it may be 11- 13 hours or something? My kids were going to bed about 7pm at that age (they are still early to bed at ages 6 and 8 at 7:45pm). Anyway, they get up about 6am, so we don't have the time rush in the morning, there is plenty of time which makes the stress much less. A mom too


I avoided these struggles by having my son sleep in the clothes he was going to wear the next day except the pants. So in the morning I'd change his diaper and he would put on his pants. He hasn't worn pj's in years (he's 13).

Also it's fine for you to think about your son's self-esteem and independence but what you are doing is not encouraging it. You are allowing him to enjoy his struggle with you and get off on your frustration when at his age you should be setting the rules and being firm about them. Every child no matter the age needs rules, it makes them feel safe and allows them to thrive. You are the parent, you make the rules, you do not consult him or ask for his opinion or let him make decisions he is too young to make. 2.5 years is too young for him to have this power. When he struggles, pull up his blanket and walk away, do not engage. He'll be surprised but will want your attention and do what you ask. Jane


I had 2 kids, 17 months apart in age, and worked full time for a few years when they were both really young. When my kids were about 2 and 3 (and 3 & 4, and 4&5, etc), I never let them wear pajamas to bed. Pajamas were weekend-only items in our house. Instead, after bath at night, we would put on their clean clothes for the next day. They'd sleep in those clothes and go straight to school the next morning in them. Kids clothes are usually cotton and comfy anyway, so it was comfortable for them and avoided a TON of morning battles. Maybe if your little guy sweats a lot at night it won't work, but it was my saving grace during those crazy years. I had completely forgotten that we used to do this until I read your post. They are 10 and 9 now and dress themselves just fine. But they still love their pajamas!! Slacker Working Mama


My husband was always good at making getting dressed a game for our son-- worked much better than my cajoling, pleading, threatening. One idea is to race to see who can get dressed first (we do this at night, too, to see who can win the ''pajama race''). Another is to get a stopwatch and time how long it takes him to get dressed each day and write the time down together in a special notebook; then he can try to beat his best time, getting faster every day. make it a game


2.5 is too young for sticker charts and treats and threats. (My 4 year old barely cares about them!) These little monsters live by their gut. He's probably tired and unhappy about having to be up and ready (who isn't?) and he gets to take that out on you every morning. Heaps of attention every morning (no matter if it is negative) sounds perfect to a 2.5 year old. Here are a few ways:
1. Try an earlier bed time, so an alarm isn't having to wake him up. Over time, if his natural wake-up time is a little earlier than what you need for getting dressed, I'd bet that it would go better.
2. Dress him in his clothes for the next day the night before. You'll still have a diaper to change, but not a shirt, pants, etc.
3. Why not send him in his dirty diaper? Let the school change him. It's really--really!--not the end of the world if he goes to school wet. And if he hates it, then I bet you'll get some more compliance about changing (and maybe even potty training, too!).
4. Reward the new system with some positive attention--time to read a short book together or snuggle! He doesn't want to fuss, he just wants you. Make that a good thing. good luck
Your son sounds very well developed verbally/socially and VERY sure of his own mind, so I would suggest you go WITH his strengths instead of butting heads against them. What do I mean? Let him arrive at the conclusion that he doesn't want to go to daycare in his PJ and dirty diaper on his own. How?
1. Coordinate with the daycare provider that for a few days he will appear that way in the morning.
2. Go ahead with your morning routine giving him a few minutes to change. Better than using a timer (the time ticking down is still rather abstract for him) use a CD and tell him he can change (with as little help from you as possible) during a specific song (or two- if the songs are really short). Once the song is over, it's time to go to daycare. Pack him into the care ''as is.''
3. When you get to the daycare tell the teacher loudly enough so he can hear it clearly something like ''I am sorry Johnny came in his PJ and diaper today. He didn't manage to change in time at home.''

4. Coordinate with the teacher in advance that she will say something mildly (mildly!) disapproving, such as'' Well, that's too bad. The other children will wonder what happened.'' Then she should tell him she can help him change as soon as he is ready to do it quickly. She can use the change of clothes you have (I assume) left at the daycare for messes and accidents.

I would expect that after a few days your son won't enjoy this routine anymore. Two more things:
1. He may be reacting to pressure he is feeling about staying dry all day, so dial that down if there's any going on (including too much praise and encouragement).
2. Raise the attractiveness of the outfit you have ready for him to put on in the morning at home by getting a couple of t-shirts/sweatshirts that has something on them that he likes (trains, animals, etc.). These outfits should be available ONLY at home. If you are still stuck in battles after a week to 10 days, there's something else feeding this. A consultation with a professional may be in order. Rachel B
I have a 2 y/o too and I have learned to pick my battles. What is really important for safety, sanitation, etc. vs. pretty minor stuff that my toddler is fighting me about. Do I let my kid go outside without shoes? NO. But do I let him go outside to play without a shirt if he insists on not wearing one? Sure whatever. For your situation I would insist on clean diaper, but ship him off to daycare with a new change of clothes and let the daycare provider understand the situation. That or maybe putting him in his next day clothes at night as a substitution for PJ's? Mom of a strong willed 2 y/o

Not sure if this helps, but this (mostly) works to get my now 3 year old son ready (learned from a friend who has her own version) We have our ''steps to success'' in the morning and my son has to follow them in the exact order to get ready.

1) Potty
2) Get Dressed
3) Brush Teeth
4) Eat breakfast and if time, watch a movie if no time, breakfast is cereal in a baggie/bowl on the way to daycare (they provide a second breakfast there)

This keeps the desired ''things'' at the end (food/tv). I know it doesn't really make sense to brush teeth before breakfast but at least it gets done.

What helped (I think anyway) is that I made the sign with him, and I drew pictures to represent each step. This helps when I need to re-direct him to the steps and ask him, ''what's next?'' or more often ''what's the first step to success?'' We also try to do this on the weekend so the routine is the same. it mostly works


It sounds like you are doing it all ''right'' (whatever that means!!) What struck me about your post is how well you are listening to your son. He says, ''I want to fuss/struggle.'' That is a HUGE clue. Here's some advice for you to take or leave - no big conversation with him but rather a simple acknowledgement like ''I hear that you want to fuss... I know that feels really good. How can I help you get dressed?'' Listen. He could say anything. Let's try, ''Nothing - I don't want to get dressed!'' Sit quietly and wait. Maybe a little smile comes over your face. Breath deep - you could say, ''I love you.'' See what happens if you don't feel urgent. This calm can transfer to him. It may not happen the first time - be patient. Again, it sounds like you are doing a fabulous job and that your son is lucky to have you as a mom. I wonder what it would be like if you brought that knowledge into this morning interaction with him? Parenting is HARD. Good luck! Lisa


I had this same problem with my kids, and my solution was to have them sleep in the clothes they would wear the next day. Obviously, you'll want to avoid the less comfortable clothes, like jeans. I didn't introduce pajamas until I knew they were ready to get changed in the mornings. And, the one time I did send my child to preschool in pajamas, the teacher said it happens all the time so I wouldn't worry too much about it at that age. Good luck!


Two things immediately come to mind, but maybe you've already tried/considered these:

1) Perhaps he needs some (more) physical love/play with you? My girls need A LOT of tickling, pretend I'm-gonna-get-you chasing/capturing/etc., and stuff like that. At night, as I get my 2 yr old ready for bed, we do a lot of intense tickles, raspberries, tickly-ear-whispers, etc. It THRILLS her and she loves up all the physical love. Maybe he needs more of that?

2) Sometimes with my older daughter (now 4) we use treats as incentives for doing ''big girl things that are tough for her right now.'' She knows that she won't always get M&Ms for washing her hands after using the bathroom (for example), but for right now that is a struggle for her, so we're doing this to help her learn to do this for herself. This is how we explain it to her (and why she no longer gets a choc treat whenever she pees on the potty, but we're offering that to her baby sister right now...). She totally gets it. I'm just not sure if your son is old enough to get the whole ''you can have an M&M when you're all dressed, if you help me'' kind of thing. Maybe try it and see? We're pretty healthy eaters in our family, so a treat like one little M&M is a BIG TIME treat for our kids. 8^) Mailisha
 


Toddler daughter refuses to be dressed---Help!

Jan 2012

My 20 month old daughter  screams and cries when we try to dress her.  She refuses to wears shirts or anything on her upper torso.   If we wrestle the shirt on, which feels terrible, she hollers and tries to take it off tirelessly.

Things we have tried-- making sure there are no scratchy bits that could be poking her, flattering her when she has clothes are on, sneaking them on in her sleep,  showing her the clothing beforehand and cooing over them--all to no avail.

She also refuses to ride in the bike trailer and be strapped in.

We would like to leave the house and have her sleep in her own bed with actual pajamas on this January...and suggestions?
Housebound by nudist Baby


Please look into sensory processing disorder. If your daughter is this distraught over clothing and being strapped in, she might be helped by an OT who can assess her for any sensory issues she might be having, and caught early can be helped a great deal. Just look into it.


Your story sounds so similar to an episode I listened to on the podcast, ''Longest Shortest Time,'' that I decided to share the link for you. In a nutshell, LST is a podcast about surprising challenges in early parenthood. Hilary interviews various new moms (or dads) about their struggles and one mom shared her story about how her daughter would scream when getting any clothes on. Listening to the podcast will do better than any summary I can do, so I would definitely recommend listening in and seeing if it sounds like what you're going through. It's possible that your daughter has a sensory issue that needs to be assessed? Here is the link to the podcast: http://longestshortesttime.com/2011/05/11/the- emperors-new-onesie/ another mom


I recognize these behaviors from my own daughter. In her case, it turned out that the sensory stimulus of clothing textures on her skin and body, and the feeling of restraint from either clothing or seatbelts, was overwhelming for her. To this day (she is 9) she often goes out ''underclothed'' for the weather. Clothing that is less restrictive, such as roomy dresses and skirts, seems to help. Very soft clothing (faux satin,faux velvet, fleece) seems to help also. She has never worn anything with zippers or buttons: only stretchy elastic waistbands, so, no jeans. No shoes with laces. Velcro or slip-ons. This is what has worked for us. Also, when she was a toddler, I sometimes resorted to letting her get in the car in pyjamas or even naked, if we had to be somewhere. She'd often agree to get dressed once she was already in the car. Sometimes we just did not leave the house until she was ready to put shoes on, and I had to be very patient. Getting angry never helped; it only made her more frustrated. Zoe


You might like to look into Infant Reflex Integration. Brian Esty in San Francisco practices the Masgutova Method and can teach you protocols that you can do regularly with your child to calm down hypersensitivities, which may be the source of your troubles. I found him very helpful. AA


We had a similar issue with resistance to getting dressed at the same age, although not to the extend of yours. What worked well is taking one of her favorite stuffed animals to the changing table and getting them dressed together. We first put socks on the bear, and then her,and so on. It does extend the getting ready time but makes it more tolerable and pleasant. The other thing is showing her that we are doing the same thing... such as ''look daddy is putting jacket on so you have to put a jacket on'', etc. Hope this helps.. anon


I agree with other postings about looking into Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)...my son has it, and we had a horrible time of getting him dressed to go anywhere when he was younger. As for a solution, I started to ask him to let me know when he was ready to be dressed rather than trying to dress him. Usually, this meant bringing clothes with me into the car and leaving the house naked (him, not me;)) No more power struggles, no more tears...eventually, he'd realize that he would rather have his clothes on while sitting in his car seat, and we'd just get dressed in the car. Worked for me...hope it's helpful for you, too. By the way, his little brother also hates being in clothes, and he definitely does NOT have SPD. We also let him let us know when he's cold and/or ready for clothes -- he's naked a lot. Hope this helps...


Help dressing 3 year old in warm clothes

Nov 2010

My 3 year old daughter refuses to dress in warm clothes. And it's not that she's NOT cold herself; she just prefers shorts, short skirts and sundresses.

I'm actually o.k. with the skipped coat or sweater as she's very sensitive to things rubbing her neck at all, but I need to get her into at least long sleeves and pants under whatever dress she prefers; or leggings under shorts (her skirts don't work at all b/c they have attached shorts). I'm even willing to buy some looser dresses or skirts w/out attached shorts to facilitate this process.

Dressing her the night before doesn't work: she sleeps under lots of covers and she removes all clothes from the waist down to use the toilet. Choices don't work, nor does choosing her clothes for her. Taking her to school in what she wears to bed (soft summer clothes) doesn't work either. As a result I must physically force her into clothes. She wriggles out of the pants so I really have to hold her down which we both find very upsetting.

Since we can't move to a balmy climate, I'd love some help! anon


I also have problems dressing my kids. my son has sensory integration problems - not sure if your daughter does - she may - so i'd suggest you experiment with different clothes. for example my son loves pjs, sweats or really tight clothes. but no problem with the stuff he likes. everything else would be a nightmare to get on him.

now that we have given up trying to put anything other that these on him getting him dressed is a breeze compared to a daily torture event. definitely check out really tight fighting stuff. any then maybe you can skip the pants. I know several people (adults) that wear shorts all winter - I think if you keep your torso really warm then you can probably get away without wearing pants. and don't stress about how your kid looks and what others think - your home life will be so much easier without the clothing battles that you probably won't care. my son goes to preschool in a pj top everyday - sometimes a pj bottom too and I just don't care because I know the headache I avoided that morning. lastly - check is your child really cold? I used to shiver just looking at my son outside in winter wearing just pjs- then I'd feel his hands and they were warm while I was freezing wearing 4 layers! been there.


Think back to the 50s and 60s, when I was a girl, in snowy, truly cold upstate New York. Girls and grown women wore skirts and dresses all year round. If it was below freezing, we might wear snow pants under our skirts to walk to school (had to take them off when we got there) or play in the snow, but mainly, we just wore warm jackets, hats, mittens... that kept us warm enough. I'm sure many of us were uncomfortable, but we were not endangered by it! Wearing shorts/skirts in the Berkeley area is not dangerous, so as long as she's not uncomfortable, it's not worth a fight! If she'll wear a jacket or sweatshirt, that's probably good, but not even critical; my son wears long pants, but almost never wears even a sweatshirt over his short-sleeve t-shirts all year, and he isn't sick any more than most kids. I'm cold, but my kid's not!
 


Clothing battles with 4-year-old

Aug 2010

I'm struggling with how much to help my 4-year-old daughter with tasks that she is able to do by herself, and could use some perspective on this from the BPN community. The most frequent time we have this issue is with getting dressed in the mornings. We always choose clothes the night before, and she eats breakfast first while still in her PJs, so that she doesn't have to deal with this while still sleepy. Even so, we frequently have this battle where she stands there naked and whining, staring at her pile of clothes, and asks/demands that ''Mommy do it.'' Of course, at 4 years old she is perfectly capable of pulling on her own underwear and nearly all the other aspects of getting dressed. What I can't decide if she is legitimately too tired/overwhelmed at the task, and I should help her, or if she is just being lazy/too dependent, and if I should insist that she do it herself. Certainly, it gets done a lot faster if I do it, but am I doing her a disservice by giving in to these demands to help her do such tasks? It is most often with getting dressed but happens with other things too - feed me, mommy; carry me, mommy; etc. She does it much more often with me than her dad or grandma.

What do you think? It it OK/better for me to help her get dressed in the morning or should she be working on doing these tasks herself? To help or not to help


We try to work on these battles one at a time; at first this meant that our son would put on his underwear and pants, and I would help *only* with shirt and socks; then we moved on to shirt, and finally socks. We also made an effort to make his wardrobe as easy to put on as possible - for example, he only has ankle-length socks that he can put on himself. The flipside was that we made it clear that we would not let him hold up our day by stalling; certain fun morning activities would not happen if there wasn't time, and once (only once) we set out to preschool in his underwear. Two blocks from home he decided he was ready to put them on, and I pulled the bike over and let him hold onto my leg while he dressed on the sidewalk. We've finally (after several months) gotten to the point where he picks out his own clothes in the morning and puts them on by himself, and I even feel comfortable helping out on those difficult mornings without fear of backsliding. I must say I feel particularly proud on the occasional days when I take him to preschool in (intentionally) mismatched socks or a backwards T shirt, since it's clear to everyone who did the work. sits back and watches


My son went through the same thing. I saw it as a need for one on one attention, so I tried to give him the attention he needed, but still have him do the task itself independently. E.g., I would say "Well, let's dress together, I'll put my clothes on and you put yours on" or "I need to make breakfast, if I help you get dressed I won't have time to play with you. Why don't you put on your socks and then we can play a game together?" or "I need to take a shower, why don't you bring your clothes into the bathroom and talk to me while I'm showering and you put your clothes on?" or "I need to clean up my room, come and dress in my room while I do that." If I insisted that he go off and dress himself alone, he would claim he was incapable of it, but if he didn't feel completely alone it would be OK. Good luck!


I've got the same issue over here with my almost 4 year olds, but with me it is magnified because I have fraternal twins and one gets dressed easily, by herself, every day. The other one does what yours does almost every day. She is absolutely capable of getting dressed (and doing many other things), but for some reason turns into a crying, whining mess about this and other activities ''she needs help with.'' I don't have an answer for you, but my strategy is to choose my battles. If she is having a particularly sensitive day for whatever reason, I'll say, ''Can I help you find your clothes and put them on?'' to which she usually says ''Yes!'' On other days, I'll tell her, ''when you are done with your drawing, I'd like you to go get dressed. OK?'' I usually give her some mental prep time for her to get her head around the idea. Sometimes this works and she gets dressed no problem and sometimes it doesn't. Some other times I'll let her know that she can do ''X'' after she gets dressed. Read a book with me, pick out the snacks for the day, or even watch a Dora dvd. So I guess in summary, I figure it out day by day and try (unsuccessfully some days) to not let it get to me if she is having a bad day. I have them too some days. (By the way, the one who gets dressed every day no problem changes clothes about 18 times a day which causes other problems, as you can imagine.) Could be worse.


You'll get mixed responses, I'm sure. In my experience (and from the reading I've done on early child-hood development), kids go through phases of regression when they're going some kind of developmental change. Four-to-five is a period of great cognitive development, so it can be easy to forget that massive changes are, really, still going on (since it's not visibly obvious, like with walking). When my daughter was regressing, I would choose how to handle it, based upon how extreme the behavior was. For something like this, I would often go ahead and do it, because I knew it was a phase, and I think this helped her to feel secure about her growing independence: mommy would still be around to help and love her, even though she's growing and changing. However, if the behavior was something really difficult (she went through another phase of gut wrenching separation anxiety when she was four), I found that doing something like going on a camping trip or other adventure (something that takes them out of their routine for at least a couple of days) made a HUGE difference. For some reason, taking kids out of their routines for a few days (like, going on vacation somewhere) seems to give them a little extra push through that developmental phase. We went on a camping trip for the first time with our daughter during this horrible clingy period (she was having hysterics when I dropped her off at pre-school) and literally overnight, when we got back, she was completely different. No problems at school drop-off whatsoever. I should add that we had to hike 4.5 miles in to get to the camp site, and she did it the whole way in and the whole way out and we barely carried her at all. So something about being challenged I think made a huge difference for her and for her confidence. My point in all this, I suppose, is that you are going to get regressive behaviors like this. If you understand why they're going on, you can decide how you want to deal with it, and changing things up for a little bit seems to help. Glad Four Is Behind Us!


When my daughter was four, I dressed her most of the time -- she seemed to perceive getting dressed as attention. Maybe your daughter feels the same way -- this is one of those ''this too will pass'' moments of child rearing. She's not going to want you to dress her in kindergarten. You might want to put out some dress-up clothing so she can practice putting clothes on and off. I think as a culture we are too obsessed with independence in our children -- we seem to push them on feeding and dressing more than we need to; the natural desire for independence in this area will kick in soon enough. anon


I have a similar problem which makes me even more crazy, since she willingly would dress herself from 2 years to 4 years old! Then something clicked and she decided she needed help starting around her 4th birthday (she's now 4.5). I do many of your similar routines-we pick out clothes the night before, I'm not too insistent regarding what she wears, but still she wants help. I have pondered upon the issue a lot, and for my daughter, I think it boils down to just wanting to spend time with me. I will ask her to share the tasks with me (''You do one piece of clothing, and I'll do one,'' etc.) I also will, when I need the time to do something else, race my daughter to get ready (''I bet you can't get all of the way dressed before I do!'' or somesuch). Since they are only 4, I think it's important to not read too much into the situation. My daughter goes through stages where she wants to be babied, then a few days later, wants to be Miss Independent. Since she does many, many other things on her own, I don't make a big deal out of the dressing issue. I fully understand your frustration, though. You could be multitasking while she is getting dressed! Good luck Meg


This may sound weird, but is your child large for age? My younger daughter is age 5, but is wearing clothing size 6 to 8 clothing depending on what part of her body she is covering (6 in shirts and 8 over the booty). My elder daughter is a skinny-minny (so clothes fall off her), but my younger has an incredibly athletic frame (shall we say that she is bootilicious). She is 5, but struggles to get clothes on and off -- and generally, it has to do with me not getting the wrong cut of clothes out of her closet (every manufacturer is different). At 4, it was a nightmare...I just thought that bigger was okay, I didn't 'get' that there were certain traps (some stuff just won't work - leggings go on great. jeans need to have stretch waist, etc). jan m


My children are teens now, but this worked with my kids (one boy, one girl) when they went through this phase at 3 or 4. I bought only soft elastic waist cotton pants or sweat pants and cotton t-shirts for my children. That's what they wore to bed and went to school in the next day. So, essentially, they got dressed for school after the bath in the evening. All that was left was socks and shoes in the am, and they only had one pair of shoes so there wasn't a choice element there. This didn't go on forever, just through preschool. They grew out of it on their own over the summer when the mornings were more relaxed; and by kindergarten it was a non issue. Good luck with more peaceful mornings! Hope this helps


I have a four year old boy and will admit that I do about 90% of the dressing in the morning for the sake of speed. That said, I'm pretty sure he could do most of it himself but I just figure he will in time, and we frequently cuddle or tickle or play as we dress him ''together''. He will pull on his shirt and always does his own shoes. I have a feeling that since your daughter does these ''I need help, Mommy'' things with you more than other adults in her life, it's just the time and interaction/contact with you she is after. I wouldn't let it be a battle, how important is it that she do it herself at 4, really? Make it a time with her that something as mundane as dressing can be fun instead of a battle. Wait til she's 14, she sure won't let you dress her then,LOL! Bridget


I think it's definitely better to have her do the tasks herself, but you want to help her get to a place where she CAN do that. Often, when children have a persistent complaint, conflict or demand, it's actually because they're going through something - a developmental leap perhaps (like handling separation), or healing some hurt their going through like with a social situation, a sibling issue, or even hurts from the past that you wouldn't even think would have anything to do with this present struggle. They launch a struggle so their nervous systems can offload fear, upset or tension. So you want to help them offload that tension by holding your boundaries in a loving way and listening to them as they share their feelings. It looks like this: when she says "mommy do it!" you smile kindly and say "no, you can do it." If she gets mad, or keeps demanding, stay loving, but stick with your limit "I know you can do it... I'll stay with you while you try... I know you want me to help you, but I need you to do it... I know it's hard to take care of it yourself...." If she yells or cries, listen warmly, trying to maintain eye contact, offering just a few of those reassuring phrases. Don't try to explain why she should do it, or negotiate with her in any way. Just hold your limit lovingly, and listen while she sheds feelings. You'll be surprised when she transitions out of her upset. A lot of times they'll cry and cry and then the next minute they just snap out of it, ready to move on to something else. After a few mornings like this, her demand should dissipate. I teach an amazing class about handling issues just like this, and there are several more tools I could give you to help, including great ways to take her playfully through some of these struggles. Amy


It sounds like your daughter isn't sure of how grown up she's ready to be. This seems totally normal for her age. Children mature at different rates and it seems like your child isn't quite ready to leave the comfort of being a baby behind. Furthermore, four is a bit like two in that both ages follow major spurts in skills, growth and maturity. Four year olds are even more confidant then twos that they now have the world mastered. And as part and parcel of proving themselves they are ready to engage in power struggles with those closest to them. Of course the flip side of all this new confidence is the fear they've bitten off more than they can chew and thus the regression into babyhood. In order to avoid a power struggle around getting dressed, how about making the activity a game. "Let's have a race. I'll set the timer and we'll each take turns putting on a piece of clothing. I'll do the first sock, then you see how fast you can put on the next, I'll do the undies, you the skirt, etc." She'll get dressed faster, with you cheering each other on in the race against the timer, and you'll both have more fun. Just remember she won't always want to be a baby and if she's allowed a little leeway to get babied when she needs to, in the end she'll be a more self confidant person. Which is the most important thing. amma


Personally, I helped my four-year old get dressed and enjoyed helping him. Some four year olds can dress themselves but not all can or do. It feels to me as though you are asking a lot of your child before s/e's ready to become independent. Four is awfully young AND it is not ''bad'' for a child that age to want your company or assistance. In terms of feeding a four-year old, that seems different to me. Maybe this is a way for your child to ask for more attention from you. I'd encourage you to be patient. It will pass. another mom


We were fans of Tomorrow Clothes for much of preschool. When our children were in pre-school, we discovered Tomorrow Clothes. The child was dressed, the night before, in clothes that could be worn to school the next day, in case they could not be roused to change clothes in the morning. Sometimes vanity won out, and the child dressed quickly enough to wear a fresh outfit for school. But there were plenty of times that Tomorrow Clothes were worn out the door and into the classroom -- a little rumpled, but just fine for a preschool day. been there, done that


Tantrums-getting dressed-6 y.o.

Jan 2006

I'm looking for advice about a normally happy, secure, outgoing little girl who turns into a screaming banshee when asked to get dressed. This happens every morning, as well as occasionally when she has to get dressed to go to a party or something.

There are several different complaints: I can't decide what I want to wear, as well as It scratches, it itches, it hurts. She even complains that the waistband of her underwear (several sizes larger than she needs) hurts. As soon as she's dressed and out the door, she's fine all day at school or play. She agonizes over getting dressed, and so do I.

We've tried: getting up 15 minutes earlier to give her extra time to choose, putting out clothes the night before, setting a timer, etc. Nothing works; whatever was picked out ''doesn't feel good'' or she just ''doesn't like it'' by morningtime. We talk about the issue calmly at other times of the day, and she talks about it rationally and says she's not going to do it any more. She gets enough sleep. She loves to play dress-up in princess clothes; no problem with that.

Any suggestions? I'm at my wit's end. Morning-hating momma


My 5 year old does the same thing! I could have written your post word for word. My daughter will sit in front of her drawer, pulling out every pair of pants, every shirt, every skirt and basically be completely unable to choose. When she finally gets something on, she'll often have a complete meltdown about something not feeling right, etc. But as you said, once she is out the door she is rational, able to make suggestions about how to better deal with the problem, etc.

The only thing we tried that has helped a little is to let her have breakfast and be awake for a while before getting dressed. Some mornings that helps, sometimes it doesn't. I've recently tried to institute a policy where if she is on-time for kindergarten all five days of the week, she gets to pick out stickers.

I'll be curious to see any other responses! Good luck, I know how frustrating it is day in, day out. melimart


Whew. We went through the same battles with our daughter - now 8 - and thankfully now have far fewer struggles over clothes. We discovered that for about a year and a half, she had to think of her clothes as specific coordinated outfits to simplify the whole thing - we eventually made a little sketch of some choices that stayed on the wall. Many of them were completely monochromatic ensembles ie all blue or purple or orange, even if the colors were way off. It was little weird facing an all-orange child at breakfast but we got over it. She had fun picking out pieces to ''complete'' the outfits herself, and now she's completely free of that system, throwing things together spontaneously that we are all fine with. I encourage you to keep pushing for the routine of choosing the night before, and let her select some clothes for herself at used clothing shops so it is not a big investment if they fail. mom of finicky dresser


we just went thru this with my son. after weeks of arguments, I made a chart with 8 boxes (you might want to try less to start) and gave it to him. I explained that the new rule was that when he wakes up in the morning, he may come out of his room for the bathroom, but he must go back in until he is dressed. period. once he is dressed, he can give himself a ''check'' on the chart. then, after 8 days, he get's a ''prize''. I did all this without humiliation or telling him he was ''bad''. I just said he needed to learn to get dressed in the morning, and this was how we were going to do it. It worked right away. He loved how proud we were of him the next morning, and he loved the idea of marking the checks himself. You could even have her make her own chart and decorate it herself. Today was prize day he got his prize and a lot of praise. now we will do 10 days, and after that more, until he no longer needs the reinforcement.

Also, I lay out his clothes before bed. you may or may not want to do this, depending on if it makes it easier or not.

I think this method took the dynamic of us ''butting heads'' out of the equation and gave him some power over the situation. Even if it doesn't work everyday, we keep doing it. I think he's relieved to be over the stress Though, I've never had to deal with ''the girl thing'' with clothes. His only issue is that he always wants sweatpants. So I got him 5 pairs. Fortunately his desires arent too extravagant

hope this helps. mom of a dressed kid --finally.


Two things - Are you sure she is really ''fine'' the rest of the day, and only complains about how the clothes feel when it's time to get dressed? Pay close attention to whether she's tugging at or distracted by her clothes during the day, even if she doesn't complain. Is she sensitive to other kinds of touch activities - haircuts, toothbrushing, nail-clipping, etc.? if so, consider talking to an occupational therapist about sensory (tactile) defensiveness.

One idea that sometimes helps avoid the morning fight - have her get dressed the night before, after a warm, relaxing bath. At her age, she won't get smelly sleeping in her clothes, and nobody else will even notice. Lots of parents find this trick leads to much easier mornings. She probably won't change her mind in the morning about the clothes that she picked the night before because that would require the (unpleasant) changing. R.K.


This frustrating behavior is very common for 6 year olds. Hang in there. It will pass. One way to reduce your own frustration is to not pressure your child to dress. Take her to school in her PJ's a time or two, and she will move past this phase. You are getting into a power struggle with your daughter. Try laying out three possible outfits the night before. Then allow her to dress herself, without prompting, cajoling, etc. When it is time to leave for school, put her in the car ''as is.'' Her peers will give her feedback and she will move through this on her own! Good luck. Ilene D


Wearing ''tomorrow'' clothes to bed

May 2008

I don't know how other working parents get their kids up and ready every morning, but one thing we do is we change our kids (4,2) into their ''tomorrow'' clothes every evening after bath. I first read about this on a Web site about temperament as a suggestion for helping kids with transition issues, and I've gotta say, it works beautifully for us. Both kids wake late, and you know how toddlers/preschoolers are with having to negotiate every little thing. It's already such a mad rush I don't know how we would ever get out the door otherwise.

Here's the catch: my parents are absolutely horrified, and most people we tell think it's either hysterical or idiotic. I don't really care about these reactions, but I guess I'm curious if anyone else does this...? Are we crazy or doing our kids a disservice? --really didn't think it was so weird!


OK, you aren't crazy. I used to do this too. I have twins, and it was just easier. I saw my friend with one child having fun putting their kids in their cute jammies, and then picking out a lovely outfit for the next day. I had two at once, and no time for such fun dress-up games. I bought my kids outfits that were half-jammies-half-clothes, and they just wore those after bath and all day the next day. I stopped, however, when they went to preschool for a couple of reasons--mostly having to do with getting more ''real'' clothes that weren't as comfortable to sleep in. However, I completely support your continuing on with this routine for your kids. In fact, I could imagine doing that--sending them to bed in their tops for the next day, and underwear--then add the pants the next morning. I see no reason why this would cause psychological scarring. In fact, my girl is getting to be too opinionated about what she wears in the AM, and is starting to plow through her entire drawer to find the perfect outfit. I think I might start having her pick out her clothes the night before--a very similar idea. But, there's no going back in my house--my girl has a ''princess'' nightgown now that she won't part with, and my son is very quick to get dressed. Did the same thing


I did exactly what you do when my kids were little--I put their socks, underwear, and shirts on for the next day. In the morning all I had to do was help them into pants, and they were ready to roll. I remember people giving me a strange look when I told them about this ploy, and I also remember wondering, as you are, whether there was some downside that I just wasn't seeing. But I really don't think there is one. My kids are now 11 and 14, both wear pjs or just t-shirts to bed, and neither seems to have any particular issues related to sleeping, bed wear, etc. I say, do what makes your life easier and don't worry about it. pajamas can wait


What a great idea...I can think of times that this will really work for us (early flights in the morning, etc.) -anon


You are not crazy. It's a great idea. My little ones are still in footed sleepers, and I dress them in the shirts that they will wear tomorrow. If the pants are knit, they wear those, too, but I haven't put them in woven pants....yet. The only bummer is when they get dirty at breakfast time, and I have to change them anyway! Do what works for you, as long as the kids sleep OK. It amazes me that other people consider this issue so important! anon


We also dress one of our boys for school the night before (often, not every night.) He likes sweatpants, so his daytime clothes are comfortable at night. It works out really well for us. We'll keep doing it as long as we can. My strategy: don't mention it to the in-laws! Mom of a night owl


My son is nearly 12 years old and he has been wearing his ''tomorrow'' clothes to bed for at least the past 5 years. Does it on overnights, too. And on ''Pajama Day'' at school he just wears clothes and tells everybody he wears regular clothes to bed. It has yet to be a problem or a cause for teasing. The only thing it's done has saved us hours of hassles. You're not crazy--it works! Wish I Could Do It Too


I'm so amused that people are freaking out about tomorrow clothes! My kids invented that for themselves, and while I was a little shocked at first, I could see they really had put some thought in it, and it DID make mornings easier. What's the harm if they're sleeping well and are comfortable??? From a ''green'' perspective- you're saving water and energy by not having PJs to wash. Mine still sleep in PJ's most of the time, but there are certainly a couple of days a week that they go to sleep in their tomorrow clothes. Tell your critics they can come get the kids ready in the morning if they don't like it. another backwards mom!!


I think this is brilliant. As long as the clothes are comfortable enough to sleep in and it doesn't seem to confuse them (we still use pajamas as a signal that it is time to sleep rather than play or go outside), I think you have a great idea. I may try it myself! today's weird is tomorrow's innovation


I have to say that when I read this I laughed out loud because as a child I thought that I could sleep in more if I wore my ''tomorrow'' clothes when I was in school. I got caught because of the wrinkles. I thought then that it was a brilliant idea (I was in third grade.) The big thing to think about is that what are your children going to think as they get older. Also, what about comfy pajamas and for girls to actually sleep in cotton underwear or no underwear in order to decrease the chance of a yeast infection. I have to agree that it might be worth it in the long run to have your kids change into the clothes that they will wear that day especially if it is somewhat uncomfortable to sleep in or is really nice. I really love comfy pajamas and I think that your kids can to. As far as decreasing the transitions- I would suggest making a routine. Have the kids go to bed earlier at night so that they have time to eat breakfast, change clothes and do the other things that they need to before going to school. Set out what the order will be so that the kids will know what comes first, what comes second and etc. Make sure that you wake them up or they (the 4 yr. old) has an alarm clock. It might not be the transitions it could be the routine. As a person who moved as a child I hated having my routine disrupted or readjusted. As an adult I have a morning routine of my own. I really hold on to my routine because it feels like some type of security. Plus I'm not a morning person, the routine helps me make sure I get what I need done before I leave. Nanny/ Teacher in the know


We've done it with our two children, just for convenience. I learned about it from an acquaintance years before having kids. I thought it was odd then, but once we had kids, we saw the logic. After I discovered that a very sensible and proper friend also did it, I stopped worrying about it completely. We recently passed on the advice to friends of ours who were expecting--they were aghast but at least they are now aware of this option. Our parents live out of town so it hasn't been an issue with them. less frazzled because of it


I don't do it, but I don't think it's too weird. It wouldn't work for us because of nighttime potty issues! Be glad you can do it.


We have 2 kids, ages 2 and 5, and almost always put them to sleep in clean ''tomorrow'' clothes. They wear soft, comfortable clothes that are very similar to PJs anyway. I don't think it's funny or weird, and definitely not idiotic. I think it's a GREAT idea. If my daytime clothes were as comfy as theirs, I'd sleep in my ''tomorrow'' clothes, too! Who needs PJs?!!!?


I think it's a great idea. Although we don't put our son in all his tomorrow clothes before going to bed, we often have him sleep in the shirt that he will wear tomorrow because it's easier to change pants than shirts with him in the morning. I'm sure that you aren't the only people to do this. Ignore anyone who makes you feel bad about it. Anon


My boys started doing that years ago of their own choice. Makes MY life a WHOLE lot easier....my younger one (now 13) can wear the same clothes for days...he changes his sox and if his t- shirt is dirty I make him change it. I pick my battles!! My 17 yo started wearing sweats or jammies a few years ago, but for years he slept in his clothes. I bet there are a lot of kids out there who do that...don't be bothered by others comments or feelings. You're the one having to get kids up and out in the morning, not them. anon mom


My son always wears tomorrow's clothes to bed, he is 8 and there is nothing wrong with it. Tell your family and friends to get over it. One of Many


you (and your kids) are totally normal. our 10-yo does the same thing (for the past year), while my 8-yo daughter chooses to wear PJs. my son has other friends that will put on tomorrow's clothes after the evening shower. some sleep only in their underwear! it's all good. there are worse things in life


My daughter (age 7) started doing this recently on her own. At first I discouraged her (how can it be comfortable to sleep in jeans?) but really. . . it has saved us from a lot of our morning struggles. I say let your child do it until s/he is ready to go back to PJs. That's the approach I'm taking. . . Debbie


I never put my kids to bed in ''tomorrow'' clothes when they were little. However, if that works for you, I think it's perfectly fine and not weird at all. anon


I don't think it's weird at all. You have to do what works for your family, regardless of anyone else's opinion, even that of your parents! common sense


Your job is to parent your children - the tomorrow clothes is a great strategy. Your parents job is to compare their parenting to yours so they can justify that they did a fine job. North Pole - South Pole. It's better than the fights I had with my daughter over getting dressed in the morning. I still let her go to bed in what she was wearing today if she's tired. These are very minor issues and micromanaging your kids lives makes you and them stressed, nervous, and unhappy. I wish I had thought of Tomorrow Clothes for Preschool


Are you kidding? It's the best thing ever. My kids started doing it on their own - refusing to wear PJ's and wanting clothes instead. And I try to avoid fussing about things that don't matter much. So if they want to put on their ''tomorrow'' clothes the night before, great. In fact, if they want to sleep in their clothes and wear their ''yesterday'' clothes to school - here's a confession - I let them. (We usually do bath every other night because it is such a drama). I usually make some effort, but if I get major pushback, I figure it won't hurt them and life's too short. No one ever died from wearing dirty, wrinkled clothes. Whatever gets all of us up, fed and out of the house on time works for me. Sleeping in the next day's clothes is a brilliant timesaver. Don't let anyone stop you. A very imperfect mother. : )


We do this with our three and a half year old when he goes to preschool. We started when his brother was born six months ago as a survival tactic, and it works great. Our preschooler wakes up at 7 and all three of us have to be out the door by 8:15 dressed, cleaned, fed and packed, so this saves a lot of time. I've told a number of friends about this and never gotten a bad reaction. Toddlers just aren't that stinky on their own (like teenagers) - they acquire their grime from their environment, and I figure the bed is pretty clean. Anything to save time


Our kids are almost the same ages as yours and we put them to bed in ''tomorrow'' clothes almost every night. It started being a once in awhile thing but is so much easier on everyone that it has morphed into a frequent thing. Anon


Battling my 2yo with dressing himself

July 2004

Hi, My husband and I are near the end of our rope. We've been in the ''process'' of teaching our almost 3yo how to take on and off his clothes for approx 9 months. Our son freaks out and has no patience when trying to even pull down or up his underwear. I'm less concerned about him being able to dress himself completely than I am with his inability to pull down his pants and underwear to go potty. He always asks for help and says he can't do it. I know he knows how to do it. He just gives up way, way too easy. Any suggestions would greatly help! Anon


Give it up. If you think about it, it is not a big deal to help him with his clothes. My son always wants my help to get him dressed, even though he is almost 6 and certainly can dress himself in 30 seconds if he needs to (i.e we are going to the zoo without him if he does not get in the car RIGHT NOW). I know he just wants some special ''babying'' from me. Just allow yourself to help your son and let him win this battle for now. Laurel


My advice: let go. If it's a battle, it'll be a losing one. Why not continue to help him? My 4-y-o still likes to have help getting dressed--but he had no problem figuring out how to do pull down and up his pants when he was ready to use the potty. He also has no problem when at sch! ool or at other people's house. We don't help as much as we used to, but are still there in the mornings and evenings. And since we don't fight about it, mornings and evenings are much more pleasant. We push independance so hard in this culture; two and three years old is really little. My son will insist on dressing himself when he's ready--just like everything else he's done by himself, either earlier or later than ''normal''. Your son will too. Carolyn


My 2.5 year old also shows no interest in dressing himself. But I don't push it, I don't think it's really a big deal. I konw he also is capable, but gets frustrated easily. My advice, don't make it a battle, make it a game. Have him try by himself for increasing amounts of time, and then help him. Heather


I think ''battling'' is the key word in your description of the problem. Toddlers are great at reading YOUR will, comparing it to THEIR will and deciding when a battle's worth it. 2 Y.O. is too young to get dressed on their own, unless they are showing an eagerness to do so. Our now almost 4 Y.O. still has no interest, so I dress him. Simple as that. It's fast, efficient, and provides no battles in the morning. You have to be there to help him potty for several more years, so why not pull his underwear up and down for him? What's the battle about? YOU want him to dress, and he's not ready. He's doing his best to tell you that. Let it go for awhile and you'll be amazed at how quickly he learns when it's his decison to do so. Best of luck.


My 3.5 year old does not dress himself. He just doesn't have the coordination, and becomes frustrated if he tries to. He can take his clothes off though. I think my older kids were in kindergarten before they could reliably dress themselves without my help. Good luck