A common battle … children who refuse to get dressed. And of course, it ALWAYS happens just when you are in a hurry in the morning!
Where does that struggle come from? Dressing children regularly it has to do with the space we give them. When children experience that they are under time-pressure and have no freedom in their choice of clothing, it can heighten their resistance to dressing. Besides that, if children do not feel comfortable in their clothes (for example the texture or the colors), they may also feel less happy during the day and you can notice this reflecting back in their troubled or opposing behavior.
So how can you ensure that your children experience more space and choice and less pressure with dressing? Below are five tips for stepping out of the struggle around getting dressed.
1. DRESSING THEMSELVES
Some children prefer to get dressed by their parents. This may be due to a deep need for more contact or safety. And that’s fine too. But there are also children who would prefer to dress themselves, but whose parents won’t let them and prefer to do it. Maybe because it goes faster, a child does not seem to be able to do it or because we want to make sure that our child looks clean and tidy. How is this for you? Does this resonate? Do you allow your child to dress herself or not? And why is this?
Is there a way you can give your children more autonomy in dressing, for example by dressing themselves? How is this for them? Does your child like it? This could reduce the struggle in the morning. Children can dress up from a very young age.
2. DETERMINE THEIR OWN OUTFITS
Some children do not care how they look and they think it’s fine if you choose their clothing for them, but others want to decide everything themselves. It may be because they want certain clothes that they think look nice, but it can also have to do with how the fabric feels on their skin or how the model is feeling on their body. Is it soft? Is it flexible? Can I play in this? Does it sting? Is it too tight?
Just like us, children want to feel good about themselves and enjoy the clothes they are wearing. When they feel comfortable in their clothes, it may also be that they feel less restless and irritated during dressing and during the day.
See if this is something that your child might experience. Some children care more about this than others. Again, this can resonate with very young children. And we can start at a young age by giving them a choice of 2 pieces of clothing and letting them point out the one they want.
My son very much wants to choose his outfits and yes, he once was wearing his pants inside-out to school. And he wears sometimes a t-shirt I do not like, but I am usually impressed by his colorful combinations. I also notice that he often chooses soft fabrics that are comfortable. And he loves to choose his outfit himself! If you suspect that your child would also like to choose for himself, then you can try this step! It can significantly reduce the dress up battle!
3. BUYING THEIR OWN CLOTHING
Do you let your child choose their clothing from the store? Or do you always make the selection when you buy? And if it is a bit older, are you trying to turn your child’s taste in a certain direction? How would it be if you let your child choose what it wants to buy? How about taking your child to a store or have her online choose from a selection if she is younger?
It’s also possible with clothing that has been given second-hand: they can choose which clothes they want from the pile. And of course, sometimes it may be that they do not like something at first and when you store it and ask again a while later, they are in love with the piece. The advantage of having them choose themselves what to buy, is that they are very happy with their clothing and look forward to wearing it! This can reduce the struggle with dressing.
Sometimes we may fear that our children will be judged by others on their choice of clothing. We may want to prevent this and ensure that they do not wear everything that they like. But the question is to what extent do we want to control this? To what extent do we want our children to set aside their own taste to conform to others? To what extent do we want our children to make their own journey and discover what they like and what they do not like? Could it be that we are afraid that they are teased or that we are afraid that we are the ones that are looked upon by other parents?
4. SELECT CLOTHES NIGHT BEFORE
Another thing that can reduce the clothes-struggle in the morning, is to select the clothes the night before (together) and to lay down the outfit ready on a chair. This way you do not have the discussion in the morning about “where that one T-shirt is, which happens to be in the laundry”. Some children need to take their time to see what they would like to wear and want to do it at ease, not in a hurry, which is usually in the morning.
The daughter of the well-known author Alfie Kohn choose to solve this issue by getting dressed herself for the next day before bedtime and so she slept in her clothing! A bit weird maybe but it worked for them. Choosing the clothes the night before can save you a lot of time in the morning; save you a lot of doubt and frustration in the morning.
5. WAKE UP BEFORE
Not my favorite, but waking up earlier gives more peace of mind, both for me and my child. We all know; when we are in a hurry and under stress because we are late and have to arrive somewhere on time, we will have less patience and be less creative. And that stress usually reflects back in our children, who might go into resistance-mode.
So if we give ourselves a little bit more time in the morning (and it can be enough to get up 10-15 minutes earlier), this can make a world of difference. For example, we may have time to drink that coffee, which makes us more awake or slightly more patient with our children if they do not want to dress or are dawdling. When we experience more time and less pressure in the morning during dressing, we can also give more space to our children at that moment. And they feel that! As a result, the pressure of the boiler can go and the struggle can become less.
I’m curious! What do you encounter during dressing-struggles? Let me know here what the biggest struggle is for you and if you have applied the tips! I’m curious how it goes! I love hearing from you!
I wish you a morning with ease! 😉
About the author: Hi! My name is Chris Muller, MSc, BTA. I am a psychologist, counselor in Transactional Analysis, Aware Parenting instructor (level 2) regional coordinator the Netherlands and mother. For 10 years I provide support to parents through training, the Aware Parenting Education and 1-on-1 guidance. With a lot of love I help you to treat children AND yourself with love and respect. It is my passion that you experience more joy and more connection with your child AND with yourself! X
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About the author:
Hi! My name is Chris Muller, MSc, BTA. I am a psychologist, counselor in Transactional Analysis, Aware Parenting instructor (level 2) regional coordinator the Netherlands and mother. For 10 years I provide support to parents through training, the Aware Parenting Education and 1-on-1 guidance. With a lot of love I help you to treat children AND yourself with love and respect. It is my passion that you experience more joy and more connection with your child AND with yourself! X
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