If you have a pre-schooler at home there's a good chance they want to pick out their own clothes.
Maybe they insist on wearing a tutu or superhero cape when leaving the house, or perhaps blue polka dot socks with a pink flower dress. It can be a fashion war getting children dressed, particularly on busy mornings.
Children often go through phases, generally from ages two through five, during which they latch on to certain preferences - and some of those preferences show up in their clothing choices. According to child development experts, this is a sign of our little one’s budding independence, which we want to encourage (within reason). The problem is, those choices may leave our children unprepared for the elements, or going out without pants.
How do we let our children happily choose their own clothes while making sure what they pick is appropriate? Here are some ways to reduce the power struggle.
- Make sure there isn’t a good reason first. Does our child hate certain items because the tag or seams itch? Do they insist on long pants at preschool because the air conditioning is too high? They may not be able to tell us.
- Pick our battles. Ask our self, “Do I really care if my child goes out with one pink sock and one purple if she did it all by herself?”
- Let them dress themselves by giving them choices. Give our children the choice of two options, both with acceptable outcomes. “Do you want to wear the blue shorts or the green pants?”
- Lay out choices the night before. Avoid the power struggle on busy mornings by giving our child their clothing choices the night before. Even plan out the week ahead on a Sunday.
- Let them learn from their mistakes. If a warm jacket seems silly to them in a hot house, let them find out for themselves when they go outside. They’ll soon ask if they get cold.
- Establish parent choice days. If there are times when clothing choices are dictated by social occasions (weddings, family gatherings, religious services, etc.) establish the concept well beforehand of parent choice days. Those are the times you get to decide – in return, they get to choose at other times. (Exercise your rights sparingly!)
- Shop for clothes together. Let your child know your expectations beforehand (we are buying shoes today, not slippers) but let them make their own choices.
Fashion wars can become a power struggle - or an opportunity for children to make their own choices and learn from them. The more we give our children the power to dress themselves the less of a struggle it will be.
We just need to be accepting of the clothes chosen!