5 Ways to Dress Your Child Without the Power Struggles

By Tenille Bentley

Do you dread waking your children up in the mornings? Knowing that you’ll probably be spending the next hour trying to get them dressed and out of the door.

Why does it have to be so difficult to get children dressed in the mornings and will it ever get easier?

Will the power struggles over getting dressed ever stop?

Here are five simple strategies that you can follow to avoid those early morning power struggles.

Why does the power struggle happen?

As children grow, they develop a higher need for independence and autonomy. They might not have the skills just yet to make the best decisions, but they have the will to make all their decisions on their own and do things more independently. When you decide what outfits they should or shouldn’t wear, they feel that their need for autonomy is not being considered, hence the daily morning power struggles.

When we foster independence with our children, it fills up their ‘sense of significance’ bucket. They feel like they are contributing and that they are being heard.

As the parent – you need to be ready to let go of this need for them to look perfect in fear of what other people might think. You can just share with teachers, family and friends that you are ‘in training’ with your child and fostering independence skills.

What can you do?

  • Pick your battles. You know your child best and you know that they only wear jeans or the colour pink, so don’t argue with his or her preferences. It’s okay to let them decide what they wear and it’s okay to not be so rigid about what they wear. You can however limit some of the choices by showing them which ones are more appropriate for the weather. Even if it’s something that doesn’t match or looks funny, they’ll have the satisfaction that they picked their outfits themselves.
  • Offer choices. You can try giving them a choice to pick out of two or three outfits, so they feel that they are getting to choose what they wear, which also fosters their sense of ‘significance’. You can even spend quality time together by putting lots of fun outfits on hangers so it’s quicker and easier for them to decide what to wear in the mornings.
  • Be respectful. It is important to take your child’s clothing choices seriously. If you dismiss their clothing choices, they will feel like their opinion doesn’t matter. If something feels scratchy, uncomfortable or they simply hate the way it looks on them, then respect them enough by acknowledging their feelings and letting them know it’s okay for them to choose what they like instead. To help you, think about when you wear something that doesn’t feel comfortable – you want to change it and your child is the same.
  • Control the environment, not the child. You won’t be able to control their feelings, but you can manage the environment. You can set their closets up according to the season so they will only have access to seasonally appropriate clothes. Secondly, only buy clothes that are both comfortable, stylish and can be mixed and matched with others, so they will easily be able to put outfits together.
  • Plan ahead. It’s a great idea to plan their outfits for the week on the weekend or at least the night before, so they will get a chance to see it and let you know in advance if they don’t like something. This way you can avoid power struggles over clothes and have a more pleasant morning routine.

Tenille Bentley is the founder of The Emotional Literacy and Mindfulness Academy For Kids and the author of the children’s emotional literacy series. The Emotional Literacy Academy provides at-home programs to help nurture and develop children’s emotional literacy, building confident and calm children with empathy, compassion and the tools to feel safe with their emotions. Connect with them on Facebook and Instagram.

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