Teaching Kids the Art of Getting Dressed

While most of you know me as the voice behind the Kids Formal blog, I am also a wife and mother and I struggle with many of the same issues all of you do too. As a mother of two boys, one of whom is 5 and full of energy, one of my constant struggles is with patience. It’s incredibly hard for me wait on my son to do the things I ask of him.

The kid is a great kid and will do what he is asked, but sometimes I may have to remind him four or five times or he may be in the process but gets sidetracked along the way. My natural instinct is to rush in and just do it for him because then I can go on about my day and stay on schedule. However, that doesn’t teach my son anything about responsibility. While every day brings on a new challenge, right now the reoccurring challenge with my little man is getting dressed.

I’m not sure if it’s because this isn’t something that I never considered a big deal or if it’s because I’m 30 and have two kids, but I honestly don’t remember how I was taught to get dressed. As I’ve already said, my son is 5 now. He will be in Kindergarten next year, but still hasn’t mastered the art of getting dressed yet. I may be trying to rush it just a little, but since I can’t remember how long it took me to master this art and he is my firstborn, I’m having a hard time being patient while he learns.

Maybe this isn’t the best way to go about doing it, but here are the strategies I’m using to help him learn how to dress himself.

• Let him pick out his own clothes. When I first started encouraging my son to dress himself, he was four. I just felt like there wasn’t any reason why he couldn’t put on his own clothes in the mornings. After all, he had no problem taking them off. To get him to do it, I would tell him what types of clothes to pick out and then stand back and let him do the rest. For instance, I would say “You need a pair of shorts and a shirt with short sleeves.” Then, as long as the clothes fit my criteria (for the weather) I would let him wear the clothes…even if they didn’t match. It was important for him to feel good about the fact that he made the decision on his own and dressed himself.

• Don’t argue. Now that my son is 5 he is pretty opinionated about things, especially his clothes. I’ve decided not to argue with him anymore. For example, the other day he insisted that he would be fine wearing a long sleeved shirt to my mom’s house. Keep in mind the high that day was 92 degrees Fahrenheit. About an hour after getting to my mom’s house, my mom came outside (with my son beside her) and asked why I dressed him in long sleeves that morning because he was hot. I explained that I had told him it would be warm out and that he needed a short sleeved shirt and he insisted on the long sleeved shirt, so I let him wear it. I figure sometimes it’s better not to argue and let the kids learn things the hard way. The good news is since that day, he hasn’t argued when I say he needs a short sleeved shirt.

• I let him shop. You know, everyone always told me that boys don’t care about what they wear, but that isn’t the case with my son. Maybe it will be for his little brother, but right now my 5 year old cares a lot about what he wears. I have went shopping for clothes before and came home with some of the cutest outfits only to have him refuse to wear them because he doesn’t like the way they look. Again, instead of argue with him, I have started letting him shop for some of his own clothes. While I buy the pants, he gets to have the determining say on his shirts. I guess I think that if he is picking the clothes out then he will wear them, plus this is letting him be an individual and choose the styles that best represent him.

• I let him get frustrated. Right now, the problem we are experiencing is his determination to avoid the buttons on his pants. Instead of unbuttoning his pants to use the restroom, he just pulls the shorts/jeans down and then pulls them back up when he’s done, causing his underwear to bunch and the tops of his pants to roll. He says he can’t button or unbutton his pants, but I really think he is just being lazy. The kid is one of the most determined/stubborn kids I know and can do whatever he wants when he puts his mind to it. So, I’ve started telling him he can’t come out of his room until his pants are buttoned. He gets frustrated and cries, stomps and even yells sometimes but he has gotten them buttoned on his own. I really don’t know what else to do about this other than let him get frustrated enough that he figures it out on his own. Any ideas with this one?

I do have to say that the one area where I still dress him (and probably will for years to come) is getting ready for church and other formal events. While I admit that my patience is wearing thin right now, I do know that this is just a stage and that my son will have the art of getting dressed down in no time, but man, am I ready for this phase to be done!

What about you, do you have any tips for how to help the little ones learn how to get dressed on their own? Or, any advice for your fellow parents about how to embrace this stage and remain patient?

By Andrea K. Clark

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