Does your child refuse to get dressed?

Last updated 08:17 20/10/2014
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GETTING DRESSED: Even if your child does dress him- or herself, their idea of what's going to work might vary to yours.

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Like many other parents of preschoolers, I was delighted to hear that Adam Mansbach, the writer behind  Go the f**k to sleep has released a new book about eating. In You have to f**ing eat, Mansbach provides parents everywhere with some reassurance that they are not alone in their dinnertime frustrations.

I think that in his next book, Mansbach should tackle another great parenting battle - getting preschoolers to dress themselves. Perhaps he could call it 'Just put your f**king clothes on!'.

My exuberant daughter will be turning five in a couple of months, she is fiercely independent and is amazingly talented in many areas. But if I could single out one area in which she could improve, it would be getting herself dressed.

On a typical morning in our house, I help my fed and freshly washed daughters pick out their clothes for the day. The little one, who is 3, happily selects clothes, makes sure that they match (her definition sometimes varies from my own) and then manages to put them on with no fuss or drama. Then she takes her fully dressed little body back down the hall to get on with the day.

My 5 year old on the other hand does not like to choose clothes. She will rummage in her wardrobe and make it look as if she is deciding on an outfit, but the moment my back is turned she will be off down the hall in her undies... apparently wanting to get on with the day sans clothing.

And so the battle begins. I send her back to her room. I check - she is still naked. I check again - still naked. I check again - still. Naked. At this point there is usually some yelling. 

I am not the only parent tearing their hair out over this issue. Brenda says she can relate. "My five year old thinks that onsies are an appropriate attire for any occasion and refuses to wear anything else." she says.

Likewise, Cassy says: "My daughter won't wear the clothes I choose but she also refuses to choose her own! She also won't wear anything 'dirty' to which the definition changes on a daily basis!"

Good to know that I am not alone. But are we all driving ourselves mad unnecessarily? Is it really such a big deal for kids to dress themselves? Yes it is, says family therapist Karen Phillip.

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"Preschoolers need to learn independence skills, it is part of their growth and development as humans. The role of a parent is to ensure their child is ready and prepared for their adult life," she explains. 

Karen says that while it is tempting to help our youngsters in order to save time it wont be doing them any good in the long run. "So many times I see parents doing everything for their child to 'save time' only to have a 15 or 17 year old who is unable to do any washing, cooking, cleaning, vacuum, nothing. This is not the fault of the child but that of the parent," she says.

So what can we start doing differently to avoid the getting dressed battlefield? Karen suggests the following tips:

1. For preschoolers, set a timer for the child to dress as a challenge. The reward may be choice of breakfast or extra time with a favourite activity.

2. For an older primary aged child - advise them they have a certain amount of time and they will be in the car and off to school whether they are dressed or not. Driving them towards school in PJ's usually works. Have their uniform in the car to change into, however the child believes they will be going in their PJ's. Once the child understands what mum or dad says is real, they often elect to conform

3. Use the practice school - from ages 4 - 10 yrs. At a time most inconvenient for the child such as before they need to leave for their party, sports game, whatever it is they really want to attend, you have them change or dress into their uniform. You get them to undress and do it again at least three times to ensure your child understands you know they can dress quickly as required. You then discuss consequences and another practice school at an inconvenient time if they fail at dressing of a morning.

I'll be trying the timer this weekend, and hopefully that will be the end of mornings starting with "just put your f**ing clothes on!"

- Essential Kids


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