A few years ago, when I was childless and not quite yet ready to start a family, a co-worker forwarded me an email titled “So You Think You Want Kids.” The article suggested various things would-be parents should do before having a child so they would know what they were getting into. It was a funny article meant to make non-parents scratch their heads, while causing current parents to secretly laugh at us non-parents because we couldn’t possibly comprehend how true the article was about raising children. In order to learn what it was like to get a small child dressed, the article suggested that non-parents should purchase an octopus and then attempt to put the octopus into a mesh bag so that none of the arms hang out. Oh how naïve I was at the time. I had no clue that this wasn’t a bad analogy for dressing a small child!
But now I know. It first starts with the squirming baby who refuses to stay still long enough for you to put his arms through the arm holes, let alone button the onesie. Then you quickly move to a rambunctious toddler who can talk and insists that “me do it” even though he doesn’t know how to zip up a zipper. And shortly thereafter — or at the same time — your toddler insists on asserting his independence while getting dressed, by voicing his opinions about your choice of clothing for him. Oh and let’s not forget the fact that “NO” is every toddler’s favorite word and is often used when trying to coax said toddler into taking off his pajamas and putting new clothes on for the day. They don’t yet understand why footed PJs aren’t acceptable daywear (although, they might have a point!).
A toddler’s independent streak and opinion don’t always lend themselves to a peaceful morning routine. Let’s also not forget that we all must dress our children while the clock is ticking as we try to get out the door to school drop-off and work at a reasonable time each morning. Many tears, time-outs and tantrums have happened in my house before 7:30 a.m. due to the dressing dilemma.
But you’re not destined to start your day off with a clothing battle (at least not until your daughter’s a teenager!) if you try a few of these tips that have helped make mornings a much happier place in my house.
1. If time allows, let your toddler wake up on his own. I’ve found that the days we must wake Lukas up in the mornings, we have some of our worst clothes-changing induced tantrums. He is groggy and generally fussy and nothing seems to help on these mornings. This obviously works best when he’s going to bed early and getting enough sleep. Still, I know waking naturally isn’t always an option, so let’s keep going with some other tips you can control!
2. Give your toddler choices (with limits of course)! If I only take out one shirt and insist that Lukas put it on, we are usually in for a fight. But if I pull out two shirts and tell him to pick one, he usually will choose one of the two without a fuss. This way he feels like he is part of the process and he gets to assert his own sense of style. Who am I to insist he wear a dinosaur shirt if he’s feeling like it’s a football sort of day?
3. Encourage your child’s independence. Teach your toddler how to zip a zipper, pull up their own pants and put on their socks. Toddlers want to do things on their own and you may be surprised just how much of the dressing process they can do if you offer guidance on some of the tasks that require fewer fine motor skills for tiny fingers.
4. Stop asking. I used to set myself up for failure by asking Lukas, “Are you ready to take off your pajamas?” His response was almost always: “NO!” This would lead to a standoff with me continuing to ask and him continuing to shout no. Eventually I changed my tactic and started telling him, “Hey buddy, take off your pajamas. It is time to start our day!” By changing my approach and telling him to do something (I am the parent after all!), most days he does.
5. Let it go! I love shoes and own quite a collection. However, my son’s collection rivals my own. But you know what he wears Every. Single. Day? Neon green sneakers. He could be wearing a bowtie, shirt and khakis, looking like he’s stepped off the pages of a kid’s style magazine, but then you get down to his shoes and they are bright green. He refuses to wear anything else. So rather than arguing with him about something that really doesn’t matter, I’ve let it go and embraced his green shoes. So if your child has a sense of style that doesn’t mesh with your own, embrace it and let his individuality shine. It will make your morning more peaceful, I promise!