“Never help a child With a task at which he feels he can succeed.” –Maria Montessori
Here I sit, on my soon-to-be three year old’s floor. It’s almost his bedtime and I’ve had it.
I’m so frustrated in this moment, I’m having a hard time not yelling at my sweet son who’s currently doing some sort of flip flop, dancing moves to whatever soundtrack is playing in his head.
I swear he never stops moving.
“Come her kiddo, it’s time to get dressed.”
He comes and stands right in front of me, still dancing. *sigh*
“Ok, be still, I need to take off your shirt, it’s time to put on pajamas.”
After about ten minutes of cajoling, asking him to help, and what feels like manhandling my preschooler, he’s finally dressed.
I’m exhausted, frustrated, and worn out.
This is the constant battle we’ve been facing over the past few months. Either my husband or I would calmly take J upstairs and help him get dressed.
J thinks this is the best time of the day to jump, twirl, kick, run, play, and do anything but get dressed. It’s maddening for us!
We’d end up getting so frustrated that we’d yell, bribe, and force J to get dressed. This is not how we want to interact with him and we knew something had to change.
One morning I had to tend to Baby E, so I sat out J’s clothes and told him to try to get dressed by himself. And wouldn’t you know…he did it! Not only did he do it by himself, he did it quickly!
I knew from that moment on that my husband and I would no longer help him get dressed. In order to do this I had to make his clothes accessible and easy for him to pick out his outfits.
So, I did made a plan…
When I fold laundry, I fold his outfits together. Pants, underwear, and socks are all folded up around his shirt. The bundles are placed his a lower drawer in his dresser.
So, now when I send him upstairs to get dressed, he gets to pick an outfit that he wants to wear, and I know that they will match.
His pajamas are in a separate drawer with his pull-ups.
I introduced him to this system, and I immediately saw the excitement on his face. “I get dressed myself?!” I said “yes, dear you do.” His smile went from ear to ear.
Apparently, this was something that he was excited to do on his own.
Now when it’s time to get dressed, we just send him to his room.
So much easier than the battles we used to be in.
He still needs help every once in a while and he’ll seek us out to get it.
He can sometimes get his clothes inside out and all jumbled up. But hey, he’s learning and gaining independence at the same time, skills that every preschooler needs.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that he still takes forever to get dressed. We have learned to give him a lot of time…like at least fifteen minutes. He doesn’t always need it, but sometimes he does.
This keeps us from going to hurry him up and once again, getting frustrated at his ability to dawdle.
The best part of this set up is that my husband and I aren’t there to get frustrated at all the goofy shenanigans the kid gets into. We get to sit together on the couch, instead of fighting with a 2 year old. It’s really great!
I love your “outfit rolls”!! I, too, put all their stuff in the bottom two drawers, but have 5 categories: PJs, underpants, and Pull Ups in one drawer, and shirts and pants in the other. I guess my thinking is that they’ll be able to put their laundry away (but now I’m thinking, “do I do it that way because that’s how my mom always did it? Maybe I need to rethink this”).
Here’s a tip that I THINK came from Elizabeth Pantley, that was a big epiphany for me: have the kid wear his next-day clothes to bed the night before, with a pair of underpants over his nighttime Pull up. It’s unlikely he’ll dirty his clothes in his sleep, and you just rip off the Pull Up when he gets up, and voila! I’ve done this a few times. 🙂
I haven’t heard about putting on clothes before bed. I think that’s a brilliant idea if you have to be somewhere early in the morning, and don’t have the half and hour for a kid to get dressed.
Pint Sized Life
I love this post! People always used to make comments about what the girls were wearing when they were younger and I always replied, “they like to dress themselves.” It really is so great to let kids take care of their own needs as they can. The kids Montessori school has helped them with that, and taught me to relax about it!!
They do like to dress themselves at this age. I think that’s why this works. He still gets choices on what he wears and I’m satisfied that he matches.
I would love to hear more about steps toward helping your child master the coordination of getting dressed independently. Sounds like your child taught himself one day. Guess I was looking for more tips than just coordinating appropriate clothing bundles 🙁
I’m sorry that you didn’t find what you were looking for here. We did teach him to get dressed on his own, but that wasn’t the problem we were having with getting dressed. I have found another post that might be helpful to you. http://www.fantasticfunandlearning.com/tips-for-teaching-kids-to-get-dressed.html I hope this is more of what you are looking for.
My daughter is almost 5. I know she is perfectly capable of dressing herself as she has done so, but she is also extremely strong-willed. Should I go to the wall and make her do it herself? It seems everything all day is a fight so I am reluctant to push it too much, just encourage. Any ideas? Thanks.
Hi Courtney. That sounds tough. Getting a strong-willed or oppositional kid to do what you want them to do can be really difficult. Sometimes, they don’t want to do it simply because you want them to!
Fewer power struggles will show up if you give her less direction. There are a couple of options that you could try, some of which you’ve probably already done. The first is making sure that you allow your daughter to have a say in what she wears. Saying something like, “Are you going to wear a dress or pants to school today?” creates less drama then telling her that it’s time to get dressed, or even what she will be wearing that day. Another thing that you can do is say things in less directive terms. For example, “I’m pretty busy getting ready for work today, kiddo. So you’ve got your clothes laid out here and I’m going to go figure out what I’m going to wear to work today, too.” You could then leave her alone with the clothes and see what happens.
If that doesn’t work, you could (1) engage her in a competition (“Do you think you can get all of your clothes on before I get mine on?” (2) ask her to join you in getting dressed together (If you want, you can come into my room and get dressed with me” (3) tell her that you don’t know if she’ll be able to get dressed all by herself, so she can come ask you for help, but only if she really wants to (thus, engaging her oppositional spirit!) or (4) calmly stating, if you choose not to dress yourself today like a big girl, then you choose not to be a big girl later today (talking about some of the things that big girls get to do that the little girls don’t get to do. This is very valuable if you have the day to spend with her, or if you have a supportive child care provider or teacher who will collaborate with you.) Then of course, following through on this is key. #4 is probably the hardest, because an oppositional child doesn’t want to be threatened, and she’ll usually test to see if you actually mean what you say, so tread lightly with #4 and only do it if you think you (or another person) can follow with that natural consequence.
Great idea, but my son is three and can’t pull his pants up or down yet or even over his head. Not ready but will keep his in mind for when he is!