You can eliminate some of the problem by laying out two outfits and letting her choose one to wear, or by putting in her drawers only those clothes that fit and are suitable for the season. Another possibility is to fill one drawer with a few sets of clothes that mix and match, letting her choose what to wear from these preselected outfits. These suggestions require time and energy, but the effort might be worth it if your child is determined to pick out her own clothes each day.
When you’re rushed, you may end up struggling with your child if she’s determined to dress herself. If you leave the house every morning, you may be able to avoid arguments by setting the alarm clock fifteen minutes early to give her time to dress. At other times, let her know that you’re going to help with dressing because you’re in a rush. If she’s generally been allowed to dress herself, she may not resist your efforts. But if she does, offer a distraction, “Let’s get dressed quickly so you can pick out a CD to listen to in the car.”
A surprising development may occur once your child has learned to dress herself efficiently: she may not want to do it anymore. She may say, “I can’t,” or “I don’t want to,” or “You get me dressed.” Frequently, when a child has mastered a skill such as dressing, she sometimes loses interest, and it becomes a chore rather than a challenge. You may feel that if you give in and dress your child, you’re being manipulated, or you may worry that she’ll become too dependent on your help. You may even try to force her to dress herself, although when children are forced, they often slow down and procrastinate. You have to decide whether this is an issue worth struggling over.
Compromise and flexibility seem most effective. If your child is tired, uninterested, or simply wants to be taken care of for a while, it’s all right to dress her yourself. At other times you may want to help her get dressed: “You do the shirt and I’ll put on your pants.” Most importantly, make the time you and your child spend together in the morning or while getting ready to go out pleasant.
It’s best to avoid power struggles over getting dressed. In child development, steps forward are sometimes followed by steps backward. Enjoy your child’s pride when she’s able to dress herself, and trust that by age five or six she’ll take on the job permanently.