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It’s science: Why your child fights getting dressed (and how to prevent the battle)

These simple steps in the right direction can make all the difference between a tantrum or a win for all.

why child fights getting dressed

I am standing at the garage door, breathing deeply and trying to remember that this is a phase. There's a red sock and a striped sock, a purple tutu over a tie-dyed shirt and my son is carrying his sister's sandals. I can deal with the colorful ensemble, but it's cold and wet outside. We're 20 minutes into me pleading for him to get his sneakers on. We are late for preschool. Again.

I am too exhausted over the battle to cry, this being week four of The War of Dressing. Why has this become such a fight? Is it just me?

It's not just you, mama. There's a reason your child is fighting getting dressed in the morning. This battle is as universal as it is draining. Toddlers go through "Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt," a stage of development coined by psychoanalyst Erik Erikson.

In his Theory of Psychosocial Development, each stage of life is associated with a psychological struggle that contributes to a major aspect of personality. In this particular stage, a child either learns to master the skills, becoming confident and having a strong sense of self, or, the theory predicts, that if children don't have enough space for independence, they can feel shame and begin to doubt their abilities.

Toddlers arrive at this point of awareness about personal control because their brains have developed enough to realize that they are their own person, which makes them have an interest in their bodies. In an American Psychological Association study, there is a certain order of behaviors associated with the development of self-concept in toddlers:

  • Physical self-recognition: Understand they have a body and it is theirs
  • Self-description: Observe and evaluate what they see about themselves
  • Emotional responses: React to their actions and surroundings

So how does it connect to that morning battle? Toddlers are exploring the limits of their personal control so it's no wonder they have some pretty big feelings about it. This trifecta creates a perfect storm for big feelings, or as we know it: tantrums.

Getting dressed is a fundamental marker of independence for a toddler. In Montessori Life, a quarterly magazine by the American Montessori Society, Montessori expert Stephanie Woo explains, "Independence is the ability to do something by yourself without being a burden to others. Independence cannot be given; it is developed internally, built over time and predicated on abilities. Each new skill makes new levels of independence possible. Every time a child masters something, that mastery leads to new possibilities."

But it's one thing to understand this, and another thing to deal with it in the moment and maintain harmony. "It's built into toddlers and preschoolers that they can be autonomous," says Sally Beville Hunter, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. "The problem is they're not especially capable of rational decision-making." So even if they can dress themselves (sort of 😳), they still need help in making choices about what they should wear, or narrowing down all of their options.

Here's how to get your child to get dressed (without the battle)

Julia King, co-author of How to Talk so LITTLE Kids Will Listen says one strategy is to give a child all the information so they get to decide what to do, giving them the independence they crave and the opportunity to grow in their abilities.

Three simple steps in the right direction can make all the difference between a tantrum, or a win for all, so I tried them:

  • Acknowledge feelings to connect and calm: "It seems to me that you are angry that it is raining today and you want to wear sandals."
  • Offer choices: "I see red sneakers and blue rain boots. Both are good for rainy days. Which would you like to wear?"
  • Invite them to problem-solve with you: "I need you to keep your feet dry, and you want to be able to wiggle your toes. Do you have an idea of how we can do both?"

My son suggested wearing the rain boots to the car, and then at preschool, putting on the sandals over his socks. He had the freedom of choice to wiggle his toes all day, and I get to rest assured that wet feet won't be the reason he catches a cold this week. It was a win-win that gave him the autonomy that preserved and strengthened our relationship—a skill we use to this day.

Bottom line: Your toddler's refusal to get dressed is not your fault, mama. But it is your job to help nurture their natural drive to be independent. Next time they're fighting getting dressed, start by trying one of the steps above and see what happens. You've got this.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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