If dressing your preschooler or precocious toddler has become a daily battle thanks to their newfound love for picking out their own clothes, you’re not alone. According to child developmental experts, it’s normal for preschoolers to try and assert their independence and gain control – expressing strong opinions about their wardrobe is a common indicator – and parents should encourage it within reason.
But because young children aren’t the most practical dressers, there’s a high chance that your little one would pick that gorgeous, sparkly princess dress to school… or want to wander around sans pants. In these scenarios, how do you disagree with their style choices (or lack thereof) and not have to deal with the inevitable clothing-related tantrums?
#1 Provide two choices
The first step to take when your little one starts displaying an interest in self-styling, have her choose between two options that you’ve picked out beforehand. This is a great way to give her the ‘freedom’ to choose their outfit while ensuring that it stays appropriate.
#2 Stock the closet with suitable clothing
As your toddler grows older, she will no longer be satisfied with only two options. When she starts wanting to pick out outfits from her wardrobe, be sure to stock it with appropriate, easily matched clothing that wouldn’t veer too much off course. After curating her closet with parent-approved choices, you could bond over picking out her outfit – let them have free rein but you could ask them questions such as, “Do you think you would feel too warm in that thick jacket at the park?” or “Would you like to wear brighter colours for the picnic party later?”
#3 Organise clothes accordingly
If your child has to wear a uniform for school it will be prudent to sort out her wardrobe according to school gear and play clothes. Then let her know which section she has to pick from, and why. This may not work for very young (and stubborn) kids, so you may want to simply prep their uniform for them instead of letting them choose, on school days.
#4 Decide the night before
Deciding what to wear in the mornings can be difficult even for adults, so leaving your little one with this weighty choice might create stressful situations especially when you’re in a rush to leave the house. To avoid this, have your child pick out their clothes the night before to cut down preparation time – and the maddening process of having to persuade her to pick out another outfit (because her favourite dress is lying unwashed in the clothing hamper).
#5 Bring backup
When relinquishing control over your child’s outfits, parents have to be prepared that your little one might want to head out in mismatched ensembles. As long as they are comfortable, do respect your child’s clothing decisions – there’s no harm in them looking a little odd, right? In cases where she insists on wearing outfits that mayn’t be suitable for the occasion, it may make more sense to avoid arguing with a stubborn child and instead bring backup clothes for them to change into once they realise that their choice isn’t working out. For example, if your little one insists on wearing a knitted sweater to the zoo, bring a comfy shirt for her to change into when she starts to feel too warm. This way, you can subtly reinforce that your advice was right, while dodging a huge tantrum.
#6 Shop together
For older kids, allowing your child to go a step further to shop for their own clothing (under supervision of course) is a good way to ensure that your hard earned money won’t go to waste on items that she doesn’t like and wouldn’t wear. And you can even slip in valuable lessons on dealing with money and budgeting; set a clothing budget and let her decide what to purchase within that amount. Your child will soon learn about she can and can’t afford, thus being wiser about her clothing buys.