How to Avoid Power Struggles over Getting Dressed

I’m not wearing that!


Most parents can relate to the morning battle over what to wear to school. Even though your child’s closet is filled with plenty of clothes appropriate for any weather or occasion, you cringe when she shows up at breakfast with a purple plaid skirt, a Mickey Mouse tank top that looks like it’s been worn for days and green flip flops. Or maybe you selected an outfit the night before but the morning brings a new battle convincing her to actually wear it?

Parents can avoid many of the power struggles related to clothing by following these strategies…

Create Outfits: For younger children – pull “outfits” together on one hanger. Gather matching pants, shirt and socks and clip them to one hanger. That gives her the power to choose her own outfit but gives you some peace of mind that it won’t be a fashion disaster. It’s best if you can hang the rod at a kid-friendly height so she can feel capable and independent by reaching it herself.

Respect Sensory Complaints: Be aware that some kids are more sensitive to itchy tags, bulky seams and uncomfortable fabrics. If your son has a fit when you suggest he wear a certain type of shirt because the tag itches or the fabric feels “icky” on his skin, respect that and remove those clothing choices from the mix.

Control the Environment: You can’t “control” children (at least not without a battle) but you can control the environment. If flip-flops in February are out of the question, don’t battle about them, simply remove them from the closet so they aren’t among the available alternatives for school clothes. If certain clothes are not appropriate for school, then have separate drawers or sections in the closet for school clothes and fun clothes. Give her the power to choose anything she wants to wear as long as it comes from the school drawer


Let it Go: The very best strategy to avoid power struggles and foster independence is to “let it go” and allow your child to make her own clothing choices. You can provide some training about “matching colors” if you’d like but remember that fashion and beauty are in the eyes of the beholder. It’s much more important that she feel independent and powerful because she has some control over her day. Kids perceive that parents call all the shots and make most of the decisions. Giving her the power to select her own clothes gives her a big “hit” of positive power that will go a long way in fostering self-sufficiency and avoiding negative power struggles and morning dawdling.

If her choice does result in a fashion disaster, don’t worry about what others think. Most teachers love to see kids arrive for school in mismatched clothing because they know mom and dad recognize that child’s need for independence and positive power.

For more strategies for morning dawdling, bedtime battles, chore wars and more, join us for a free online class: Get Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling.  Discover why parents say it’s the best hour they’ve spent. Find dates and times here.

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About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.