How to Avoid Power Struggles over Getting Dressed

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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 come morning, you’re still convincing her to actually wear it.

Thankfully, parents can avoid many of the power struggles related to clothing by following these four simple strategies (and by signing up for our free online webinar, available at your leisure!).

1. Create Outfits

For younger children, put “outfits” together on one hanger by gathering matching pants, shirts, and socks, and clipping them together. This gives her the power to choose a completed outfit, and it gives you peace of mind that it won’t be a fashion disaster.

It’s also best to hang the rod at a kid-friendly height, so she can feel capable and independent by reaching it herself.

2. 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.

3. 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. If they are no longer among the available alternatives for school clothes, they are no longer a point of contention.

If certain clothes are inappropriate for school, separate their drawers or create sections in the closet for school clothes versus fun clothes. Give your kids the power to choose anything they want to wear as long as it comes from the school drawer.

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4. 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 by having some control over her day.

Kids perceive that parents call the shots and make most of the decisions. Giving her the option to select her own clothes gives her a big “hit” of positive power and goes a long way in fostering self-sufficiency, avoiding negative power struggles, and limiting 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. They know it means mom and dad recognize their child’s need for independence and positive power.

Final Thoughts

Our 7-Step Parenting Success System® course offers far more strategies for morning dawdling, bedtime battles, chore wars, and more. For a preview, join us for our free online class: Get Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. Discover why parents say it’s the best hour they’ve devoted to improving their parenting!

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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 The Doctors, 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.