Thumbnail image of: Behavior Diary: Illustration

Refusal to Dress

Refusing to Dress Self Though Able to Do It

Once a child is old enough to dress himself, the parent should never need to dress him again. Avoid situations where you feel that you are pressured into becoming involved in the dressing process.

  • The rule

    “You’re old enough to dress yourself.”

  • Discipline technique

    If you’re going to stay at home, don’t allow your child to watch TV or go outdoors until he is completely dressed. Also, avoid buying clothing that is hard to get on.

Procrastinating Dressing When the Parent Is Trying to Leave

Example: You need to take your child to school, day care, the store, or on some other errand. Your child won’t dress herself (despite being able to) and eats breakfast slowly.

  • The rule

    “You must be ready to leave the house by 8:30 each morning because we can’t be late to school.”

  • Discipline technique

    Logical consequences.

    • Give your child 10 minutes’ warning before departure, preferably using a kitchen timer. Encourage your child to “beat the timer.”
    • If your child is not dressed at departure time and you are driving somewhere, put her clothes and shoes in a bag and take her to the car dressed as she is. If she likes, she can try to get dressed in the car, though that will be difficult with the seat belt on. If your child is going to school, try to get there a few minutes late to provide some additional pressure to speed up the next morning. If your child misses a school bus, take her to school yourself, but be sure again that she’s a few minutes late.
    • Provide breakfast in the morning, but if your child is not finished with breakfast at the time of departure, that is her problem.
    • Don’t nag during the time your child is stalling and dawdling. By all means don’t dress your child at the last minute.
  • Praise

    Praise your child for trying to dress herself, completely dressing herself, dressing herself promptly, or being ready to leave for school or other appointments on time.

  • Model

    Dress before breakfast. Show your child how you sometimes dress in a hurry.

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2002-01-14
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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