Hands up, who spends their early mornings nagging a small person/people to put some clothes on? If only they could understand that by getting dressed quickly they would then be free to enjoy crawling around under their bed, pretending to be the cat or whatever other nonsensical thing they’ve come up with this morning. Wouldn’t that be nice? I imagine it would be, but imagining it is as close as I have ever got.
Here are some methods that might help us all arrive with appropriately attired anklebiters whilst simultaneously staying sane!
Keep the faith
Stage 1: Denial. There is no problem here.
You could always approach with the expectation that they will simply don some garms independently, appearing spontaneously in clean, pressed, well-coordinated separates. I mean, you’ve provided them with drawers full of options; this must at least be statistically possible. If infinite monkeys with enough goes on a typewriter can plagiarise Shakespeare, why not this?
Put your foot down
Stage 2: Anger. You are the adult and your bidding must be bidden!
We all know how effective this simple tactic can be: not very at all. Let’s not waste time here. Moving on…
Stage 3: Bargaining. It’s time to get creative.
Offering the little blighters a little autonomy in outfit selection is bound to work – look at how you’ve managed to double their vegetable intake after involving them in the preparation of their dinner! (No?! Me neither.) ‘Winning At Life’ status is truly achieved if you manage to do this the night before, although you can almost guarantee that by the morning they will ‘hate’ the trousers they selected with such fondness just twelve hours previously.
So what if they want to wear their Sunday best to a paint balling party, dress up as a dog on a trip to the supermarket, or choose to pair a tutu with a string vest? You may be left unable to shake the feeling that you have won a hollow victory, but hey! At least no one is going to be arrested for indecent exposure, although the fashion police may have words. Whilst you wait for them to pull on their felt balaclava in high summer, just take a mental note to next time offer the mere illusion of choice.
Make a game of it
Having spent the best part of half an hour trying to convince a reluctant child to put on some pants, your mood is bound to be buoyant. What you probably feel like doing is looking for the fun in this situation. Raid your bottomless reserves of patience and trick them into their clothes by suggesting a race – the winner can choose what to watch on TV for the entire spare 2 seconds you might have left, if they ever do suit up.
If you have more than one kid delaying your departure with their dishabille, you could pit them off against one another. If the contest is you against your offspring, may I recommend the Hare vs Tortoise approach; put on almost all of your own clothes at your own pace, before sitting down to read today’s Guardian from cover to cover and perhaps have a crack at the cryptic crossword. As they near completion, pick up your last garment, feigning disappointment when they announce that they’ve won.
Call their bluff
“What’s that, little Johnny? You don’t want to get dressed today? Fine, don’t bother! We’ll go exactly as you are.”
The idea here is that, desperate not to break any taboos, they won’t want to go out of the house in their onesie. But this is a risky card to play, as there is no assurance that your child will be remotely concerned by this prospect. Breaking with social convention has never bothered them in the past, so why now? Worse still, the parental shame that comes from dropping a four year old at school in Thomas the Tank Engine flannelette may turn out to be the source of tremendous superpowers, thus rendering them unstoppable.
Reward them (for something they should just be doing anyway)
Stage 4: Depression. Just what is the point of it all?
You’ve drawn out a few weeks’ worth of square boxes, ripe and ready to receive a sticker each time they put their clothes on unaided in under ten hours. In the spirit of encouragement, you’ve already presented them with an adhesive star for that one time when letting them choose their clothes worked, and another for when they ‘beat’ you in the getting dressed race. Well on their way to earning their reward, all they have to do is keep up this momentum and they’ll have filled the chart in no time. The issue is clearly on its way to becoming resolved; soon you’ll be popping on down to the toy shop to hand over a significant proportion of your income in exchange for whatever plastic crap they have ‘earned’.
By about day three, it becomes clear that this was never going to work. You pretend not to notice when it falls down the back of the cupboard where you will probably find it years later. By then your child will have long since moved out. Hopefully by then they will have mastered dressing themselves.
Do it for them
Stage 5: Acceptance. There must be an easier way.
When time and patience are in short supply, no one would blame you for going for this invitingly practical method. Bonus points are available if you manage to get them fully dressed without them breaking eye contact with the TV. The benefits are not to be sniffed at – freedom to make your own sartorial selections, no need to make any threats, nor to pretend there’s fun to be had. Whilst the effectiveness of this strategy is high, you will not be proud of yourself. But at least now you can begin to move on.
Right! We’re good to go, assuming you have already managed to brush their teeth…
Read more of my parenting wisdom here