Morning Dressing Struggels

How do I end the daily battle over dressing in the morning?

I have a 2.5 year old boy. Every day, we struggle on getting off his night time
diaper (he is almost day trained) and his PJs. I have tried setting a timer,
letting him pick the alarm sound, letting him pick his clothes, using a sticker chart and
explaining.  Four out of five times he will not comply and then it is a struggle with
screaming, crying  and kicking while I get him out of his PJs and diaper and into
his day clothes.  He is very verbal and will tell me ''I want to fuss/struggle.''

I will sometimes get angry and need to leave the room because it's so hard. I really
don't want to let him wear a dirty diaper and PJs to his school or daycare-and I
want us to have a pleasant morning because I won't see him for the rest of the
day. On the weekends, it's a little less of a struggle because the time element is
not as pressing. I don't want this to be a daily issue and I worry about damaging
his self-esteem and independence somehow with this daily struggle. Any advice
you can share would be appreciated!

Sad and Frazzled Mom (Berkeley Parents Network (

First of all, there are no momswho have not had days when they felt “sad,” “frazzled,” or both.  It’s very hard to sustain your parenting confidence when you are doing all the right things and they don’t work!  Sometimes you just need to hit the reset button to get onto a more successful track, even if what you’ve been doing makes perfect sense.  Remember that a general, if mistaken, human tendency is: when something you do doesn’t work, do more of it.

So, let’s take a different approach to your “Battles by the Bay.”  Your son sounds very developed verbally and socially and VERY sure of his own mind. I suggest you go WITH his strengths instead of butting heads against them. How? Let him arrive at the conclusion that he doesn't want to go to daycare in his PJ and dirty diaper on his own. Follow these steps:

1.  Coordinate with his daycare provider that for a few days he will arrive in PJ and dirty diaper.

2. Continue your morning routine, giving him 5 minutes to change (with as little help from you as possible).  Better than a timer (time ticking downis still rather abstract for him) is a CD: tell him he can change during two specific songs. Once they end, it's  time to go to daycare. He goes"as is."  

3.  At daycare, tell the teacher,loudly enough so he can hear it,"I am sorry Sam came in his PJ and diaper today.He didn't change in time at home."  

4. Coordinate with the teacher (in advance) that she say something mildly (mildly!) disapproving, e.g. "Well, that's too bad.  I’ll help you change when you’re ready to do it quickly.” (This kind of mild disapproval would not be not harmful for a 2.5 year old (for whom wearing diapers is perfectly normal) but would be, and should be avoided, for older kids).  Use the change of clothes you have at daycare for messes/accidents.

With no drama at home (thus, no gain in asserting himself), and the implied pressure of expectations at school, your sonshould come around within a few days.

In addition, your son may be reacting to  pressure he feelsto stay dry all day.  Dial it down, including too much praise and encouragement.  Finally, increase the appeal of the outfits you have for each school day.  Let him choose some shirts with trains, animals, etc., and set them out only for weekday mornings.

On another note: Many kids (usually younger) go through a phase the other way round: they strip naked whenever they can.  At home, you should say as little as possible.  With no drama, it will pass once your child gets cold (keep the thermostat low) or scrapes his bottom.  For outings, dress him in overalls put on backwards (front to back) fastening the shoulders straps snuggly.

Mark Twain said: “Naked people have little or no influence on society,” but try telling that to a toddler!

Contact us

Rachel Biale - Parenting Counseling