Many parents find getting to work on time to be a daily challenge thanks to their children. While the parent truly wants to be punctual, he is handicapped by a child who either does not want to get dressed independently or a child who seems to purposely move as slowly as possible. What is really going on is that the child has discovered that when she does not dress herself, she can count on her parents to do it for her. She is excused from responsible and cooperative behavior because her parents don’t have the time to let the child dress, or they mistakenly think their child is not able to dress herself.
Children as young as two can dress themselves provided the clothing is not complicated. By age three a child should be dressing herself completely independently. If your child is not, don’t despair. Meet with your child in the evening and explain the following, “Honey, you know how sometimes Mom and I get you dressed, or help you get dressed? Well, we realize it is not a help to you. We are treating you like a baby and you are certainly not a baby anymore! Starting tomorrow when we wake up, we’ll let you take care of getting dressed and then having breakfast. We have to leave the house at 8:15. That’s when the big hand is on the 3 and the little hand is on the 8. I’m sure you’ll be ready but if you aren’t, you can finish getting dressed at school.”
Make sure you have alerted your child’s preschool teacher that your child may arrive in her pajamas or partially dressed in the morning. The teacher can simply have your child go into the bathroom with her clothes and join the class when she is dressed. Be prepared to follow through with action. On the first morning that your child does not get ready in time, take her and her clothes to the car and drive to school. If she has not eaten, don’t worry about it. A missed breakfast will not harm your child. She may cry and scream or yell. Be prepared to ignore it. Take her into her class and to her teacher who can take over from there.
It has been our experience that children rarely have to go to school without completely dressing more than three times. In most cases it only takes one time. Once the child realizes that she is no longer able to get Mom and Dad to provide special services or fight with her, she gives up the misbehavior.
©Cindy Walton-McCawley, M.Ed & Kathleen A. Walton. The Courageous Parent. Columbia, SC: Adlerian Child Care Books, 2009.
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