Getting 3 year old to dress himself - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 23 Old 12-17-2007, 06:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello, I was wondering if you could share what has worked for you when teaching your children to dress themselves.

Our son is just over 3 years old and is very lazy about getting dressed. He dawdles the entire time and insists that we help him. He doesn't run away or anything, he will stand there and his eyes just glaze over or he starts staring at other things that interest him more and it's like talking to a doll. I constantly have to remind him to look at me and listen to what I am saying in order to get him to cooperate.

Here are some things we've tried already...

We've tried making it a game but he loses interest after he realizes that it is just a tactic to get him to dress himself.

We've tried charts where he gets a sticker for each step... but again, he'd rather do anything else than get dressed and will not focus on getting his clothes on.

We've tried patiently waiting, saying we will not be able to do XYZ until he gets dressed, and he just says "OK, then we won't do XYZ!"

We've tried racing the clock, saying "let's see if you can get your pants on before the bell rings/before I count to 10" but he is not interested in competitive games.

I'm now at a loss for ideas. What has worked for you?
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#2 of 23 Old 12-17-2007, 10:34 AM
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so far nothing my son is 3 also and he refuses to ever try to do it
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#3 of 23 Old 12-17-2007, 11:08 AM
 
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With my ds, he had no interest until about a month ago, then he suddenly HAD to do it HIMSELF. Fair warning: this takes A LOT longer than just doing it for him.

I think it's a developmental milestone. When it's time, they just do it, and heaven help you if you accidentally forget and slip a shirt over his head.

I suspect it's best not to make an issue of it, or it could turn into an unnecessary power struggle and delay things further.

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#4 of 23 Old 12-17-2007, 11:43 AM
 
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i agree that it's something that they'll let you know they're ready for. dd2 is nearly five and she still has days when she insists that i must put her shirt on for it. i'm quite sure when she's 15 she won't still be asking me to do these things for her so i don't worry about it.
if memory serves me, she was dressing herself 90% of the time around
3 1/2 or so.

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#5 of 23 Old 12-17-2007, 04:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the feedback. Our son is in pre-school a few hours a day and we've been repeatedly told by the teachers that he needs to work on getting dressed on his own.
When they first told me that, I tried several tactics and the only result was that it was stressing him and us out. Then I decided to just let him go at his own pace. At preschool, the teachers thought they would try their regular trick of taking him to another room to dress himself so that he would focus on it, but after 2 months, I see that they are just ending up dressing him too.
This morning, one teacher told me that our "homework" for the 2 week holiday break is to work on this issue with him. I asked her for some suggestions for a kid that is just plain not interested and she was not able to really give me any advice, other than letting him see the negative consequences of his inaction- for example, telling him we can only go out to the park if he dresses himself, and if he doesn't, we don't go. I was hoping to stay away from negative reinforcement like this and stick to positive reinforcement tactics, but this afternoon I tried to get him to take off his coat after preschool and got out a puzzle to do with him after he had taken off his coat. He refused to do it, and screamed about wanting t do the puzzle, and after more than an hour he finally begrudgingly took off the coat and was cranky most of the afternoon. I don't think this is how it's supposed to be.
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#6 of 23 Old 12-17-2007, 06:54 PM
 
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I agree that children will do it when they are ready. To be honest, I think when they are ready to get dressed and undressed you can't really do it for them because they are so focused and adament about doing it themselves. He will do it when he is ready. Why is his preschool pushing this anyways?
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#7 of 23 Old 12-17-2007, 07:25 PM
 
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I think some want to, some don't! My 21 month old loves to dress herself....on the other hand, when I was seven I really wanted my mom to dress me before school. She was working nights, and I was reverting to some infantile behaviours. NOt that this is the case for you, but I think that all kids are different with regards to dressing!

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#8 of 23 Old 12-17-2007, 08:41 PM
 
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Well, I don't know, my daughter has been dressing herself since she was 20 months old.
Sure, her shirt may be on backwards or inside out, but that's OK.

She liked me to help most of the time, but when she was over 2, she said, "No help, myself!"

So now she usually likes doing it by herself, but she will occasionally let me help her if she gets stuck in her clothing.

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#9 of 23 Old 12-17-2007, 08:44 PM
 
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I agree, its a developmental milestone. My 3 1/2 year old can get himself undressed great. But getting dressed he needs help. By help more if it is my guidance. Like "put the tag of your shirt to the back and pull over your head". So direction.

My daughter is 22 months is is great at taking her clothes off. But no way can she get herself dressed. However, this morning she tried to put her shirt on, but wasn't having much luck.

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#10 of 23 Old 12-18-2007, 01:55 AM
 
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My son is 4 next week and it seems like he's been doing this for about a year. I remember wondering when it would happen and trying some things to get it going, but one day it just happened I guess, probably right after I let it go.
And like PPs have said now he will not even permit me to help unless his turtleneck is asphyxiating him or something.
I can't figure out why he is needing to dress/undress at daycare, though? Is it just his coat? If so, what's the big deal? Could you just request that they let him keep it on until he gets too hot and decides to take it off on his own? This sort of thing is not even on my radar screen of things to make a big deal out of. It's up to my kids to decide if they need more or less clothing. Insisting on it has never been successful.
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#11 of 23 Old 01-08-2008, 05:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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It is the preschool putting pressure. We just finished our 2-week "homework" assignment and I thought he was doing well. A few weeks ago, he was not able to take his clothes off nor put them on. Now he has no problem taking them off but putting them on, particularly winter clothes (coat, boots) is still a problem.
He attends a city-run preschool and they do a lot of activities outdoors with the kids because the rooms are relatively small. So there is a lot of dressing and undressing. Yesterday was the first day back and one of the teachers told me that the situation is "CATASTROPHIC". I have decided to just let it go but still, it does bug me. He is one of the youngest in the class and bigger than most 4 year olds, so maybe they are expecting too much from him? I don't know...
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#12 of 23 Old 01-08-2008, 05:59 PM
 
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Hmmmm... dd1 was pretty young. From about 2yo she would pick out her clothes and put them on with minimal assistance.

But letting her pick out her clothing was crucial... she'd go "rag doll" and refuse to dress herself if dh or I selected outfits for her. So as long as her selection was weather appropriate we let her dress as she pleased (I tried to keep inappropriate choices out of sight). She can't tie her own shoes so we use slip on shoes and velcro snow boots. She can put her coat on "normally" but prefers to do the "stand in the hood and over it goes" technique they use at play school.

Have you looked into making a montessori style clothing board? I'm sure there are patterns on the web... (like this http://www.montessorimaterials.com/Practical%20Life.htm and http://www.bambini-montessori.com/exercises_epl.htm for an idea on home to use the frames)

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#13 of 23 Old 01-08-2008, 07:42 PM
 
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I never did anything to encourage my 5 year old to dress himself. He started trying very early, before 2 and we just helped as he needed. That led to lots of trips to the store in bizarre clothing, but hey he'd done it himself so I wasn't complaining. Now he's very good at matching and getting himself weather appropriate clothing.

Honestly, it sounds like the preschool is putting a lot of pressure on him and he's probably fighting back against that. Talk to them and see if they can let it go for awhile. He might just decide on his own that he wants to once someone isn't forcing it on him. He's 3 years old, he's got lots of time to dress himself.
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#14 of 23 Old 01-08-2008, 08:32 PM
 
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They probably don't want to do it. You know they are very busy! I don't push it w ds1, he has always been resistant to getting dressed/going out. Just today, he changed his pants (after peeing them) and put the dirty ones in his basket. BIG deal for us! I didn't even know he had an accident. Just wait and see. BTW, ds 1 is 3y3m.
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#15 of 23 Old 01-26-2008, 05:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the feedback, everyone. Sorry I have not been able to check back here as frequently as I would like.

Anyway, things have improved lately- the little guy seems to be gaining confidence as he slowly gets better at getting dressed. Sometimes he is totally motivated, but at other times, he is just like a rag doll. He never resists, he just dreams and dawdles. I think it's going better without the pressure. But I am going to be thrilled when the winter is over and we don't have to deal with snowsuits, gloves and all that junk.

Wombatclay, no we haven't tried dressing boards... I didn't even know they exist. Thanks for the links, maybe I can put together something DIY like that.

Montana Mama, my son is only 12 days younger than yours, and it sounds like they're around the same level in this. We were thrilled the other day when he came out of his bedroom and had put his slippers on by himself (wrong feet, but still!).
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#16 of 23 Old 01-26-2008, 05:44 PM
 
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I just wanted to say that my son is 4 and four months, and has really only been dressing himself for the past month or so. He has zero, zip, NO interest in clothes or dress-up. It just wasn't important to him.

If it comes up again, I'd probably ask to speak to the head teacher -- why is this so stressful for the staff? It seems like a relatively minor issue to me in the big scheme of things.

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#17 of 23 Old 01-26-2008, 06:08 PM
 
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Originally Posted by MissSJ View Post
I agree that children will do it when they are ready. To be honest, I think when they are ready to get dressed and undressed you can't really do it for them because they are so focused and adament about doing it themselves. He will do it when he is ready. Why is his preschool pushing this anyways?
I totally agree with this. My son is nearly three, and I usually dress him, but I noticed the other day that his underwear were on backwards and his shirt was tucked into his underwear (so that I could *see* the tag sticking out of the top of his pants, at his navel), and I realized that, hey, he put his own underwear and pants back on after pooping (because he has to complete disrobe or his colon won't function).

So...I guess he can get himself dressed if he needs to.

I wouldn't worry about it.
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#18 of 23 Old 01-26-2008, 06:30 PM
 
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I'm glad things are looking up. My 3 year old can dress himself but doesn't. I can't believe pre-school told you the situation was "catastrophic", that makes me furious. If your son was hurting other children and not responding to discipline that would be "catastrophic". I just can't wrap my brain around using that term for something as minor as putting clothes on.

Do you know the "flip the coat on over your head" trick? You put the coat down so the hood is closest to you. Put your arms in the sleeves and you raise you arms up and over you head. Duck you head under the bottom of the coat as it goes over. The coat sort of slides into place in one quick motion. Bad explaiination but I haven't done this since my mom directed a daycare when I was in middle school.

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#19 of 23 Old 01-26-2008, 06:44 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Erdbeer View Post
Thanks for the feedback. Our son is in pre-school a few hours a day and we've been repeatedly told by the teachers that he needs to work on getting dressed on his own.
When they first told me that, I tried several tactics and the only result was that it was stressing him and us out. Then I decided to just let him go at his own pace. At preschool, the teachers thought they would try their regular trick of taking him to another room to dress himself so that he would focus on it, but after 2 months, I see that they are just ending up dressing him too.
This morning, one teacher told me that our "homework" for the 2 week holiday break is to work on this issue with him. I asked her for some suggestions for a kid that is just plain not interested and she was not able to really give me any advice, other than letting him see the negative consequences of his inaction- for example, telling him we can only go out to the park if he dresses himself, and if he doesn't, we don't go. I was hoping to stay away from negative reinforcement like this and stick to positive reinforcement tactics, but this afternoon I tried to get him to take off his coat after preschool and got out a puzzle to do with him after he had taken off his coat. He refused to do it, and screamed about wanting t do the puzzle, and after more than an hour he finally begrudgingly took off the coat and was cranky most of the afternoon. I don't think this is how it's supposed to be.

Don't set your guy up like this! It's not that important-- you're dealing in punishments and bad feelings-- to what end? For something that would take you two seconds to help him do? Why are you trading one second of
"Hey babe, lets go for a walk" while slipping a t shirt over his head, and another second saying "Man, you are getting big! Pretty soon these pants won't even fit you!" as you snap the waist, for a day of crying and bad feelings?

Let it happen in it's own time. Let it go. It's not important. I'd swear on anything you wanted me to; bet my life even, and you're a stranger!-- that you will not be dressing him forever! Ask me how many times my 14 yr old asks me to help him zip his pants?
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#20 of 23 Old 01-27-2008, 09:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Kabes, that is so cool! No, I didnt know that trick but I think it will work.

UUMom, you are totally right. I've come to have the same opinion- the preschool is trying to run itself like a boot camp, I think. I know they have good intentions- they do a lot of fun things with the kids, andd so they need/want them to be as self-sufficient as possible, but it is not worth it to put so much pressure on a little kid. Positive reinforcement always works better than negative reinforcement. Punishing a 3 year old in the ways they suggest is just demotivating... he's only going to learn that undressing/dressing is something that is coupled with stress and negativity, and i definitely don't want that.

In the meantime, I told the preschool that as far as I'm concerned, he is doing great with dressing, and has improved by leaps and bounds over the past month. I told them that pushing him is only making the situation worse, and they seem to have laid off a bit.
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#21 of 23 Old 01-27-2008, 10:42 AM
 
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In the meantime, I told the preschool that as far as I'm concerned, he is doing great with dressing, and has improved by leaps and bounds over the past month. I told them that pushing him is only making the situation worse, and they seem to have laid off a bit.

Perfect! Good job, mama!!!!
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#22 of 23 Old 01-27-2008, 10:51 AM
 
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Good for you! yeah!
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#23 of 23 Old 01-27-2008, 03:53 PM
 
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Good for you! He'll do it when he's ready. I'm saying that and I have a 5y old that hates to dress herself and will only rarely do it.

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