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Dress Your Kids Without a Fight

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One red sock, one green? First time in uniform? More imagination than taste? Getting dressed can be tantrum time. Meet them with patience, love and ideas like these.

Last year, when Sophie, the eight-year-old daughter of a best friend, asked if she could wear jeans to this writer’s wedding, the answer was, “absolutely!” Surprised? Getting children to dress appropriately — whether they’re toddlers learning the power of “no” or teens navigating the rebellious waters of early adolescence — can be a challenge. But the right approach, laced with humor and genuine caring, can work wonders. You probably have your own special techniques for a trauma-free “get dressed” time, but here are some interesting ones from other moms.

Smart Shopping
•    Find a magazine photo of your child’s favorite teen idol wearing something you approve of. Then give a similar outfit to your child as a gift, along with the photo.
•    Guide your child past objectionable styles by suggesting something more inconspicuously trendy.
•    Visit the dressing room together and try on the same style. Suggest going out dressed like that, and see how quickly your child’s mind will change.
•    Take the pain out of “mix and match”: Shop for complete outfits in complementary colors.

Choices
•    For smaller children, simplify choices — ask them to choose between one shirt and another.
•    To manage decisions in advance, create outfits, not components.
•    Don’t impose tastes. Your hating purple is no reason that your child can’t wear it.

Language and Body Language
•    Stay involved. Chat with your child about fashion regularly, in a nonjudgmental way. Talking and listening now can mean less conflict later.
•    Never tower over young children during what-to-wear discussions; it only intimidates them and makes them dig in more stubbornly.

First Time in School Uniform?
•    If the school limits color choices, turn shopping into a great game. “How many cool clothes can we find in navy blue that fit the school’s rules?”
•    Buy your child’s favorite teen magazine and flip through it together, looking for pieces that’ll work within the dress code.

And About Little Sophie

What happened? On the wedding day, the bride asked the jeans-clad child whether the bride herself should wear jeans, too. No longer needing to demonstrate the independence she’d been freed to exercise, Sophie “decided” that the bride looked much nicer in the wedding dress — and chose for herself the matching lavender dress her mother had begged her to wear for months.

It’s true: When it comes to clothes (and so many other parenting issues), a whole lot of love and a little reverse psychology go a long way.

--Making Life Better

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