Self Dress Frustrations In Toddlers – How to Handle And How to Encourage Self Dressing

All the parents might agree that once the child enters toddler age, they have an instinct to do everything on their own. The desire to dress themselves, eat by themselves and do as many chores as possible ( all by themselves) sometimes ends up in tantrums. So the desire to dress myself in toddlers comes before (way before) the ability to do it kicks in. This generally leads to Self Dressing Frustrations. Consequently the frustration turns into tantrums. 

Although you will not be able to (also not advised) to try to curb the characteristic of doing things by themselves, you can certainly try to minimize the frustrations. It is not advised to try to diminish the instinct to do things by themselves and for themselves is because this is a developmental instinct in toddlers. This instinct is what helps in learning as well as becoming independent. This independence is crucial for their overall development. 

Self dressing frustrations - How to handle and encourage self dressing in toddlers

But it is always difficult to see your child struggle and sit without doing anything.

Here’s how can you minimize the self dressing frustrations in toddlers

Don’t criticize your child

When your toddler is having difficulty dressing himself or herself or making a ruckus while dressing themselves, please do not criticize the toddler or his efforts. Criticism might put them off the effort completely. They might stop showing interest in getting dressed by themselves. Instead you can blame the clothes for not cooperating with the child. Tell the child that the shirt is not behaving today, let us see if we can do this together. 

Buy Easy To Wear Clothes To Encourage Self dressing

There are a few clothes available which are easy to wear. When your toddler enters self dressing stage please buy easy and kid friendly clothes.  You can look for easy zippers, big buttoned shirts, snap buttoned jackets, sweatshirts etc. This will reduce self dressing frustrations to an extent. 

Do it together

Make a team work of self dressing time. Do it together is the best way to encourage self dressing. You can start and let your child finish or you can let your toddler start and you can finish. For example You can start by pulling the shirt on her head and then let her put her arms in the sleeves. At times you can act like a dummy and ask for toddler’s help. Ask her what do I do ( I seem to have forgotten!!). Sometimes make a fun activity related to dressing. 

Become an early bird to avoid self dressing frustrations

Prepare beforehand in order to avoid frustrations during the rush hour. Suppose you are getting late for office and you have to drop your child to school on the way, and your child seems on the brink of tantrum after self dressing frustration. You might have a very rough time finishing normal everyday chores. This can be avoided if you have prepared for the morning the night before. You can help your child pick the dress for the next day. Informing her about the preparation to avoid hurry in the morning. This way you are not only avoiding morning trouble but also inculcating a good evening routine for her future. 

Prepare your child for self dressing 

Right from when you child is an infant, you can start describing the dressing. Explain the color of the clothes, which dress is she wearing that day. Let her know that now we are putting left arm in the left sleeve, right leg in the trousers. This way when the child becomes a toddler will have most hang of what goes where. It’s only a matter of time before his fine motor skills and gross motor skills are fine tuned to have a child who can dress himself perfectly without any help.

Model and Practice in your free time

Not every time you and your child will be in a hurry to get somewhere. So practice the art of self dressing in free time. For example during bedtime routines, you can let your toddler dress himself or herself taking all the time he or she wants to get into pajamas. You can, in fact, show your child how it’s done, model how to wear certain clothes frequently until he gets the hang of it.  Soon you will have a child who is mastering the art of self dressing. 

Many moms reading this might be thinking “I have never seen my son interested in Dressing himself ( no self dressing frustrations at all)!! Lucky you!! But at some point of time you need to start encouraging your child in self dressing. There can  be various reasons why your child is not interested in this activity. The reasons varying from laziness to craving for parent’s attention.

 In morning hurry your child might be missing out on your attention, hence loves the attention and help he receives while dressing. Some children might get used to you doing things for them if you have helped them at everything, being ready with whatever their needs are and anticipating it before they can. Another reason can be if you have encouraged independence a little too much, they might stick more to their dependence on parents. Whatever the reasons may be you need to observe and study your toddler and see whether it is time to introduce and encourage self dressing. 

Though it will take time, practice and lots of patience from you for your toddler to master the art of self dressing. You can provide your child a head start on the road of independence and self reliance by encouraging him in the right way. 

Have a lot of patience to avoid self dressing frustrations

Parents need to have a lot of patience when it comes to making toddler independent. Toddlers are easily distractible and find other things more important than dressing. Running behind the fly they just spotted seems more interesting than wearing a dress. (Obviously for that small curious mind, fly is way more interesting!! Following the fly until it disappears is tempting. Self dressing seems mundane!!). 

Praise a lot

Praise any small effort from your child related to self dressing. For his age and his skills zipping up the jacket is a big accomplishment, so praise the effort (not the result). Sometimes allow small mistakes when your child dresses himself. For example if your child is wearing the pants backward, its okay. For one day allow him to wear it like that. He has done it by himself. Let him select his clothes, even if they are mismatch and fashion blunder. ( Keep it to yourself even if he looks ridiculous). Just praise his effort of dressing himself on his own. 

Criticism does not sit well with toddlers. They are busy absorbing and learning, criticism when they try to do something can carb their interest. If always criticized or always corrected they might associate negative feelings with dressing. 

Let him go first

Give your toddler a chance to dress himself and undress himself. Wait on the sideline, provide help if asked for. Keep looking for cues of frustrations. Ask if your child if he or she needs help. If they need help, help them, otherwise try to cheer and encourage them from the sidelines. 

Teach him the art of Self Dressing

Sometimes it may seem that your child is unable to do such trivial task of dressing himself into a pant. It is so SIMPLE. But for those tiny tots it is a big task. They might not know where to begin. Sometimes it leads to self dressing frustrations.

Give your child instructions on how to dress herself. Show it anytime they are interested in learning. Keep explaining them even when you are getting dressed. For example “Look how mama is wearing her coat. First I put my left hand in the left sleeve, pull it above and then put my right arm in the sleeve.” Such simple instructions from time to time will help your toddler learn the Art of Self Dressing with ease. 

Practice, Practice and more Practice

“Practice makes man perfect”

Frequent practice can make anyone perfect. Even a Toddler.  Make an activity of self dressing in play time. Throw in little challenges related to self dressing. For example in a tub of clothes ask them to match his or her socks and wear it to get a special treat. Or Let’s see who gets dressed first. 

Talk about it, Make stories about Self Dressing

When preparing for the next morning, talk about which dress your child would like to wear. “How long do you think it will take you to get read?” “Which one will you wear first?” etc. At bedtime make stories revolving around self dressing. It does make it interesting for them when they hear their favourite characters going through the same frustrations or tantrums.

Read about “How To Encourage Your Toddler To Talk”.

Help understand the importance of Self dressing

When your toddlers turn 2 he or she should be showing a little interest in self dressing. By the time she is 3 she should be capable of dressing completely on her own (except for difficult stuff). Sometimes when there is a special occasion let him or her dress herself, remind them if they are late they might miss important occasions. Let your child miss a few occasions to understand the importance of getting dressed early. Once they know the importance of getting dressed quickly they will start concentrating more on the task at hand. 

Hope these tips help you handle your child’s self dressing frustrations in an amazing way. Also encourage your child, but do not pressure him or her too much as it might have the opposite effect. 

Please let us know in the comments section below if you have any tips of your own. 

And Don’t Forget To Share The Post With Other Parents As Well !! 

Happy Parenting!

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  1. akanksha patel

    Hey Ramya…your articles are really nice. Your each and every topic is different and unique.

  2. Nusarat Momin

    Lovely post… the way you describe the topic is awsome

    1. ramyabarithaya14

      Thank you Nusarat.

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