Dressing Problems: Teaching Dressing Skills

Even before your child is able to dress herself you can begin teaching the skills she will need.

  • Encourage your child and praise her when she tries to put something on (even if it's wrong).
  • Begin teaching how to dress.("Here's the tag, it goes in the back").
  • Later, she will be able to show you. Make it fun and remember to praise any attempts to do things by herself (no matter how much you helped)
  • Let her take the lead and gradually decrease your help as your child gets better at dressing herself.

After your child is able to get dressed without your help, here are ways to encourage your child to get dressed within a reasonable amount of time.

  • Establish a set routine and follow it as consistently as possible. It is easier for your child if she knows what you expect. For example:
    • Get up at 7:30 A.M.
    • Go to bathroom.
    • Get dressed.
    • Eat breakfast.
    • Brush teeth.
    • Play or go to school.

All children get distracted from dressing by other things (siblings, toys, or pets). Set reasonable rules about dressing, discuss these with your healthcare provider, and then stick to them. Possible rules are:

  • Your child must get dressed in the bedroom.
  • The TV cannot be on.
  • You will give a 5 minute reminder and your child must be finished dressing before breakfast.

Be consistent. Use time-out if your child refuses to get dressed or throws a tantrum.

At first, praise your child often for mastering the tasks involved in dressing. Once she is able to dress herself on her own, you don't need to continue the praise. Greet her with a big smile and acknowledge her for arriving at the breakfast table on time.

Learning how to tie shoes usually takes longer than learning other dressing skills. Children often have a hard time tying shoes. Have your child put the shoes on and you tie them until your child offers to help and can use her fingers on something as tricky as shoelaces.

Written by E. Christophersen, PhD, author of "Pediatric Compliance: A Guide for the Primary Care Physician.".
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-02-11
Last reviewed: 2008-10-06
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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