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Dressing Problems: Teaching Dressing Skills

Even before your child is capable of dressing herself you can begin teaching her the skills she will need. Dressing your child or helping her get dressed can and should be a very pleasant interaction.

  • Praise your child when she tries to put something on (even if it's wrong) and start teaching her how it should be.
  • Explain briefly how to put on clothes ("Here's the tag, it belongs in the back"). Later you'll be able to ask him which is the back and he'll show you. Make it fun and remember to praise any attempts to do things by himself (no matter how much you helped). Gradually decrease your help as your child gets better at dressing himself.

When your child is able to get dressed without your help, use these guidelines 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:
    1. Get up at 7:30 A.M.
    2. Go to bathroom.
    3. Get dressed.
    4. Eat breakfast.
    5. Brush teeth.
    6. 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 health care provider, and then stick to them. Possible rules are:
    • Your child must get dressed in the bedroom.
    • The TV cannot be on.
    • Your child must be finished dressing before breakfast.

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

  • Praise staying with the job (getting dressed) often at first. Praise less often as your child gets better at dressing. For example, at first you should praise each movement involved in putting on a pair of pants. As your child learns each movement, just praise him for correctly putting on his pants.

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 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 McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-09-12
Last reviewed: 2006-08-24
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.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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