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Coping with Morning Clothing Battles

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 25 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Coping With Morning Clothing Battles

As a working mum, the last thing you need is to fight with your child every morning over what they are wearing to school. Even if your children wear uniforms, morning battles often erupt over the type of tights they want to wear with it, the shoes, length of skirt etc. It seems mums can never win.

Luckily, it doesn't have to be that way. Giving kids some freedom over what they wear but setting guidelines over what's appropriate can be hard to balance, but it's worth making the effort. Start early on drawing the line, and you'll find the battle is halfway won already.

The Early Years

Young kids don't understand that they can't wear a swimming costume to nursery in winter or that a pink ballet tutu isn't appropriate attire for Uncle Jerome's funeral. Girls as young as three can pout for hours if they have to wear trousers instead of a skirt, and tantrums can break out over seemingly nothing. Here are ways to avoid morning meltdowns:

Top Tips

  • Have your children pick out clothes the night before. In the morning, praise for them for choosing such a fab outfit and get them into it as soon as possible.
  • Give them a limited choice. Would you like the blue or the black trainers? The pink frilly skirt, or the purple feathery one? The pop-pom hat, or the faux fur one?
  • Be relaxed over what they choose to wear, as long as it's weather and activity-appropriate. Who really cares if a five-year-old goes to the supermarket in a dinosaur outfit? In the great scheme of things, it doesn't really matter. Choose your battles wisely.
  • If your kid hates every article of clothing you buy, find out what he or she really likes to wear, then buy five identical outfits. Boring is better than the alternative...
  • Some parents bathe their small kids then dress them in wrinkle-free clothing the night before, allowing them to attend school in what they slept in. Well, saves on buying pyjamas...

Age 8 - 12

Older children often want to look like everyone else on the playground, and are starting to realise that clothes are a way to conform. Even when wearing uniforms, subtle differences in skirt length, coat buttons and shoes can make a difference. Show them you care by giving them a say over what they wear. If uniforms are not obligatory, you may have more of a battle ahead of you...

Top Tips

  • Help them to realise that not everyone has unlimited funds to spend on clothing by giving them a clothing allowance. Kids as young as ten years old can have a real input into what they buy, and hopefully realise that a different pair of jeans for every day of the month just isn't realistic.
  • Instigate your day, my day: Monday mornings you get to choose what they wear (within reason), Tuesdays it's their turn (within reason).
  • Involve them in clothes shopping. Even if they wear a uniform, give them a choice: the thick tights or the thin ones? Dress with a zipper or buttons? Collar or no collar?


Teens are another story altogether. Usually the issue revolves around what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. That can mean showing off too much flesh, or simply wearing clothing that is not right for a certain event. Involve them in all aspects of shopping etc, and let them feel they have a say in what they wear. After all, we all express ourselves by how we dress.

Top Tips

  • Observe the three B's – no butt, boobs or belly. Talk about why you have certain restrictions and the reasons for them. The vast majority of children of all ages become less combative when they actually understand the reasoning behind something.
  • Most teens are insecure. Comment on how great they look when they put in the time and effort, even if what they're wearing is not really your cup of tea.
  • If the battle is really only over clothing, look at other parts of your child's life and be willing to back down. Who cares if she wears black lipstick and dyes her hair blue if she gets top marks in school and studies for two hours every night? If it's a consistent battle, however, it may be over a lot more than clothes. Talk it over and see what the real issues are.
  • Don't buy them clothes and expect them to wear them without a fuss, or you'll be disappointed. Take them shopping or provide a clothing allowance. Remember those hideous scratchy lime green polyester trousers your mum insisted you wear?

Morning clothing battles can be nipped in the bud with a little time, effort and understanding – on the part of both you and your children. It can be difficult to make kids realise how stressful mornings are for parents who work, but with a little ingenuity and a lot of patience mornings can be made a lot easier for everyone.

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Given that most children wear school uniform from the ages of five to 16, weekdays won’t be a problem and on the weekends or in the evening you have more time to cope with any problems. Girls will often be more difficult than boys on this matter and more intractable, depending on the fashions, but their dress should always be age-appropriate.
Jane - 4-Oct-12 @ 9:03 AM
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