32 answers

18 Month Old Throws Tantrums When I Try to Dress Him

My goodness, talk about a trial of life! My sweet little sweet pea throws the worst tantrums every time I try to put a shirt or a jacket on him. Any thoughts on how to convince him it's only gonna take a second?

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Ok, well, we're obviously going to need some time on this one, as I've so far been unsuccessful with the choices. I haven't let him outside in the cold yet, but will give that a shot this weekend. You've all been so helpful, thanks so much! I'll keep you updated.
Thanks again!

Featured Answers

Brings back memories!!! My daughter (now 19) would throw a major fight when I would bring out pants. As she only wanted dresses!!! (winter or not)

I worked with what I had - meaning that I would put the dress on her (made her happy) and bought warm leggins' her made me happy.

What about a long sleeve t-shirt and a thermal on top. He is abviously a very smart cookie and knows exactly what he wants. And you are getting in the way - (oh- it only gets better- hehe). :)

I owned a pre-school for 20 years and with the real bright kiddos comes very independent thinkers!!! So you just have to be 2 step ahead of the game.

Have fun - the years really pass soooo very fast. My little doll looked like a rag doll sometimes buts, she is a very fashionable girly girly now attending St. Mary's college doing extremely well.

Best of fun,
S.

1 mom found this helpful

Man oh man! My 17 month old does this with pants. The success I have comes when I let him choose what to put on (always sweats, never jeans) and keep it fast and positive. But sometimes I just fight him and win- not that it is really a good long term solution.

1 mom found this helpful

C.,

My daughter did this at about 18 months also. She is my 3rd child. When this started, usually for jammies at night, I would have my husband help me put them on her. She would scream and cry and we would have to hold her down. As soon as we got her dressed, she was fine. I would then hold her and tell her,"see we just needed to get some clothes on you". I know it is hard when they scream and cry and even run from you, but they have to learn that they aren't in charge, you are! Do this with love and also gentle firmness. My daughter is now 2 1/2 and when she gets dressed, I usually pull two outfits out and let her choose, so that way she has some control. Sometimes, if it really doesnt matter what she has on I let her dress herself! It is usually layered and very colorful.
This too will pass!
Good Luck

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

Mine went through that one too. I guess my best advice is it's more than likely a power stuggle. After my third child came (the most challenging one of the three), I decided you choose your battles! If you do choose this one, make sure you win it. Eventually, I believe he will grow out of it and he will feel safe with you and respect you for it.

1 mom found this helpful

I think perhaps it's just a phase. We've always talked to our son and told him, "time to get dress" "time for pajamas" or "time to take off our shoes" or "no shoes on the couch" kind of stuff and he complies happily. But suddenly he's protesting. I think it's just that - he's testing the limits. Another thought is that he was too busy with other activities and thinks he will miss out on something while he's stopping to complete this mediocre task that he has already mastered because there is so much more to learn. I wouldn't read too much into it unless you have other reasons for concern and also I'd pick your battles. It may be considered inconsistant parenting but sometimes it's not worth the battle - this is especially true in public places (at least it is for me!) I hate for everyone to be looking at us while my son is crying.

1 mom found this helpful

Take a Love and Logic parenting course (www.loveandlogic.com) I teach it in the Bay Area. Give him a choice. He can go out with his clothes on, or his clothes in a bag. If he doesn't decide, put him in the car without his clothes on and do it with a SMILE! Guaranteed he'll get the message.You'll only have to do it once, or twice at the most. It's a power struggle. He needs to make some of his own choices. Give him as many as possible that you don't care about: do you want to wear your coat or carry your coat? do you want the red socks or blue socks? do you want a cup of water before we go or in the car? etc. (Get the DVD Painless Parenting for the Preschool years. if you can't take a class!) S.

1 mom found this helpful

I have some similar issues with my son but he is a bit older (almost 3) but they started when he was about 2. He pretty much doesn't want to get dressed because he is busy doing something fun or interesting. I think that is a common developmental thing for this age because they are discovering so much. Anyway, what works for me is one of the following: Don't tell him we're getting dressed and just try to do it while he is engaged in another activity, sort of matter of fact. The other way I deal with it is to be clear that it is time to get dressed and I give him a chance or two and then I say - let me know when you are ready to get dressed and I walk outside of the room and wait. If the TV is on I pause it (DVR) and I don't engage him at all (no discussion, etc.) He will usually take a minute or two and then tell me his is ready. 2 year olds want attention and they don't like it if you don't engage them. I refuse to wrestle him to put his clothes on - it never ends well. 99% of the time this method works. I'm not sure if it would work with an 18 month old because their reasoning skills are not as developed plus it may be dependant on the temperment of the child. But, after some experimentation, that is what has been working for me.

1 mom found this helpful

Somedays my daughter doesnt want to get out of her PJ's in the morning. You pick your battles, so every once in a while she shows up to daycare in her pj's.
But most days we just do it fast and tell her, Hurry! Hurry! Put on your shirt! and do funny sound effects and talk really fast. Also acting like it is a race is always fun for her. Counting to three also helps. I say ok ready...One two three..put her shirt over her head and then its all done.
It really only does take a second so just emphasize on how fast it is. And tickle distractions are always good to lighten the mood after they are dressed and unhappy about it :)

1 mom found this helpful

My suggestion would be to try to find clothes that he really likes the looks of, and that is comfortable. Sometimes brightly colored clothes work. I would show him things in the stores if he doesn't gravitate to anything you currently have. Once you find something, don't hesitate to use it everyday and wash at night, until you find something else. My 1.5 year old likes tye dye (SP?)

1 mom found this helpful

Man oh man! My 17 month old does this with pants. The success I have comes when I let him choose what to put on (always sweats, never jeans) and keep it fast and positive. But sometimes I just fight him and win- not that it is really a good long term solution.

1 mom found this helpful

Brings back memories!!! My daughter (now 19) would throw a major fight when I would bring out pants. As she only wanted dresses!!! (winter or not)

I worked with what I had - meaning that I would put the dress on her (made her happy) and bought warm leggins' her made me happy.

What about a long sleeve t-shirt and a thermal on top. He is abviously a very smart cookie and knows exactly what he wants. And you are getting in the way - (oh- it only gets better- hehe). :)

I owned a pre-school for 20 years and with the real bright kiddos comes very independent thinkers!!! So you just have to be 2 step ahead of the game.

Have fun - the years really pass soooo very fast. My little doll looked like a rag doll sometimes buts, she is a very fashionable girly girly now attending St. Mary's college doing extremely well.

Best of fun,
S.

1 mom found this helpful

C.,

My daughter did this at about 18 months also. She is my 3rd child. When this started, usually for jammies at night, I would have my husband help me put them on her. She would scream and cry and we would have to hold her down. As soon as we got her dressed, she was fine. I would then hold her and tell her,"see we just needed to get some clothes on you". I know it is hard when they scream and cry and even run from you, but they have to learn that they aren't in charge, you are! Do this with love and also gentle firmness. My daughter is now 2 1/2 and when she gets dressed, I usually pull two outfits out and let her choose, so that way she has some control. Sometimes, if it really doesnt matter what she has on I let her dress herself! It is usually layered and very colorful.
This too will pass!
Good Luck

1 mom found this helpful

I had the same problem with my now 16yr old. What I did, and it worked great!! was I had him down on his crib, turned on his mobile, and as he watched it go around and around, plus I sang to him with the music, and wala!!!!, shirt on, jacket on, ready to go. Try it and see, all kids are different.
Good luck, you have come to the right place.

1 mom found this helpful

My daughter insisted she didn't need any jacket or shoes when we went to the beach one time. We got there the wind was blowing, it was cold. Nonetheless we let her get out of the car and into the cold weather. Took about 15 seconds before she asked for her shoes and warm jacket (she was about the same age as your son.) So maybe don't fight him and let him experience some cold weather and he'll probably let you put his jacket on him without any struggles. I know it takes more time, is inconvenient and a bit silly but maybe he needs to feel in control of what he is wearing. You certainly aren't going to let him get hurt and his experiencing it for himself and deciding that yes a jacket would be nice is very empowering.

1 mom found this helpful

I too have a sweet little beastie boy who loves to have power struggles. I've got two words for you, doll! Natural consequences. Yes, i know it feels irresponsibe not to force him to wear a shirt or jacket, but he will put that shirt on so fast it'll make your head spin once he gets that its his choice to be warm or cold. No warm clothes-very cold- but still his choice. Pick your battles. He has picked this one, so take yourself out of the battle and let him go without the shirt or jacket- the issue will be over before you know it...Just in time to argue about whether he is responsible enough to drive dad's sportscar.

1 mom found this helpful

this won't last

buy a few shirts with something on them he will like, like winnie the poo?

let hime do it, rather assist him and make sure you vib. is one of you got all the time in the world so he feels he's not rushed.

last but not least take him outside when your not going anywhere and show him the purpose of the shirt. Again keep your agenda one of play and ease. Once you tense up they often resist. They know when the energy is going with the flow and they like going with the flow. They have few objectives.

Hope this helps, been there

1 mom found this helpful

Have you thought about trying to get him to do it himself and praise him on being a big boy. Obviously he will need help, but he may respond better. my first daughter behaved similarly and the only thing that finally worked was stepping back and letting her be a "big girl". It sucks because it slows everything down, but I look back and as frustrated as I was at slowing I am glad now because it mad me really take notice, now that she is learning to tie her shoes I am more patient and enjoy watching her get better. Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

My daughter has been the same way since nearly the moment of birth - she HATES things going over her head, and does not like to sit still to get changed and dressed - she will often throw a fit because Im interrupting her from her play. Despite the fact that I try to reason with her (as much as you can reason with a 2 year old) and explain that the more she fusses, the longer the dressing will take, but of course, it makes little difference. So, how it works around here is more like a "tough sh*t" - she doesnt have a choice wether she gets to be dressed or not. Im very matter of fact with her, tell her that its time, and put those clothes on her regardless of her reaction. That's just the way it goes, and she knows it. She isn't putting up a fuss because she really dislikes dressing or undressing, she just does it because she is stubborn and will test any and everything I do just to see if she can get away with it.
You can try and see if you son will like being dressed more if he helps pick out the clothes, or is allowed to try to put some of it on himself. Sometimes, I can distract my daughter out of her tantrumness by tickling her, but not often. Sometimes I have to put my leg over her to keep her from running away (she is very VERY tall and 32lbs of pure muscle). But when it comes down to it, be the mommy and don't give him a choice in the matter. Just dress him as quickly as possible, and he will get over it. Its just another one of those things that your little guy will test your will, and there is more to come in the future ;)

1 mom found this helpful

That is very typical. If it's just the top/jacket you might try:
letting him do it by himself
letting him go outside w/o shirt or jacket, and feel the cold air, he will likely immediately put on w/o fuss (my now 5 year old does this all the time) - and i've even taken her in the car completely naked when she didn't want to dress, and finally she'll put on her clothing.
set limits and let him make the choice, such as:
when you get your shirt on we'll .... (go do whatever you you have planned that involves getting dressed)
sometimes its just a power struggle - and i try to avoid those by giving the choice to my daughter: would you like to wear this shirt or this other shirt, you make the choice... this jacket or that jacket...
my daughter is very combative and almost always chooses a third option that i did not give her, and i usually laugh and say "that's not one of the choices... " she gets it and usually, reluctantly makes the choice. It has cut down on the tantrums.

does he throw tantrums when you are getting dressed to leave the house? or just all the time? he might be upset about something else, like going to day care w/o you.

Hope that helps. At least he's not having tantrums about food and throwing it all over the house.

(smile... )

1 mom found this helpful

HA! This totally reminds me of my daughter at that age....We determined that she was just so determined to do it herself that it made her extremely mad when anyone tried to help her. We actually got to the point when we were going somewhere that I'd wait until everyone else was ready to go out the door and then get her dressed to go....She'd kick and scream but when we'd get in the car to go, she'd eventually calm down. I'm not sure how this helps you, just letting you know, you're not alone. She's five now and fine!!
Good luck!
Lo

Give him a choice.

Put out two pair of pants, and two shirts and let him choose what he wants to wear.

My son had some clothes he hated because of *shrug* Who knows...maybe they were restrictive, or felt funny or he didn't like the color.

Give your 18 monther some control and also be positive and fun with it. Hang in there.

I always find the bribery works wonders - if used creatively. Offer stickers each time or a special trip to the park at the end of the week if he chooses to cooperate with the sweater situation. I remember being the one who hated wearing sweaters and jackets, I think if I would've been offered some kind of "reward", I probably would have cooperated!

My little guy wanted to have a say on what to wear and of course that's usually a no-no because he'd be wearing his short sleeve Elmo shirt with Nemo swimming trunks everyday. So instead I give him a choice to empower him: Do you want to wear this red sweatshirt or this blue sweater? He picks one of those and then is proud of the fact that he was part of the decision-making process. Perhaps this might be a tactic to consider in your case?

C.,
I have a very strong willed son too. I found that if you give him 2 shirts to choose from and only 2, he will have to pick one and put it on. Works every time with me. Hope it works for you.
T.

it's a phase. Just know this too shall pass. In a month he'll get upset about something totally different :)

Try giving him choices, but with all of the choices arriving at YOUR objective. "Honey, do you want to wear your fireman shirt today or your truck shirt?" If he thinks getting dressed is his idea (which he will if he's given choices every step of the way), things will go much easier.

Oh boy one of the most fun parts of motherhood! With my littlest (now 2) I have to make EVERYTHING a game! "Let's see how fast we can put your _____ on!" Or like another mom suggested, letting him choose which shirt or jacket to wear. Another thing that has worked with my amazing tantrum thrower is to tell him I am going to wear whatever it is! "That's ok. Mommy will wear your Elmo shirt!" Then he laughs and puts it on. The key is not to let him see you get frustrated and to turn it into a positive experience. However exhausting that may be.

Hello-

I find that if you are direct it will help. I learned this through my husband, he tells our 22 month old that this is going to happen (ie. changing the diaper, dressing etc.) and it does work. It may take some time but eventually your 18 month old will learn that you mean to do what you say.

Good Luck :)

What I have done with this sort of thing has always worked for me (knock on wood). You just have to tell him each time that this is just how it is. He has to put on his shirt, jacket, etc. and then just do it right as you tell him. If he sees that you're serious and he doesn't have a choice he will eventually resign himself to it. It may take a week or two but if you do it each time, sooner than later he will get it. I know this sounds harsh compared to "try to let him do it himself" or "sing while dressing him". I am in no way criticizing these techniques I just have no time for them trying to get everything done in the day!!!! good luck!

This is a fight you have to win. I thought my kids would never do that, and then in the front of the church receiving area, did the full show.

You need to set the rules, especially with a boy, he wants you to know you are the boss so give him rules, but you have to be strong and follow through with the consequences. The discipline should be as strong as this is not an optional directive. If you cannot get him to do this, how will you get him to stop when he is pulling on a cord that will spill hot coffee or stop before running in front of a car. It is very important.

Every child is different. I read James Dobson's book on bringing up boys and it explains how they are wired. It does not matter what your philosophy is on discipline, the book helps you figure out how to negotiate with him by understanding why he thinks a certain way.

One thing someone said about husbands and I would think is true for husbands in training is, they will negotiate. Have him draw the conclusion he needs the clothes. Does he have something precious - my son loves to color, believe me we will take his art pencils away. He challenges us every day and he is now 8 years old. You have to be creative.

To understand, I like to relate a story my mom told me that can kind of picture it, a grandmother had to raise her grandson. He would not get up when she called him out of bed. She told him if it was time to go and he was not up and dressed, he would have to go to school in his pajamas (she had a bag for after he got there). He did it one more time, and believe me, it was his last time. He realized grandma said it, and she meant it.

He is smarter than you realize and he is testing to see if you will follow through on your rules and it works when you do. They want to please you and you need to negotiate the cause and effect in 18 month old language.

Good luck,

Sounds like sensory dysfunction to me... let me explain he can be checked for this problem, sometimes this comes with other symptoms like picky eating, and being scared of loud noises...their 5 senses are hyper, and need sensory integration treatment... An other symptom that may or may not happen is speech impediments, like apraxia or dispraxia...They can't pronounce certain consonants!!! And at bath time they hate to have their hair washed, specially if you tilt his head back to rinse... Have your pediatrician refer him to the nearest regional center...This is highly important!!!.. Love, G.. :0)
P.S. it is always a good idea to rule things out!!!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_Integration_Dysfunction

Hi C.,

I can tell you how I deal with my 18 month old son. He's generally pretty easy going so he doesn't throw big fits over getting dressed. I'm just waiting for him to get worse though ;-D

First I tell him what is going to happen before it happens. I talk to him all the time. "We are going to get dressed now. Let's see what's in the closet. Here's a shirt! Hey, here are some pants! You will need a sweater, too, because it is cold. Brrrrrr! OK, time to get dressed!" Let him know what is going to happen so he can expect it. And then DO it right then.

He watches and listens to me. He grabs the clothes as I lay them out and tries to put them on himself. He puts his pants over his head and wraps them around his neck like a scarf because he falls over when he tries to put them over his feet. I give him a minute or two to try it out himself.

Then I start dressing him. When he was an infant I would dress him and say, "Where is the baby's hand? Oh! There's the baby's hand!" I'd act surprised and happy every time a limb popped through a piece of clothing. So, now, he's modified it himself. He eagerly watches his sleeves and pants legs and says, "Boo!" (for peek-a-boo)when his limbs come through. The point is to turn it into a game he will enjoy.

If you are really rushed, you might try letting him play with something that catches his interest while you yank his clothes on. My son will ignore me in favor of the toy or sticker and pass it from hand to hand as I dress him.

He whines when I break out his clothes and he starts to cry when I come at him with them in the mornings, but I remain firm and cheerful. I do what I said above and he gets caught up in trying to dress himself and the game.

The worst part is pulling things over his head. He screeches when I do that if something doesn't pop over his head immediately (and he has a BIG head, so I have to do some tugging sometimes). I just try to do it as quickly as possible, maintaining my smile and happy voice, but still insisting that we get dressed.

Maybe you can simplify his life and buy clothes that are easy to get on and off such as shirts that don't have to be buttoned or unbuttoned to get over his head and pull-on pants instead of things with buttons and zippers.

Good luck!

Hi C.,
Give him a choice to what he can wear. Bring out the two items that you want him to wear and tell him in a way that he will understand that he has a choice to which jacket or sweater he can wear.

Once he pickes the item then give it to him to put on with your help. This gives him a bit of control. Everyone wins, he gets to have some say in what to wear and you are at least get him to put something on. If he still won't put it on ask him what color he likes and bring that color sweater or jacket with you.

Good luck!

N.
Mom of two (boy and a girl) two years apart..

When my son was that age, he did the samething. So I asked him if he wanted to wear my choice or pick his own. He wanted to pick his own. Then I would ask if he needed help getting dressed, he always did, but he needed to try it himself. He took great joy in selecting his own clothes and no they did not always match, but that was okay, because he was proud of himself. Hope that helps. Good Luck!
K.

I know it can be tough at times. What I did and sometimes still do, with my little ones is I try to divert the attention to something else while I'm putting on their clothes/jackets. I'll say "hey where did your arm go?" or "how many hands do you have?" and count 1 when I pull one arm through and then 2 with the other one. It works for me anyway and they stop and play along. I hope you find what will work for you and your son.

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