36 answers

Peer Pressure in Preschool?!

My daughter is 4. She has a best friend who, in my world view, is quite spoiled. For example, supposedly she "decided" at the he of two that she only wears dresses, so her mother buys her nothing but gorgeous dresses. That's all fine and dandy, but a week ago, my daughter announced she will never wear pants again because they are ugly. Since then, there's a fight just about every time I ask her to wear pants. Not only is the situation unacceptable, it is plain impractical. Digging in the garden in a dress? Going to gymnastics in a dress?!
So, what I can do? There is no way to separate the girls in preschool, and I don't want to deprive my DD of her friendship, but at this point I want to take everything but 2 pairs of pants and 2 shirts out of her closet until she stops with this nonsense. For the record, I wear pants to work and she tells me I look pretty.

Follow up:
For those of you saying "just let it be" don't seem to realize the kind of fights we are having
E, you have gym class today, you still want to go?
Yey!
Ok, remember we have to wear tight fitting clothes at the gym (for safety reasons). Let me know which pair of pants or shorts you want to wear
No!!!! :in a really ugly whiney tone: I don't want to wear pants! Pants are ugly!
E, you have to wear pants to be safe at the gym, do you still want to go to your gym class?
Yes! I want to go do (insert trick name here)
Ok, the what are you going to wear?
No!!! I'm never wearing pants again!
At this point, she breaks into a litany of "Noooo" and "don't wanna" and "want pretty dresses" and generally disintegrates.
Still think I should "let it go"?

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I am surprised (and a little disappointed) at all the responses that seem to assume I am a dress-hating control freak concerned with the cost (or cuteness) of clothes. Perhaps I didn't articulate clearly enough that the problem is my DD's obvious internal struggle over what she knows is right and what her friend is teaching her. Big thanks to the few moms who understood my question! I was also mildly amused to hear "that's not peer pressure, she just wants to fit in" responses. Makes me wonder how those moms define "peer pressure".
I have removed most of the dresses as punishment for the screaming (which is not allowed outside of her room), amd will return them, a few at a time, as a reward for good behavior. I have also asked her preschool teacher to keep an ear out for "ugly pants" comments, and will point out "pretty pants" outfits as someone suggested.
I have spent 4 years of my DD's life differentiating "pretty" from "prettily dressed", as I refuse to tie her self esteem to clothes. I guess it's time for King Solomon's prayer: "this, too, shall pass"

Featured Answers

Yes, my daughter wears dresses everywhere and every day.. For gymantsics I got her the leotard that has an attched skirt and her legs are bare. She rides horses in a dress, does gardening, whatever she wants. I do tell her that some dresses are too nice for playing in the dirt and she has to pick a different dress.

J.

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We had this problem with a girl in my DD's class. Same thing: she wore dresses all the time and my daughter wanted to do the same. (thankfully they weren't fancy; just sundresses) We had her sit out some of her favorite activities. No gardening, no gymnastics, no bike riding. And I mean, sit out. She had to sit there while Daddy did all the fun digging, she had to sit there at gym while the other kids did their stuff, she had to sit on the porch while the neighbor kids rode their bikes and scooters. She complained because sometimes the other girls might be wearing dresses on their scooters, but we would say, "We love you too much to argue. It's not safe or practical to do these things in a dress. If wearing a dress ALL the time is that important, then you have to skip these things. Or you can wear pants while you (fill in activity here) and then change back into a dress when you are done." It took about a week of whining and pleading and pouting, but she finally got it. Now, we do have to keep spare sun dresses and stuff handy for when she wants to change back into a dress, but at least she's wearing pants for the things we'd like her to. Now that it is cold in the mornings, she wears a dress over her jeans to school.

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This is just the beginning. It will change pack to pants only about-7 then back to dresses/skirts about 10. One of my past posts was how to dress a Tom Boy- now 10 she wants skirts. Today she went to school wearing a dress she had when she was 6. The sleeves were 3/4 length and it was now a mini skirt length. She wore jeggings under it. Buy a small about of clothes, so when they change their style-the it's okay to pick up a few extras. Next year wait until they get into school to see what they like about other kids clothes. Dresses can be found at used clothing stores in really good shape. She could wear her pants under them for warmth and practicality.

The social side of preschool is more important then the ABC's. Feeling good, comfortable, and fitting in is essential for a 4 year old. You don't have to buy gorgeous expensive dresses. Try craigslist, Goodwill. You might even find a leotard cheap.

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This is not a battle I would fight. Sure - dresses for the garden... why does it matter? make sure she has shorts or whatever on so you can't see her panties and let her go at it.

The way that I would fight this type of "peer pressure" is to start asking your daughter questions that will make her THINK. Don't just take stuff away that she wants to do and don't just tell her she can't do it. The solution to her not having sex with a boy is NEVER to ban the boy (and yes, it's dresses in pre-k today but boys are coming sooner than you think.... and it's the exact same issue, really).

The solution is to talk to her about why she wants to go along with what SOMEONE ELSE decided she should do. you have to teach your daughter how to make her own decisions. You can't teach her to stand up for herself if YOU are removing her ability to make decisions on her own at home.

And the fact that she tell you she likes you in pants is good - it means she is recognizing what works for one person is ok for them, but she may want to do something different - that is good!!!!!

plus - this is not nonsense to her. This is a big deal. It's her trying to figure out how to be friends and how to fit in. So, if you treat this like nonsense you aren't teaching her the skill of how to figure out her place and her boundaries.

Good Luck.

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ETA - this is in response to your follow up:

don't ask her questions if you only want one answer. That isn't really giving her the ability to answer and is really confusing to a 4 year old. You're controlling the wrong things and she's rebelling. So, start controlling the right things... which is teaching her how to make appropriate decisions.

If gym class is at school - what is the school policy? She has to follow policy, but if it's your rule, then yes I think you should let it go.

If it's not at school and it's separate private lessons.... then you either decide that this is not something she wants to do right now, or you don't give her a choice. She wears the required uniform and can change into her dress right after. But don't ask her if she wants to and don't ask her what she wants to wear. OF COURSE she doesn't want to and OF COURSE she wants to wear a dress. That's like you asking me if I want to do the dishes. NOPE, but I still have to do them.

So just say "time to change for gymnastics. Here is your leotard... do you want the pink leotard or the purple leotard. Nope, dress is not a choice. pink leotard or purple leotard? Nope dress is not a choice. Pink or purple? You pick now or I pick for you. Now, pick out what you will change into after and let's go". Or pull her from the class and that is her consequence.

If she feels you are unsupportive and everything is a battle for you... then she will begin to escalate things quicker because she doesn't feel heard. That's how it works for kids.

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I don't really see a reason to argue. The logical and natural consequence of her wearing a dress is that she will be unable to go to gymnastics. She's wearing a dress and its cold... she gets cold. She wears a dress while gardening... she gets dirty and scraped knees. By engaging her you are setting yourself up. By giving her the responsibility, she's going to learn fairly quickly, some activities will be less comfortable or out of the question. You can take arguing out of the equation.

Even if this girl is an influence, the influence will fade or change. This is a very normal stage, one that you have very little control over. That can be a relief for you.

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I guess you will call my daughter spoiled too, because she went through a phase of only wanting to wear skirts or dresses. And yes, I caved because it would have been an everyday battle I did not want to fight every day. And yes, I realized when she was out digging in the garden or on the playground chances were the dress would get ruined, but I also bought a lot of the skirts/dresses from garage sales.

She is now 6 and her attitude about pants/shorts has changed dramatically on her own.
(I also wouldn't call it peer pressure, because the other girl is most likely not pressuring your child to wear dresses. Your daughter just wants to be similar to her friend.)

In response to your Follow up:

I would assume if they are strict on their no dress policy for gym they are not allowed to participate???? If so let that be her choice.

My daughter did not participate in outdoor play last winter because she refused to wear boots or snow pants. She had to stay on the sidewalks. And she much preferred that to wearing snow pants or boots. Would I have liked her to wear them and be able to play...sure but I did not force the issue. It was her choice. (Hoping she changes her mind this year, but we shall see)

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I wouldn't say it's peer pressure. Your DD just wants to be like her friend. Honestly, this is not a battle I would choose to have. They're just clothes. Put her in a casual dress with some leggings or shorts underneath. The phase will pass quickly, I guarantee it.

Edited to add after seeing your TWO follow ups -

I'm sorry, but 4 year olds have NO concept of peer pressure. Sounds like you just want someone to blame for your DD's stubbornness. Peer pressure is a peer pressuring another peer into doing something they don't want to do. Last time I checked, 4 year olds weren't threatening other kids their age with indefinite social outcast status if they didn't follow their lead. Dramatic much?

And why in the hell are you even negotiating with her on the dance class attire? Either she puts the tights on, or she doesn't go. End of story, no arguing. If she wants to whine & cry, then she can do so in her room, with the door shut, while she misses class. You move on with your day, you don't pointlessly argue with a 4 year old over something that is non-negotiable.

As far as her self esteem, I think you're doing far more damage by not letting her express herself, and having a little control over something so harmless, then could ever done by letting her think she was "pretty". But wait, now your little girl can't even think she's pretty? Isn't thinking you're pretty a good thing, and indicative of a good self esteem? Haven't you ever gotten a haircut, a new bra, a new outfit, and thought "Damn, I look good!"? I tell ya, you really are a big ball of contradiction. Those pesky clothes & their killing of little girls' self esteem all across the world, how dare they!

As far as taking the dresses away. I think it's mean. And she's still going to want the dresses, now more than ever, and you are still going to be fighting about dresses... DRESSES!! Why?!

I'm just curious, did you come here for advice? Or just to be vindicated? Or just to fight & negate everything the posters have said to you? Because it doesn't really seem like what you are doing is working, and you got lots of varied ideas & advice from the moms here. If you want to continue to let something like a dress be the cause of the stress & negativity in your household and lives, then so be it, because it sure seems like you don't want to hear anything constructive anyone has to tell you unless it's line with your opinion on the matter. Have fun, and good luck with that. When your DD is older & over this phase, you are going to wonder why in the hell you ever made such a big deal over a freakin' dress.

Do you battle her on everything? If so, I feel sorry for her, and for your household. You're going to one tired & miserable person if you make everything a fight.

Good luck, I truly mean that. I hope you find something that works for you.

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I think it is a pretty typical phase. My daughter started this when she entered the "3-6" classroom at her school. The older girls tend to wear dresses, and suddenly that is what she wanted - long dresses (below the knee). She manages to climb and do everything, and if she can't, she hasn't complained.

Buy her reasonably inexpensive dresses, and let her enjoy - you'd be surprised at what cute things they have pretty cheap. That way you won't care if they get dirty digging in the garden, and surprisingly my daughter's dresses wash better than the t-shirts she has.

As for gymnastics. This is a good "consequence based discipline moment." Take her to the class in a dress (pre-discuss with teacher if you can). Bring a proper outfit. Let her experience sitting on the sidelines because she isn't properly dressed, and see how long it takes her to put on pants!

You could just refuse to take her, but let her see that it isn't an arbitrary rule mommy is making up.

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Sorry but I don't really see the problem. I only wore dresses in kindergarten, I hated pants! And I lived in the midwest, where it snows all winter, so I wore wool tights and boots.
By first grade I was so sick of dresses I only wanted to wear pants, and then went through a tomboy phase for a few years.
This is one of those battles I just wouldn't have. It's just clothing, but it's important for a child to feel comfortable in what they wear, so why turn it into a control thing? If she doesn't mind gardening in a dress then why not let her? Let her express herself, it's fun :)
ETA: well, clearly if she isn't able to wear the required outfit for a specific sport, then, no she shouldn't be allowed to go, but that's not the same thing as day to day wear, just pull her out of gymnastics until she's mature enough to make that choice.

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Hi there,

My daughter just turned 4 yesterday. For the last year she has had a best friend at school who I think is a horrible influence, so I know what you mean! And my daughter has the same tantrums when she isn't allowed to get her way. She is quite rigid about wanting things a certain way and sometimes we let her choose and sometimes not. It is driving us crazy and we're having a hard time with this issue, so maybe it's a phase at his age. However, we do let her wear what she wants most of the time. That is he battle we've decided to let her win. I figure she grows out of her clothes so quickly that she might as well wear them to death while she fits in them, even if they are nice! We save a few nice dresses for fancier occasions.

If it is for safety that you want her to wear sports clothes for sporty activities, how about sitting down with her (when you are nit fighting) and looking at some female gymnasts or other athletes and point out what they wear to do sports. And tell her you understand that she wants to feel pretty in a dress, but for sports we wear sporty clothes. Even better, if you can find the same athletes in dresses (look online) you can tell her that women/girls can be pretty in dresses and pretty in sporty clothes, but we dress practically depending on what activity we are doing.

If all else fails, tell her that the pretty dresses might get ripped in gym class ans she won't be able to wear them anymore. Or that the gym class rule is no dresses (if that is the truth) and we must follow the rules.

Sounds like more of a battle about control than dresses, at least that's what we're dealing with with our daughter. Good luck, and remember to take deep breaths! This phase will pass. :)

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I read your follow up and I still think you should let it go. I would take her to gymnastics in whatever dress she simply must have on and give a heads up to the teacher to tell her she can't participate in a dress (if that really is the rule). If she puts up a fit, and won't comply, gymnastics can't be that important to her. Or she isn't really mature enough for it yet. I'd pull her from the class. She's only 4. My girls are 9 and 12, and let me tell you in preschool, Kindergarten and 1st grade it was ALL about dresses, they HAD to wear pretty dresses. They did not own a pair of pants. They just had some leggings for under dresses and maybe some sweat pants for trick or treat or ice skating. Lands End knit dresses, short or long sleave, simple, cute, and comfortable was the wardrobe staple in my house. 2nd grade it stopped. They wore shirts and leggings. Jeans in 3rd grade and up. Maybe an occasional skirt or skort, but NO dresses. Relish this time, it will be gone before you know it. Let her wear what she wants, that is one battle I would not choose, especially with a strong-willed child. Just buy practical, what you can afford for her. You don't have to go fancy, frilly, or expensive just because her friend has those kinds of dresses.

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You will be coming across this situation all through her life, this is a good time to nip in in the bud. You could tell your daughter that all parents have different rules. Also there are rules at school, gymnastics etc....
I would inforce the dresss code for gym as its there for her safety, If she won't follow the rules she doesn't get to go.
Rememver you are the mom and she is just trying to gain some control, point out other girls in pants and discusss how pretty they look, also lay out a few choices of pants for gym and let her choose, then she will feel like she had some control (age apprpriate control). good luck.

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My niece went through this starting at 4. My SIL fought it tooth and nail. Non of the ladies in our family really wear dresses unless it's a special occasion. She too thought it was ridiculous. Then the preschool teacher let her know that many girls were going through the same thing and it was quite normal. So my SIL reluctantly caved. Now a year and half later, my niece will still only wear a dress. Summer, winter...it doesn't matter, it has to be a dress. But now that she is older, they have compromised. She has to wear shorts or leggings for modesty. It still bugs my SIL, but she said it's just not worth the fight. My SIL is just hoping she changes her mind before winter this year. GL!!

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I know you don't want to hear to let it go. But don't argue with your daughter. Make it simple. If she won't wear tights to Gymnastics then she just doesn't go and then ignore the tantrum and simply say you can only go when you wear tights or what ever the gymnastics outfit she has. And yes she is trying to have control. Parents pick to many battles about having total control and kids will fight back and it won't end. Let her wear what she wants to school ie, dresses and if it is cold you can decide if she has to wear leggings or pants underneath. It just isn't a big deal that she wants to wear pants and it has nothing to do with you but her peers. Preschool is a time to learn social skills and fitting in which is just part of it. This will pass as she gets older. Its is like a boy who won't leave the house unless he is spiderman. You may think that parents who give in are spoiling their children but that just isn't the case. I am a social worker and have worked with troubled youth and trust me the girls I worked with did not runaway from home or be a difficult teen because their parent let them wear dresses at 4. It was usually for those who argued over the little stuff and kids just keep fighting to have a say, or the parent who never says no and not just about one thing like clothes but everything. Set standards like the type of dress she can wear, that way you are still keeping some control but giving her some as well. It is about balance between what you want for your child and what they want. If you are afraid of the power struggle, by letting her wear dresses you are not losing it, you just set limits with it such as no dresses to gymnastics or leggings when it is cold and those you don't argue about just make it plan fact. If it is not this issue it will be another and the trick is how to let them have real choices yet keep your rules, you are the one that will have to be flexible since you are the parent and at 4 she still doesn't understand reason. I have a 4 year old too. Just remember this too shall pass it always does.

Updated

I know you don't want to hear to let it go. But don't argue with your daughter. Make it simple. If she won't wear tights to Gymnastics then she just doesn't go and then ignore the tantrum and simply say you can only go when you wear tights or what ever the gymnastics outfit she has. And yes she is trying to have control. Parents pick to many battles about having total control and kids will fight back and it won't end. Let her wear what she wants to school ie, dresses and if it is cold you can decide if she has to wear leggings or pants underneath. It just isn't a big deal that she wants to wear pants and it has nothing to do with you but her peers. Preschool is a time to learn social skills and fitting in which is just part of it. This will pass as she gets older. Its is like a boy who won't leave the house unless he is spiderman. You may think that parents who give in are spoiling their children but that just isn't the case. I am a social worker and have worked with troubled youth and trust me the girls I worked with did not runaway from home or be a difficult teen because their parent let them wear dresses at 4. It was usually for those who argued over the little stuff and kids just keep fighting to have a say, or the parent who never says no and not just about one thing like clothes but everything. Set standards like the type of dress she can wear, that way you are still keeping some control but giving her some as well. It is about balance between what you want for your child and what they want. If you are afraid of the power struggle, by letting her wear dresses you are not losing it, you just set limits with it such as no dresses to gymnastics or leggings when it is cold and those you don't argue about just make it plan fact. If it is not this issue it will be another and the trick is how to let them have real choices yet keep your rules, you are the one that will have to be flexible since you are the parent and at 4 she still doesn't understand reason. I have a 4 year old too. Just remember this too shall pass it always does.

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Yes, my daughter wears dresses everywhere and every day.. For gymantsics I got her the leotard that has an attched skirt and her legs are bare. She rides horses in a dress, does gardening, whatever she wants. I do tell her that some dresses are too nice for playing in the dirt and she has to pick a different dress.

J.

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Kudos to you for not letting her rule the roost at age four!!!
I would have def. hidden away the dresses. My philosophy was IF the dresses stays nice and doesnt get rips or stains (its ok if they do but no sense digging in the dirt in a fancy dress)before she outgrows them they can be handed down to another child or donated to a child whose parents couldn't afford to buy new. Letting a child ruin expensive clothes is teaching them to be very materialistic, to not be appreciative of nice things, to not care about others in the world who wish they could have such nice things. Keep telling your child that beauty comes from within not from our clothes. When she does something nice for someone, helps a friend, plays with the new girl she is being beautiful. And shake your head sadly at that other parent. Maybe you can be a good influence on her child so she doesn't grow up and want plastic surgery before she's 18/

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This is just the beginning. It will change pack to pants only about-7 then back to dresses/skirts about 10. One of my past posts was how to dress a Tom Boy- now 10 she wants skirts. Today she went to school wearing a dress she had when she was 6. The sleeves were 3/4 length and it was now a mini skirt length. She wore jeggings under it. Buy a small about of clothes, so when they change their style-the it's okay to pick up a few extras. Next year wait until they get into school to see what they like about other kids clothes. Dresses can be found at used clothing stores in really good shape. She could wear her pants under them for warmth and practicality.

The social side of preschool is more important then the ABC's. Feeling good, comfortable, and fitting in is essential for a 4 year old. You don't have to buy gorgeous expensive dresses. Try craigslist, Goodwill. You might even find a leotard cheap.

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We had this problem with a girl in my DD's class. Same thing: she wore dresses all the time and my daughter wanted to do the same. (thankfully they weren't fancy; just sundresses) We had her sit out some of her favorite activities. No gardening, no gymnastics, no bike riding. And I mean, sit out. She had to sit there while Daddy did all the fun digging, she had to sit there at gym while the other kids did their stuff, she had to sit on the porch while the neighbor kids rode their bikes and scooters. She complained because sometimes the other girls might be wearing dresses on their scooters, but we would say, "We love you too much to argue. It's not safe or practical to do these things in a dress. If wearing a dress ALL the time is that important, then you have to skip these things. Or you can wear pants while you (fill in activity here) and then change back into a dress when you are done." It took about a week of whining and pleading and pouting, but she finally got it. Now, we do have to keep spare sun dresses and stuff handy for when she wants to change back into a dress, but at least she's wearing pants for the things we'd like her to. Now that it is cold in the mornings, she wears a dress over her jeans to school.

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I don't know why you assess this as "peer pressure." It sounds like to me your daughter as decided she wants to feel pretty like she assumes her friend feels when she's wearing her gorgeous dresses. Little girls like to feel pretty! I would let it go, but for gymnastics, you could try to cute little leotard with tights rathern than tight-fitting pants. Show her on TV that that's what all gymnists wear. If she refuses, take her to gymnastics wearing a dress and let the instructor tell her that she can't participate because she is not dressed appropriately. Let her see/experience the logical consequence of her decision.

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Don't assume that your daughter's preference for dresses is coming from this other girl. She may have just decided she likes dresses. Preschoolers do that.

SHE wants to wear a dress. Why can't she? My very athletic, strong, well-rounded daughter, only wanted to wear pink and dresses until she was 5. So I let her wear dresses. (And I am not a dress wearer.) I let her wear dresses when she was digging in a garden. You can put shorts under dresses, if you feel you need to.

When my daughter turned 5, she suddenly only liked blue and started wearing pants almost exclusively. I let her do that, as well.

Obviously, you can't wear a dress to gymnastics, because there is a uniform for that, which is usually some form of tights.

However, I think you should pick your battles, and mellow out on the dress. You like pants -- would you want people to force you to wear a dress?

Your daughter having a preference or a love of something is not the same as being spoiled.

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Dear Mama,

sigh. Sorry for your troubles. I have a daughter who just turned 4 and for the last 6 months she has been sure that she nearly always wants to be wearing party dresses. This bothered me at first but I have now embraced it because I have figured out a way to spend less money on clothing. I've found great selections of brand new looking party dresses at thrift stores and other used clothing stores. I buy dresses that cost between $5 - $12, and she gets them dirty and I stick them in the washing machine and she wears them again and again. We're both happy!

Working this out has been easier than dealing with the period where my older daughter wanted to wear only swim suits of leotards when we were leaving the house!

Good luck to you. Parenting is a crazy job, eh?

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Logical consequences. . . and I would NOT just let it go. I'm on your side, mom! " If you want to go to gymnastics, you must wear tights or (whatever they wear). If you don't want to wear shorts or tights, then you can't go to gymnastics. Your choice sweetie!" School: Let her wear what she wants but I wouldn't feel pressured to keep up with the expensive dresses. Beach: shorts and swimsuit or you can stay back home with a babysitter. Etc. This must be very frustrating for you! I have 3 and 4 year old boys and I'm tired of the "all Spiderman" look!

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I haven't read any of the other replies but I would have to agree with you. She has a mix of pants and dresses (I assume) and she needs to wear what she has as long as it still fits. When it gets cold it will be too cold for her to wear a dress without some kind of tights or leggings (pants) on her legs. I understand the fights (have had them myself). This is what I would try:

At a time when it's not time to get dressed or make a decision about getting dressed you need to talk to your daughter about the rules in your house as it comes to clothes. I would tell her:

"Dresses are very pretty. I am glad that you like to wear dresses but there are some things that you HAVE to wear pants to. Like Gym, you HAVE to wear pants to the Gym. I signed you up for classes so you will go and you will wear pants to the Gym. IF you give me a problem about wearing these clothes you will not be able to (watch TV, drink juice, etc.)."

I know it sounds fairly easy to say but I would calmly (that's very hard) talk to her about the situation and tell her this is how it goes. You paid for the Gym classes and the clothes. She wanted to wear those clothes when you picked them out so she will wear them (until she grows out of them etc.) and she will go to the Gym (until the classes are up or whatever). Tell her which activity she can wear dresses and which that she can't (gardening she can't).

I would say then if you still have problems... IDK let her try wearing a dress even though it's impractical and she might learn on her own that she will ruin her dresses if she wears them while gardening etc.

This has worked for me with my 4 year old. Good Luck!

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My daughter is 4.5 and only wants to wear dresses. It doesn't matter if its freezing outside, either. I just make sure she wears a pair of shorts under her dress.

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Let her expereince missing gym class. Either we wear the proper clothese or we don't go...your choice....and stick to it.

Updated

Let her expereince missing gym class. Either we wear the proper clothese or we don't go...your choice....and stick to it.

I love your detail of the conversation. In the case of gym class, let her go to gym class wearing a dress (with gym clothes in a bag) and have her gymnastics instructor explain to her why dresses are not approriate. Sometimes our children needs to hear things from someone other than us. Just a thought.

I found that changing my terminology helped a bit when I ran into the reverse problem (my daughter refused to wear dresses). We figured out some outfits with "leggings" (which could just as well have been pants), and it made the difference. So, I recommend finding some dresses she can move in, and pairing them with leggings.

Oh - and as for my daughter who refused to wear dresses? She's 20 now, and still wouldn't be caught dead in a dress. When I finally realized it wasn't worth fighting about, both of our lives became a LOT easier.

This may be a phase you'll need to weather, or it may be who your daughter is going to be. Either way, I'd suggest you find a way to take the charge out of it. Find a compromise, or let it go. Life is too short (and so is childhood)!

Good luck!

I'm chiming in late here, but just wanted to add that my mom has told me that when I was around the same age, I would also only wear dresses. Refused to wear pants, and it drove my mom crazy too. I'd also throw huge fits about it. She would give in and just let me play in the dirt, ride my tricycle, whatever, in my dress. Her take on it was that in the grand scheme of things, it didn't really matter all that much. I was exerting my independence a bit and I was perfectly happy as long as I was in a dress. I didn't have any other kid peer pressuring me; it was just something I wanted. And of course within a year I grew out of all of those dresses anyway, so ultimately she said she was glad I got so much use out of them. Probably just a phase. I wear pants now. :)

I have a 5 year old and we went through stage of I only want to wear dresses but like you we also had gymnastics and we lived in
IL were dresses in winter can be difficult so we came up with dress rules. Ballet had ballet outfit, gymnastics had a leotard, playing outside had shorts or pants and t-shirts ect. If she did not want to wear shorts she could not play outside with her brother and me. It took only once of her sitting inside while we were outside playing bubbles to get my message across. I do give her a choice as to wich shirt, color etc. as this cuts down on the fighting. We also have play dresses and dresses in summer are worn with a biker short otherwise they are not worn. Set up clear rules and make sure she understand why there are theses rules. This is a struggle that can drag on for a long time as she get older if clear dress rules are not established. Good luck.

I understand your concern but I think taking her dresses away is a little over the top. My daughter is 4 and there is peer pressure at that age for sure. It is very scary that it starts this soon. My daughter is very independent and wants to pick her clothes out so I chose two different outfits and let her decide. Usually the two outfits are either a dress or shirt and shorts/pants. It makes her feel good because she has a voice in the situation and it is less hassel for everyone. I understand she needs to wear form fitting clothes for gym, but my suggestion is to let her wear a dress to gym and explain to the instructor "you" know she needs form fitting clothes but she has to learn the reason why - meaning it may take the gym instructor to tell your daughter that way it is not coming from you. She may have to sit out of gym practice that day, but maybe that is all it will take to correct the issue.

If the dress is something that is easily cleaned, and she is willing to wear shorts or leggings under it, then by all means, let her play in it - for fall, I got my daughter some cute dresses from Gymboree and Hanna Andersson that are perfect for playing, going to school, etc. They pair well with leggings, 100% cotton so they are comfortable, and she can get them dirty and all I have to do is throw them in the wash.

If it's gymnastics, and there are rules there about wearing a leotard or other acceptable clothing, then bottom line is, she wears what she needs to wear or she doesn't go. Her choices are wear the dress and then not be able to participate, or wear the leotard. No more reasoning with her or trying to explain it over and over. Like someone else said, maybe coming to gymnastics but having to sit it out because she isn't properly dressed will hit home with her. Maybe try to get the coach to go along with your plan and talk to her too if she refuses to wear the leotard (and no wearing of the dress during gymnastics - it's a safety issue and rules are rules. There are times and places for things.).

I doubt it's truly peer pressure at this point, but just them noticing what other kids have and wanting the same sometimes. DD last year suddenly decided she wanted longer hair like some of the other girls in her preschool class because she wanted to wear it as a single pony tail, just like them. She wanted to be like her best friend in particular, and then ironically the same girl ended up getting her hair cut short like DD's over the summer!

One of my friends said her daughter refuses to wear dresses and the mom is really upset that her daughter always looks like a tomboy. My daughter is too young, but when my son was 3 to 4 he went through a phase of only wearing long sleeves. He is over it now. I had to convince he that the shirt with a little horse was cool. Another friend had a son who always had on a lego batman shirt (that thing is burnt in my brain he wore it so much). Anyway my son is almost 5 and that issue was almost forgotten until i read your post. If you can afford it i would buy a few leotards with tutus or go to a consignment store. I like shirt/dresses and have leggings to go under them for my daughter. I figure this will keep he knees safe when she is out running around.
i agree with some posts that you are the parent and if you are against it then stick to it. This issue doesn't really bother me so i would find solutions (leggings, tutus).
p.s. I think your post might have bothered some by saying the friend being spoiled is the cause. Maybe the mom loves dresses and has influenced the her daughter. Maybe you can use this mother's skills and influence your daughter to do what you want her to do.

Another thing is if her outfit is not allowed in gymnastics then hearing the teacher tell her to leave until she is in the correct clothes could help. It is also the teachers rules regardless of the parent (assuming their are moms who do not respect the dress code). Getting embarrassed in front of her friends by a teacher could help with your plight.

LEt her wear dresses when it's appropriate (school, parties, recitals etc.). Have "play dresses" for oustide that you throw in the wash just like any other playclothes and don't worry about the stains. But tell her there are certain times she must wear other clothes (like gymnastics). If she refuses, then forego the activity. Don't take her to gymnastics. She will either buck up and wear the gym clothes or you can stop spending money on gymnastics and try something else. Good luck!

What about asking her to wear tights instead of pants? Would she think those are "girly"?

I'm glad you didn't give in. Since when do we let our babies dictate what should be? I think we have become too permissive a society, but bottom line, when my daughter refuses to wear appropriate clothing for a specific activity she doesn't do the activity. We are teaching our kids that if they scream and yell loud and long enough they will get what they want...not acceptable.

I think there are a lot of ways of turning this into a positive. For example, can you give your daughter some age-appropriate tasks and responsibilities -- put her toys away, do what you ask the first time around, etc.? Then, if she does these things for a week or so, she earns, say, a leotard with a little skirt thingy that she can wear to gymnastics. I think in the long term, the lesson of "earn what you want through hard work" should trump the lesson of "this is what we wear in X situation." She'll pick the latter up on her own, but the former -- a lot of people never learn that.

My daughter and I went through this/still kind of are going through this although we don't fight about it. There are rules for ballet/soccer/gymnastics and if she does not wear the proper clothes she cannot go. End of story. Keep as you are doing and don't give in. Last year she decided she does not like pants and that they are ugly. I had to sit there and watch her grow out of about 6 super cute pairs of jeans without ever wearing them (thank god they were hand me downs!). What we started doing is buying little stretchy pants that we called "ballet pants". She wore the pants with little cotton dresses over the top so she was still in a dress but comfy and could play at the playground, etc. She also just really likes things that are soft and comfortable. Maybe take your daughter shopping and pick out a few outfits (Target is good for these) so she will feel like she got to pick her own clothes. Kids seem to really get excited when they get to pick out their own clothes. Good luck!

Hmmm, well this is tough. I agree that maybe not so much peer pressure in the traditional sense, but yes, she wants to be like her friend and is maybe repeating some of the things that her friend has said. I doubt that her friend is trying to convince her to wear only dresses though.

I get that you don't want to buy a whole new wardrobe so assuming she has at least some dresses this is what I would do. Let her pick out her own clothes for the most part (if there is something too dressy remove it from closet) and tell her there are only X number of dresses. You aren't going to do laundry each day so she has this many dresses to choose from and then she'll have to wear pants. She can choose which days she wears dresses and which days she wears pants. Also tell her that only some activities are dress appropriate. If she'd like to do another activity then she'll either have to not do the activity or she'll have to change into play clothes. Put it on her. She's 4, she'll figure it out. I'm sure this will pass, but that's not so comforting when you're right in the thick of it!

If I were in your shoes....I would not give in to her demand of having what she wants. Sorry, but you have what you have in your closet, you either wear it or go to school naked! Give her two choices of proper clothes to wear depending on the occasion (school, gym, etc.). If she refuses and wants to wear a dress and a dress is inappropriate (i.e gym) then leave her the choice of wearing just her underwear. Tell her you will be leaving in 10 minutes and you hope she will be dressed. Stop debating with her.

Continue as you would. Do not engage in her demands. If 10 minutes arrives literally throw clothes in the car with you, march your daughter into the car (with just her underwear on) and go on your merry way. You be surprised how fast her decision would change.

I did this with my 3yr old. He REFUSED to get dress for school. So I said ok. If you want to go in just your underwear, fine...grabbed his clothes he was given to wear and put them in the car. Grabbed my screaming kid and put him in his seat. By the time I was about to sit in my seat to drive off, my son was saying "ok mommy, i will get dressed now."

Remember who is the one in charge. did your parents every tell you "you live under my roof, you live by my rules!" same goes for your child.

Sure a child deserves to make their own choices. Give them two. They can't decided...then you decide for them. If they are unwilling to accept those two choices...then u stick with what u decide. They had their opportunity to make their choice, now its your turn for them. Its part of teaching them responsibilities.

At your daughters age, its her just wanting to be like someone else. Its a phase...this to shall pass. In the meantime, don't go getting rid of what you have. That's ridiculous and just unrealistic in my book. She needs to understand that. Life doesn't work that way. If it did, i would change my car daily, or the amount of cash I have in my bank account.

I too have seen parents who give into their demanding 3-4yrs olds. One child at my daycare i work for has come to school in the same outfit 3 days in a row. Really??? Understand parents do things to avoid conflict, but really, who is the parent in this relationship?

Set your boundaries and yes...also pick your battles. If its unrealistic then stick with your boundaries, if letting your daughter go to school in her pjs wont hurt, allow her. But changing her wardrobe, nah....i would stick to my guns on that one too.

Kids are easily influenced by others...as you found out! You also need to teach your daughter she needs to be an individual and not always follow everyone else's "style" or what someone else is doing. Start early.

I never followed anyone or felt I needed to do something because it was cool. Part of why I never did drugs or got in trouble. Why? I am who I am all by myself. I learned by other ppls mistakes what NOT to do. lol Hope your daughter will follow that good path too.

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