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?
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"?

1 mom found this helpful

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.


1 mom found this helpful

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.

1 mom found this helpful

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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More Answers

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.

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.

9 moms found this helpful

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.

4 moms found this helpful

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)

3 moms found this helpful

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.

3 moms found this helpful

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.

3 moms found this helpful

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. :)

2 moms found this helpful

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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