Dressing Problems: Poking, Stalling

Once your child is able to dress himself, it is reasonable to expect him to do so within a specific amount of time (for example, 20 minutes) every morning. The following guidelines can help you deal with poking or stalling.

  1. Make sure your child is capable of completing the task you are asking him to do. Preschool-age children may sometimes need some help.
  2. Establish a morning routine. For example, get up, go to the bathroom, get dressed, make the bed, and eat breakfast. This will help your child know what you expect on a daily basis.
  3. Allow your child enough time (20 to 30 minutes before breakfast) to get dressed.
  4. At first, praise your child often for getting dressed by themselves and on time.
  5. Ignore stalling. Don't nag.
  6. If your child throws a tantrum, use time-out.
  7. Do not allow the TV to be turned on until after your child is completely dressed.
  8. Have breakfast ready after the 20-minute dressing time.
  9. If your child is completely dressed in the time allowed, praise her and have her go eat breakfast. Reward her with 10 to 15 minutes of your time doing whatever she would like to do (play a game or read a story) after she gets home from school, or immediately if she is not going to school.
  10. If your child does not finish dressing in the time you have allowed, have him stay in his room to finish dressing.

    If your child must go to school and is not dressed by 5 to 10 minutes before it is time to leave, dress him, but don't talk to him except to give instructions. Stay calm.

    Let your child know that he will not get breakfast if he does not get dressed in time. If your child has not finished in time to eat breakfast, he won't starve. (You may want to call the school to briefly explain the situation.) After you do this once or twice, your child will start getting dressed within the allowed amount of time.

Written by E. Christophersen, PhD, author of "Pediatric Compliance: A Guide for the Primary Care Physician."
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-09-12
Last reviewed: 2006-08-24
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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