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Toddler tantrums getting dressed – how to deal so you can move on with your day

Toddler tantrums getting dressed – how to deal so you can move on with your day

Does it take forever to get your morning started because your toddler tantrums getting dressed?  This is so common but here are some tricks so you can both move on with your day.

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Does your morning with your toddler start off peacefully?  You pick out their clothing, it matches, and they cooperate with you as you help them change before breakfast and you start your day.

That sounds great but that isn’t always the case over here and I know we’re not alone in dealing with toddler tantrums getting dressed.

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Why the temper tantrums when dressing toddlers

There are many reasons why toddlers have temper tantrums, including those first thing in the morning tantrums getting dressed:

  • they had a bad night sleep so they’re still tired
  • their stomach is empty and they can’t articulate that they feel hungry so they freak out about clothing instead
  • if you or your spouse work outside the home, they are anticipating you leaving and they don’t want that
  • they are feeling anxious about going to daycare or preschool that morning
  • they feel a lack of control in their little lives and so they want to assert themselves when it comes to picking out their own clothes or dressing themselves
  • many, many other reasons that are seemingly unrelated to getting dressed in the morning (teething molars, adjusting to a new baby, a change in the house – even new furniture is a change in your toddler’s life)

Related content:

What to do first when your toddler tantrums

The first steps to dealing when your toddler tantrums getting dressed are the same as dealing with any temper tantrum: calm yourself and empathize.  Having someone kicking and screaming and yelling is stressful.  It doesn’t matter that it’s coming from a two year old – still stressful.  Take some deep breaths so you don’t get yourself worked up into an adult tantrum (aka, anger).

Then empathize with your little one.  They are frustrated or tired or hungry and they can’t explain that to you so they have a tantrum.  They really have so little control over their worlds, and they are starting to not like that.

How to deal with toddler tantrums getting dressed

You’re not always going to figure out a tantrum but just take a moment to think if there’s something obvious.

1. Deal with basic needs first:

If your child barely touched their food last night, maybe they’re super hungry this morning.  In this case, skip getting dressed until after breakfast.  Even if you usually get them dressed first, there’s no reason why you can’t switch it up if it’s really not working one morning.

2. Toddlers need to practice skills:

If your toddler wants to dress themselves, let them practice.  This won’t always be practical depending on how rushed you are in the mornings but it is important for them to practice and will build their confidence.  Try to get started a few minutes earlier in the morning if you see that your toddler is at a stage where they are really wanting to learn to dress themselves.  Of course we know we can dress our toddlers faster than they can dress themselves but this is where it’s a good exercise to try to be patient.  They are learning and this stuff is important.  Deep breaths mama when they inevitably get frustrated that they still need some help from you.  Slow down and work together.

3. Give choices…but not too many:

For a younger toddler giving a choice of two things they can pick from is probably enough.  An older toddler or preschooler can maybe pick from a drawer.  Pay attention if they’re getting overwhelmed by too many choices.

4. Let your toddler have some control:

This next point is my favorite tip for what to do if your toddler tantrums getting dressed and I think it’s a super important one. If your child wants to wear something that you think it totally ridiculous, let them.  They want to wear a cape to go for a walk?  Great.  They want to wear two different colored socks or a tutu to the grocery store, cool.  It is normal toddler behavior to want to start exercising control.  Give them times when they are allowed to and they will naturally tantrum less.  Their clothing is a safe area for them to practice making decisions and even seeing consequences.

My daughter (who is two) decided that she wanted to wear winter mitts out for our walk.  Which would be fine except it was the hottest day of July and she was in a sundress.  So a sundress and big old winter mitts.  Did I think it made sense?  Nope! (Though I did think it was cute)  I told her it was hot out and her hands would get warm, and then I let her wear them.  What was it going to hurt?  So she might get a bit sweaty or we might get a few odd looks from people who question my ability to dress my child.  So what?  She wore them for most of the walk and then decided her hands were too warm and wanted them off after about half an hour.

We as parents need to work on letting go of a bit of the control we want (for our kids to wear clothing that looks seasonally appropriate/matched/not like a Halloween costume…) and give a bit of the control to our kids.

What to do if you have no idea why your toddler tantrums getting dressed

It’s not always clear why your toddler is having a morning tantrum getting dressed.  If you have no clue why your sweet toddler flipped their lid at the suggestion of getting dressed, just take a guess and fall back on empathy.  “I think you’re…still sleepy/having a hard time with your new baby brother/miss me because I’ve been working a lot lately…”  Whatever the reason you might think, say it out loud to your toddler.  They are understanding and listening more than we think.  Even if they can’t say back to us “yes mama, I’m feeling sad because you spend so much time nursing new baby brother” (I mean most of us as adults are not that articulate all of the time), they are taking in what we are saying and it’s worth saying it out loud.

A lot of managing temper tantrums is not trying to control them in our toddlers.  It’s working with our toddlers, anticipating when they might have a tantrum, having empathy, and keeping ourselves calm.  Not an easy practice, but an important one!

If you’re interested in reading more about positive parenting, this book is a great book to get you started!

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How do you deal with toddler tantrums getting dressed?

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Sunday 6th of June 2021

My 2 yr will not let me dress her wants to do herself does not want help to the point of screaming that she wants to dress also takes clothes off if I put them on runs away will not let me put anything on 3ven change her diaper very frustrating help


Sunday 6th of June 2021

It can be super frustrating! There are times that it is non-negotiable with wearing clothes. Those times I empathized with my daughter that she didn't want to wear clothes but she had to (to go out for example). If she was at home and didn't want to wear anything, or wanted to wear a bathing suit in the winter, I let her. We have heating inside, it's not a big deal. I took away the fight the majority of the time - fine if she only wants to wear underwear for the whole day at home. If we're not going out that's fine. It makes it much easier if most of the time she gets her way when it really isn't a big deal. This eliminates so many battles and then they usually aren't quite as ferocious when you have to do something they don't want (diaper/clothing for going out). Good luck! xx


Monday 7th of September 2020

My child is 18 months old she do not want get dress at all do not want put nappy on mi tryed everything .tantrums are so bad to the point she banging her head on the floor .she wants take everything off if some how forced is put on . screams are so loud that she's loosing voice for minutes .this starts a week ago now I'm stuck at home as I don't want deal with this behaviour


Monday 7th of September 2020

Anna, I'm so sorry you're having such a challenging time with your toddler tantrums. So it's a new behavior? She might be going through a developmental leap and in that case it should pass soon. I would personally go with it - adjust what you do for now to get through this tough time. Like most things with parenting, they do usually pass. For my daughter, she got to a certain age (I can't remember when) and then hated the way certain clothing felt on her. Maybe your daughter is similar. If she's really having a tough time you could always take her in to see her pediatrician if you're worried. Hugs mama, it's not easy!

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