Cooler Temps, Hotter Tempers; Getting Kids to Wear More Clothes in The Fall

One thing I love about the summertime is NOT having to negotiate appropriate clothing choices every single day with my child. It’s refreshing to simply open the door and nudge her outside to play, unconcerned about the length of her shorts or the absence of her shoes. For me, summertime weather = easier* mornings as a parent. (Note: * I said “easier,” not “easy.” From my experience and referring to every parent I know, mornings with kids never are, or have been, easy. Ever.)

On the contrary, the cooler temperatures that the Northern Hemisphere sees in the Fall pulls me out of these quasi-mellow mornings. In my hometown, Autumn temperatures mean mornings hover just around freezing, indicating it’s time to get our home and yard ready for upcoming snowfall, I need to see if my daughter still fits in her snow gear from last year, and it’s time to scheme a new, effective method of getting my daughter to actually wear appropriately warm clothes.

My daughter is a smart girl. So, when I look at how the bird bath froze the night before andI say, “Honey, it’s literally freezing outside. Shorts are not a good choice,” I expect her to understand. Instead, I’ve received some unhelpful, mumbling retort as she lists off reasons why life is unfair, how I boss her around, and how she never feels listened to.

Copyright Sara Zimmerman/
Copyright Sara Zimmerman/

I get it. She’s eight years old and claiming her independence, wants to feel heard, wants to feel responsible. And all that parenting psycho-analysis reiterates that I need to not only be putting money away for her college-fund, but also for a therapy-fund. OK, I get it.

But, c’mon! It’s 25 degrees Fahrenheit with an expected high of 48. It’s the opposite of warm. It’s cold, people have died in these temperatures, and it’s my job to keep her alive (whether she likes it or not). So, no, shorts and flip-flops are never going to be appropriate attire on Fall days. Never.

And it’s not like my requirements are different day to day. It’s not like one day I decide that below-freezing is somehow a safe temperature for my kid to wear flip-flops to school, and the next day I ban flip-flop wearing just because I like being a tyrannical parent who likes to exercise my right to be bossy. As much fun as she thinks I’m having administering these “silly” rules, I just want her to stay healthy. Is that too much to ask?

Me asking her to bring, let alone wear, a coat makes me wish I understood the delicate psychological nuances utilized by top hostage negotiators. Since I don’t, I’ve reverted to using every approach I know:

  • I state the obvious facts that cold can equate to illness or death. Despite her often making good choices in other parts of her life, that tactic rarely works on the account of her wanting to be right.
  • I have her step outside to sample the weather while wearing her inappropriate Summer clothes choices where, despite shivering and seeing her breath as she talks, she wants to prove me wrong saying, “See? I’m fine.”
  • To avoid taking away privileges, I have tried simple pleading, as well as bargaining, finding that those often don’t work either because she is determined to be upset.
  • Occasionally bribery has worked just to help me on days when I’m sick and/or don’t have the energy or time to engage in this manner.
  • I have thought about recording the debate and when it starts each morning, just hitting play so we can skip actually doing it, but I forget until the argument is done and over.
  • But, more often than not, a reminder of our agreement from days prior to “not do this again” AND a removal of privileges is the tactic that tends to work.
Copyright Sara Zimmerman/
Copyright Sara Zimmerman/

Regardless of which mode works, in the end, we somehow get warm clothes on her and, yes, she stays alive (huzzah!).

Circumstances like this remind me that parenting is not easy. Sometimes these situations are beyond frustrating, especially when I feel like my life is stuck on “repeat,” like a song I hate being played over and over and over. And, often, I find it bewildering, requiring more patience than I thought any human could have. But, I then I realize that these frustrating times are cyclical and that they, too, shall pass; because, in between those times, (aka “Times I Often Resist)”, come some of our best experiences together. I have to remember that those difficult moments are only fleeting, and are always sandwiched between the great, rewarding moments of parenthood, (like when she finally dons her overstuffed clothes, squealing with excitement while sporting a huge grin on her face, as she jumps into several feet of fresh snow). That smile, that laugh, that enjoyment… THAT’S when it is all worth it.

So, regardless of whether we’ve had that exact same argument before or not, part of our cycle is remembering that we are IN a cycle. I’m realizing it’s up to me to be the patient one and that providing guidance and discipline is just part of my role as a parent. It’s also up to me to let her practice having and owning her emotions, as unpleasant as they may be. The more I recall that we are going to have some ups and downs, I stop resisting them, accept them, accept her, and the whole predicament passes more smoothly than the last cycle. Though it does mean that we may have to replay numerous disagreements, it’s just part of this funky parenting rhythm, which comes not just with tears, but also with laughs and love (which, she now agrees, are always waaaaaayyyy more cuddlier when wearing our warm down jackets and fuzzy hats).

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