If it were up to my third grader, this is how he would dress every day – gym shorts, a t-shirt, and knee-high gym socks. It’s what his friends are all wearing. And jeans are too constricting for the daily kickball game at recess. And, as he emphatically claims, he never gets cold. Like, never….EVER.
That last reason might in fact be a legitimate claim, because his own momma (me!) used to walk to two miles to school in Vermont winters with wet hair and the fact it resulted in icicles forming on her head still wasn’t motivation enough to start wearing a hat. We Vermonters are hardy stock. Or maybe kids are just stubborn.
This was Zip’s outfit-of-choice all summer long and while it’s just fine on a gorgeous fall day, when the sun is shining and it’s 70 degrees out, it’s not really weather-appropriate when we leave the house and there is frost on the ground. As the weather cools and pleasant mornings intermix with cold, blustery ones, we end up with daily battles over wardrobe choices – especially the need for a sweatshirt or jacket.
It is an annual tradition, as predictable as the bright autumn leaves in October. For whatever reason my kids, not to mention a lot of other kids we know, resist the transition to fall wardrobes. And the sporadic weather – warm one day, frigid the next – doesn’t make it any easier.
I wanted to start our mornings off on a positive note, not arguing over a stupid sweatshirt. So Zip and I sat down and we came up with guidelines – together. At what point is it cold enough a sweatshirt is needed? What about a coat? Hat? Mittens? We built in some flexibility, like being able to choose either shorts or pants when the weather is in the 50s. I also tried to acknowledge that Zip’s threshold for getting cold really is higher than mine. I thought about what I would wear and let him shift the temperature down about 10 degrees…which is why our guidelines allow him to wear shorts when it is 50 degrees outside.
Then, I typed it all up into a pretty little chart (ClipArt!) that we taped to the mud room door. The temperature – not me and not my husband – dictates what he needs to wear. That is the key. Making the issue about “external” guidelines rather than about us telling him what to do is very effective shift. It is much harder to argue with a piece of paper than with us.
And although I am creating a structure that will meet my goal of having him dress appropriately, I wanted to empower Zip with the sense he is being given responsiblity to handle this. I found our indoor/outdoor thermometer and put it in the boys’ bathroom, so that Zip can check the weather for himself. We’re no longer telling him what to do – we’re pointing him to the thermometer and a chart to figure it out, which feels much better to a 9-year-old who wants (and needs) to feel competent and respected.
Yes, we sometimes have to fall back on “The chart is the chart” when he starts to resist. But the arguments, when they happen, are short-lived and much less heated. We leave the house on a happier note, with hugs and kisses instead of an argument. It’s a way better start to our day!