Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.
A battle to bundle up — Good Parenting
Dear Dr. Debbie,
My 3-year-old son has a double ear infection. I do my best to give him nutritious food, a good night’s sleep, and clean hands before eating, but we don’t agree about bundling up in cold weather. He wiggles away when I try to zip his jacket and can’t stand to wear a hat. Forget about gloves or mittens — he has lost about 10 pairs already at his child care center. How can I help him dress properly for cold weather?
Don’t miss last week’s column Curing a whiney 4-year-old — Good Parenting
Dear Chilly Mother,
Did you ever hear a sweater defined as something you put on when your mother’s cold? Could be that your son creates more body heat than you do — especially when he’s running around outdoors. You may be cold, but he’s not. Actually, germs and low resistance cause ear infections — not brisk fresh air. At any age, there is less risk of catching germs in the out-of-doors than from stale indoor air and contagious surfaces. One “benefit” to children spending time in groups with other children before formal schooling begins is that they will catch and develop immunities to plenty of germs — and miss less school later. Runny noses and ear infections are run-of-the-mill among preschoolers, especially during winter weather.
If your son finds anything on his body to be annoying there’s a chance that he is “touch sensitive.” People with this trait take shoes off at any opportunity, cut tags out of shirt collars, and protest if socks have seams. If this applies to your challenge to dress him, find styles, fabrics, and detergents that do not irritate his skin. A snug fit is sometimes better than clothing that brushes against his skin as he moves. Have you tried fleece ear warmers? Or a knitted headband?
It may be that his refusal to wear a hat is related to pain inside his ears. He may be trying, albeit in a misdirected way, to avoid any pressure on his inflamed inner ears. Let him know that there will be less pain from cold air if his ears are covered. A cold breeze into an infected ear canal can feel like a nail being driven into his little head.
As for lost mittens — the old-fashioned style was to connect each mitten or glove to a cord which is threaded through both sleeves. They can dangle at his wrists if he needs to use his bare hands for something, and not easily get mislaid. If you can’t find mittens or gloves that come this way, it’s easy enough to stitch them to each other with a cloth ribbon or some braided (to add strength) piece of yarn.
Independence with dressing is a typical yearning for 3-year-olds. You’ll have fewer dressing battles if his clothes are easy to reach and easy for him to put on by himself. A full-length mirror by his coat hook will encourage him to get his own things on.
Likewise, opposition is a typical stance for preschoolers to have especially at ages 2 and 4, particularly for any issue involving the body. I suggest a silly ritual for any item of clothing that still requires your assistance. Ask your son why you can’t seem to get the hat on his elbow or his knee. Does it go on his foot? My grandson, now 2, giggles and points to the right body part whenever we play this game with his pajamas or his hat. “No, Bubbie. Goes here!” he says pointing to the appropriate spot.
And one last bit of advice. “You’ll be cold” holds no meaning at room temperature. Take the child and the outerwear outside and let the chilly outdoor air temperature speak for itself.
Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com