Q&A: The Struggle of Winter Wear

Question and Answer

Six year old Carina Lemire of Chesterfield, MA dressed for the weather while participating at the Berkshire Trails Bill Koch Youth Ski League at Notchview in Windsor, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Anyone else fight with their kids to keep their jackets/gloves/hats on when it’s cold outside?!… Anyone winning those fights?!

  • Nancy Cavillones writes: I decided a long time ago that if its so cold they would freeze without the gear, then we have no business being outside in the first place. So, I don’t even fight that battle… so not worth it! They can learn the hard way what happens when you don’t listen to your mother (insert evil cackle).
  • Roberta Fortini-Curran writes: Every day.. and no I’m not!  But then again, I didn’t listen when my mother told me.
  • Michael Phillips writes: Sometimes my mouth starts moving, but usually the awesome memories of sledding and rolling around all day in the snow with just a t-shirt on slip into my head in time.  If kids are having too much fun to be cold then they are fine. Hot chocolate will motivate any blue children inside for a bit.
  • Josh Stearns writes: I actually wrote about the hats/gloves/jacket struggle recently.
  • Jude McGowan writes: Parents need to be parents and make sure their kids are dressed appropriately… I see way too many kids who are walking around w/out coats and hats/mittens because their parents don’t want to “upset” their children. Making sure your kids are protected against the elements is part of the job description… we are not here to be their buddies… they may not like our choices for them, but until they are able to make good choices, that’s our job.
  • Megan Sielken writes: Wow, if only “not wanting to upset my child” were the reason my kid occasionally appears outside without his mittens on… I guess I choose to have fewer fights and keep the mittens in my bag for the time when he’s ready to put them on on his own terms.  Yes, the role we play as parents is complicated and most certainly challenging. And when I see children outside without various pieces of outerwear, I can certainly imagine the earnest efforts their parents must have taken to ensure their child’s well-being.
  • Pauline Renee writes: Usually if I let him outside without what *I* consider appropriate gear. He will let me know when he gets cold.  I know when I was pregnant I would get very tired of explaining to people that I WAS NOT COLD going outside coatless in New England winters… my body was running at a much higher temp than theirs and I was perfectly comfortable. I would imagine that in many cases our kids feel the same. Anyway, while I agree that we have to keep our kids *safe*, I think it’s also wise to let children pay attention to their body signals. If it’s a matter of playing in the snow with no mittens on a cold day, I would make him wear mittens (because then it’s a *safety* issue versus a comfort issue… frostbite versus being chilly… being cold does not make you sick). If it’s a matter of us walking around outside in weather that is cold but there’s no risk of frostbite or anything, it’s not a battle I need to fight just to show I’m the boss. Kids tend to run hotter than we do. If he asks for his coat while we’re outside, he gets it. I don’t play the “your punishment for not putting it on inside is that you now have to suffer.” I think it teaches kids that they can trust us to support them in making very small choices in life. — On a somewhat related note, I read an article where a study showed that litler kids (like under 4 years old or so) truly do NOT recall how they felt last time, too, so saying “remember how you felt last time?” is a little useless. They need the new experience for awhile. — To more directly answer your question: We don’t have the battle often, and I *think* that because we don’t battle the small stuff, our almost 5-year old is starting to understand that when we ARE firm it’s for a good reason.
  • Sienna Wildfield writes: Our daughter is 8yo and we’ve been struggling with her for many years on the winter dress issue. Making her wear outerwear that is bulky and gets in the way of her climbing trees or running wild makes her feel constrained (read “miserable”…)… and often times she complains of being too hot. As one of her veteran teachers once pointed out about recess time, some kids are just warmer than others. — It’s refreshing to read that other parents have the same struggles and that many let their kids self regulate. That’s about where we’re at these days. When our daughter was younger, before she had the ability to recall previous experiences of being cold, as Pauline points out, we were more insistent that she dressed for the weather. Now we pick and choose our battles, and on winter days when she complains about being too hot in her winter jacket, we make her at least carry it so she has it for when she does get cold. — I feel one of my many jobs as her parent is to help foster her abilities to make healthy and wise decisions on how to take care of herself. If I allow her to get cold now (with jacket in hand) the hope is eventually she’ll learn to pack/wear a jacket/hat/mittens on her own when I’m not around to nag her!

4 Comments on “Q&A: The Struggle of Winter Wear

  1. My 4 year old runs really hot. While we don’t battle over the clothing, I think he actually over heats without realizing it sometimes. So on days that aren’t bitterly cold, or really windy, I have him wear a mid-heavy fleece jacket instead of his winter jacket (also safer in his car seat). I bring his rain jacket so if he starts to feel cold or the wind picks up, I have him put the rain jacket over the fleece. The combo is just like one of those 3-in-1 jackets (also a good option) and teaches kids how to layer and self-regulate based on their activity level. It’s a great option for a kid who hates bulky stuff or on school days where it’s really cold first thing in the morning (wear both layers) but will warm up by the time the kids have outside time (only needs fleece). Another option is start with a warmer base or middle layer so the outer layer can be less bulky. Like a wool or thin fleece shirt. I agree with the sentiment that it’s a requirement to wear clothing appropriate to the weather, but you also need to listen to your kid to figure out what will work for them. Having options I think helps with compliance.

  2. Thank you for your great contribution to the conversation, Isolda! Sharing the variations of family customs practiced in our community, at the different stages of a childs development, is so useful and enabling in the acceptance of the diversity found in our fabulous community. Thanks again! So great!

  3. All of these parenting issues, including what children wear, are partly culturally defined and greatly influenced by socio-economic class. It reminds me of pre-school teachers telling us, “We offer the children a smock for art class and they can choose to wear it or not wear it.” In other words, it’s o.k. for the children to ruin their clothes and that is what is normal and good. That was not our reality growing up, nor could we imagine not teaching our son to take care of his things. Similarly, going outside without warm clothes on is simply non-negotiable in our home: you may not leave the house without them. Every family has its own customs and parents have to do what works for their family. For our part, we believe that certain things are non-negotiable, such a hitting, speaking disrespectfully, not sharing, breaking other children’s toys, dressing warmly, wearing sunscreen and hat in summer, etc. If we as parents hold the line, then children don’t have a choice but to go along. That doesn’t mean our son doesn’t try to break the rules sometimes or that there aren’t areas where we choose to be more flexible, but that as loving parents it is our job to take care of him and guide him. I’m intrigued by parents who ask a young child, “Are you ready to share now?” or “Do you feel like saying hello?” Our son is a high-energy boy with a strong personality and we’re used to his spirited non-compliance and mischievousness. Enforcing boundaries needn’t mean shaming children or not loving their strong spirits. By the same token, failing to set limits or to teach compassion and respect for others doesn’t readily translate as unbounded parental love. Like everyone, there are days I’m pulling my hair out and I continue to make mistakes. On the other hand, our son knows that part of loving him is teaching him that he cannot always get his way. It’s nice to know that he can travel to other parts of the world and greet people and behave nicely in their homes, even though I’m prepared for the fact that, like any young kid, he may accidentally break that gorgeous decorative object if we’re not watching!

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