But eventually the firefighter had to come out of his costume, and since the hat was a no-go at preschool, Loosli thought of other ways to pacify her son. "I found that I could get him to wear part of the outfit—maybe just the shirt or the shorts." Then she discovered she could get her son to wear a T-shirt with a fire truck on it instead of his outfit. Eventually, they settled on red and yellow being firefighter colors. As long as her son was wearing one of those colors, he still felt like he was a firefighter.
For more immediate relief from dressing down your superhero or princess, Dr. Caudle gives a couple of ideas:
- Give your child adequate time to wear dress-up clothes.
- Praise her when she changes into her normal clothes.
- Let her know that she can put her dress-up clothes on when you are at home.
Reinforcement for desired behavior should always be the first line of defense, and if your child is reassured that she'll get dress-up time, chances are she'll be more willing to do what you ask.
You can also point out the disadvantages of wearing dress-up clothes outside of the home—like it's hard to climb stairs with a cape, or a tiara might fall off at the park. "Arrange some special activity that can only be done without the dress up, like a few minutes playing with Mom or a piggyback ride from Dad," suggests Dr. Caudle.
Too Old for Dress Up?
Children are slow to outgrow dressing up, says Dr. Caudle. Instead of giving up dressing up altogether, they might just become more covert at doing it (perhaps by donning dress-up clothes only when they think you won't be around). "As a parent, I would become concerned when other children are focusing on it and teasing a child about it. If a kid gets a lot of teasing or is standing out, parents might want to investigate further."
In the end, your child will most likely outgrow his dress-up phase, just as he outgrows an old pair of sneakers—and eventually you'll fondly recall the days your little one was an adorable, pint-sized superhero.