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Coat Tales

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Refuses To Wear Their Winter Jacket

Do you have a "weather resistant" child? With cold weather arriving it’s time to look at coat strategies.

Principle of "Un-parenting" – Life Lessons from Mother Nature
If left to their own ingenuity, a child that is cold will seek out coats and mitts. They learn the "natural consequence" of not wearing proper attire – you get cold! Mother Nature does the teaching and children learn the fastest from this approach. The parent’s job is to "un-parent". Stand back and let this life lesson unfold without saying "see" or "I told you so" or "if you’d only listened to me."

Principle of "Felt Minus to Felt Plus"
Coat wars only arise when parents try to protect their children from experiencing the natural consequences. The child feels as if they are being dominated, and will not tolerate being put in a subordinate ("felt minus") role. In refusing to obey the command "put on your coat" they move from feeling "felt minus" to feeling "felt plus" (as in "Ha, ha you can’t make me!").

This is a power struggle. The parent tries not to be defeated by their child, and child tries not to be dominated by the parent. None of this has anything to do with coats or weather. Now it is all about winning and losing. Cooperation is predicated on people feeling as "equals". This requires a shift from "power over people" to "power over problems".

Medical Note: People catch colds from a cold virus, usually circulated via indoor air, not from being cold outside. Hypothermia and frostbite should not be a threat this early in the season. Start these strategies now!


Take Time For Training – especially now while the weather is turning.

Planning small outings to the corner store or playing in the back yard where they can safely experience getting cold. Chances are if you have been dressing them they are usually hot! Model how you decide what to wear: "Gee, I think I’ll step outside and check the weather. Brrr, it’s colder than yesterday. I think I’m going to wear my mitts. What are about you? What are you going to wear?" Let them decide!

Mistakes Are Okay

We learn from our mistakes. That is what feedback is all about. It is hard to learn about how much clothing to wear without getting it wrong a few times. If they get cold on the way the corner store they’ll know to wear more next time. Don’t say a word! You are not the teacher, Nature is. Shhhhh, you’re interrupting the lesson!

Show Faith
"I’m sure when you are feeling cold you’ll look after yourself. You know where your things are. I trust you to know your body best."

Natural Consequences should not be used if Mother Nature’s lesson is too severe, or affects too many others. In these cases try the following:

Offer Choice
"Would you like to wear your coat or carry it for yourself? Leaving your coat at home is not a choice."

When/Then Statements
"We can’t go without coats, so when your coat is on I’ll know you are ready to go."

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

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