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Tuesday, 09 April 2013

The New Outfit: An Expert's Comments

Written by  Esther Boylan Wolfson

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Well, I don't know about you, but this is a scene that I find very familiar. Mom wants one thing, four-year-old wants something else and it ends up in a big tantrum! Trying to reason with a four-year-old, even when you happen to be objectively right, is never an easy job. In this drama, the mother's feelings are understandable; she wants her daughter to look nice for a special family occasion. She is a caring mother who is clearly trying to do the right thing.


She goes wrong, in my opinion, by giving her daughter only one option -- this one dress or nothing. In my experience, whenever possible, you can only benefit from offering young children several different options.

True, some situations are not open for discussion. A child cannot choose to walk in the street. A child can, however, be given leeway when it comes to choosing clothing. I understand exactly how this mom feels. After all, she went out and chose a special outfit just for this party. And she is certainly correct that she needs to teach her daughter to dress appropriately for special occasions. On the other hand, it is likely that this girl has some other party dresses on hand that, while they might not be the dress the mother has in mind, would probably also be quite appropriate.

Parents, understandably, often have a hard time letting go of the idealized image they have of family interaction. The mother picked out that dress and in her mind, it's what her daughter must wear. She needs to let go of her own needs and images and allow her daughter to feel a certain amount of freedom and independence. She needs to extricate herself from a power struggle that she can only win by force. And she needs to question her motivation: What's more important? What her daughter wears -- or her daughter's feelings of competence and control?

Read the drama!

Last modified on Tuesday, 09 April 2013 15:36
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Esther Boylan Wolfson

Esther Boylan Wolfson

Esther Wolfson , director of our Early Childhood Development Center is an Early Childhood Specialist, who received her BA in English Communications from Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University and an MA in Early Childhood Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, both in New York City. Esther worked as a pre-school special education teacher for seven years. Three of those years were spent working in a school for language delayed pre-schoolers, which is her area of specialty. Another special love of hers is cooking with young children. One of her most enjoyable projects was developing a program for cooking with pre-school children for three special education programs. Esther and her husband Myles have three boys aged eight, five and two-years-old. While her three lively boys and her work at WholeFamily, keep her quite busy, in her spare time (if she ever has any!) she is an avid reader who also enjoys creative writing, exercising and swimming.

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