What my 3 year old will wear

One shirt my son will wear

These are Lightning’s friends

Hugo will only wear one of two shirts now. I understand this is typical 3 year old behavior but I thought I’d write about it to see if anyone has any ideas to make his wardrobe a little more reasonable.

Back in the fall, we had an incident where Hugo fell to pieces one evening because he only wanted to wear an “alligator shirt.” I guess he had one shirt with an alligator, I can’t even remember now. We have an awesome supply of hand-me-downs so after about 20 minutes of heart-wrenching tears, I pulled out a couple of boxes of clothes to look for another shirt with something that looked like an alligator. We found one! Then I went to about four outlet stores looking for other alligator shirts and settled for T-Rex, which turned out to be an acceptable substitute at the time.

Within a couple of months, Hugo only wanted to wear shirts with Thomas the Tank Engine (or friends) on them. We had a few and I picked up another around his birthday. Most recently, he only wants to wear shirts from Cars or its terrible sequel, Cars 2. We have about 4 or 5 of them, so it wasn’t a problem. I’m luxuriating in being home now and having time to do laundry at other times than Sunday afternoon.

Then last night, there was a problem. My least favorite Go time of day is putting his PJs on, whether it’s bath night or not. He thinks it’s funny to run around like a lunatic and not let me dress him. I always let him pick out his own shirt for the next day, which he sleeps in, and I don’t fight with him over socks that he will wear continually between baths. I try not to pit my will against his when it’s not necessary.

There was a grey shirt with Lightning McQueen on it that I grabbed and threw on Hugo while he was trying to dodge me and come up with reasons why he didn’t want to wear it. There were tears. He finally said that he only wants to wear shirts with “Lightning’s friends” on them. We have two of those, including the one in the photo here. I had to run to other end of the house for a few minutes and Hugo just kept wailing and crying, unable to remove the offensive shirt.

I came back and hugged him for a minute before asking him if he wanted to pick out a different shirt. I did his laundry yesterday, so it happened that one of the two shirts he will now wear was clean. But I’m not going to wash those shirts every day or two. What can you do?

Do you have any tips for getting a preschooler to wear one of his many shirts that may not be a favorite?


12 thoughts on “What my 3 year old will wear

  1. Oh the memories…I went through a very similar phase with my now-grown daughter, not over clothes so much. (she would wear anything as long as it came in pink) Her major attachment was to a pair of white cowgirl boots my grandmother bought her for christmas that year. For almost the next year I had to fight tooth and nail to pry those boots off of her feet for any reason. She would have even tried to wear them into the bathtub if I had let her. Most nights I had to slide them off her feet very carefully after she fell asleep and leave them right next to her bed.

    There were many tears of frustration when her feet finally outgrew her precious boots, but thankfully my dad found her something that to her was a suitable replacement, a pair of pink sparkly tennis shoes that had pretty lights on them that blinked when she walked. Thankfully her heartbreak over outgrowing her boots didn’t last long once she decided she really liked her pretty new sneakers.

    We have thankfully not reached this stage with my one year old quite yet, his biggest clothing pet peeve being his refusal to wear shoes or socks, which lead me to buying him boots that zipped over his ankle to keep him from pulling them off. The toddler years are famous for this sort of thing though. What the little guy loves one day, he won’t be able to stand the next. Hang in there, it will pass, hopefully by the time he goes to kindergarden.


  2. I don’t think I have any tips, but I think it is a normal phase and like all phases, will pass eventually. I remember my son wearing a superman shirt with a cape NON STOP for an entire summer when he was four. And we kind of just let him, except when it was being washed. IDK, I guess I’ve gotten to the point where if they are basically clean and safe then I don’t really care that much what they have on their bodies. Case in point, my daughter is now married to a purple tutu that she is wearing over her pants, under her dresses, and at night on top of her pj’s. When it gets crusty with oatmeal and ketchup and peanut butter, we strip it off her and wash it, but I figure she’ll get sick of it sooner or later. I think it is just a developmental thing, and helps them build their sense of self. . . but man can they be stubborn!


    • That really made me laugh, thank you! I am being a little stubborn about not wanting him to wear a dirty shirt to school. I’m sure the teachers understand how it is. I didn’t mention in the blog, but I understand that life is making him feel like everything is out of his control so he clings onto things he can control. I’m the same way sometimes, who can blame him?


      • I think you are right. The summer my kid wore the superman shirt he had a babysitter he really didn’t like and was about to start a new school so I thought the shirt helped him to feel a sense of power and security. They are such complicated little beings. Xox.


  3. I feel your pain. The problem with us always started when I gave them the choice early. All of a sudden, they realize they have more power than they thought. While it is fun to watch them pick out something of their choice, they will expect it every time. The only thing that has worked for me is pushing through the tears and making them wear it regardless, and then stating the following day they can go back to his favs. Hope this helps!


  4. Pingback: Going into labor | Long Live Go

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