Kid=1 Snow Pants=0
November 16, 2012 5:32 PM   Subscribe

My child hates/refuses to wear outdoor clothing? HELP!

Our wonderful daughter has never liked winter clothing. She complains it is restrictive, uncomfortable, and hot. In fact, she throws a tantrum when she has to wear any of the following: a hat, winter coat, or snow pants. However, we live in a place with very cold winters. Now that she is in school, her school requires that she come to school with ALL of the above. This morning is typical of the situation. We spent 10 minutes getting her coat and snow pants on. She then had a full on tantrum on the floor that everything was too uncomfortable or cuddly; this lasted an additional 10 minutes. I finally got her in the car, and she wanted her coat and mittens off (uncomfortable in her booster seat) 5 minutes. Then got to school and she had a tantrum in the car because she didn't want to put her coat back on for 10 minutes. When I finally got her to school (late), I was exhausted and almost in tears. This happens every morning. She would be happy with a coat (unzipped) and no hat, mittens, or snow pants, but it is winter, and we get disapproving looks from her teacher. On the way home, it is the same thing in reverse. She wants to take all her winter stuff off in the car (too uncomfortable, too hot). She screamed and a had a tantrum for most of the way home because of her snow pants; the coat came off. This is easily adding an additional 30 minutes in the morning, not to mention the time after school. We have in turn tried being 1) Firm 2) Sympathetic 3) Compromising, but nothing seems to work. I am exhausted. I can't handle four more months of this! I don't want to fight with her, but I can't let her get frostbite either.
posted by white_magnolia to Human Relations (46 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How old is she?
posted by insectosaurus at 5:34 PM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Is the approval of her teacher really so important? She sounds absolutely miserable! Personally, I've always been way too hot in winter gear, even as a child. If she's so hot she wants to take the coat off, then she's not really suffering from the cold, is she?
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:39 PM on November 16, 2012 [19 favorites]

"Disapproving looks" from a putative adult who should know better is not a good reason to fight this fight. She'll wear it when she gets cold; if she doesn't get cold, great. I blither at my kid, too, to put a hat on or whatever, and often have to remind myself that she is running around and playing and being endlessly more physical than me and doesn't need anywhere near as much piled on her as I do. I bet it is uncomfortable and hot in the car (even worse if you have kicked a fuss) in all that. I'm in Canada so can reasonably confidently call BS on the idea that kids are running a risk of frostbite in November. Once it stops being a locus of control and once it gets colder it will sort itself out.

(If the school requires that she come with all of that she can come with it, no?)
posted by kmennie at 5:41 PM on November 16, 2012 [15 favorites]

She would be happy with a coat (unzipped) and no hat, mittens, or snow pants, but it is winter, and we get disapproving looks from her teacher.

Great, let her teacher parent his or her own kids. Whatever.

Put the child in the care in no snowpants and an open jacket. Put on the snowpants and jacket and make sure the child has a hat in the school parking lot. This may well add 30 minutes to your day but at least it isn't spent with screaming.

When you come out, LET her take all her winter stuff off when she gets in the car. You can decide that nobody leaves the car without a coat, but you do not actually need to have the battles you're having.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:42 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

She won't get frostbite in the car. Can you just let her have the coat on unzipped, put the hat and mittens clipped to the coat so she won't lose them, and let her be?
posted by ambrosia at 5:43 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

She's a preschooler, yes?

Absolutely choose your battles here. Open coat - fine, whatever. The heck with the disapproving looks. She won't get frostbite.

If the school requires that she HAS all the rest, bring it along in a duffel bag.
posted by pantarei70 at 5:43 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

What kind of snow pants are you using? The thick insulated ones that I had when I was a wee thing were awful - restrictive and way too hot. My folks switched to single-layer nylon ones that were just fine for everything but wading through ice water or really extended play in warmish (melty) weather.

And yeah, I have vivid sensory memories of being absolutely fucking miserable in a down coat in weather much too warm for it for *me*. I run hot, and always have, and my mother doesn't, so there were a lot of "I'm cold, put on a sweater" struggles. Mittens should be on if she's going to be outside for a while, hat if she's cold, likewise zipped coat, but if she's hot and miserable then she's hot and miserable and you're not doing her any favors.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:46 PM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

Nobody needs to wear blizzard gear to get into and out of a car unless there's a good chance the car is going to break down or something. I would be having a tantrum too. I would just pack the stuff in a bag and let her ask for it if she wants it. Maybe explain to the teacher that you want her to be comfortable and happy and associate school with anticipation and happiness rather than tantrums and discomfort.
posted by bleep at 5:47 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh, I sympathize with your daughter! I can't stand to wear a coat while riding in a car. And snow pants, ugh forever.

Does she have other strong reactions caused by sensory issues? There's an excellent book called The Out-of-Sync Child that talks a lot about helping kids work out strategies to manage meltdowns caused by sensory discomfort.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:48 PM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Where are you? Unless you actually do have snow on the ground right now, I'd question if the snow pants are REALLY necessary. And tell that teacher to mind her own business, the kid is fine.

Since her only time outside is the walk from the house to the car plus from the car into the school, just shove the hat in her pocket and let her wear her coat unzipped: refuse to engage in the fight, basically. Also, how high do you have the car heater set, and are the vents pointing directly at her?
posted by easily confused at 5:49 PM on November 16, 2012

It takes a lot for me to wear a coat while I'm in the car, and when I go to work it's seriously 5 minutes to get to the car, heater while I'm in it, then five minutes to get into the building. Unless she's going outside for recess it seems crazy to require all of these layers when she's only spending a few minutes going from one temperature-controlled space to another. I agree with the people above who said open coat in the car and everything else can be in a bag that goes with her in case it's needed. Some people just run warmer than others!
posted by brilliantine at 5:54 PM on November 16, 2012

I realize my mom would not approve of my answer, but once when she wasn't watching me walk down the street I walked in my socks to school in the snow (I didn't like my boots!) and got frostbitten. Lesson learned.

If it's actually necessary, she'll figure it out through trial and error, and if it's not, bring it along in a bag in case the school sends kids outside to make snow angels or whatever.
posted by asperity at 6:00 PM on November 16, 2012

My 3-year-old hates all those things too, but is required to wear them when they go outside at preschool. Our compromise is that she can bring it all in a bag. She doesn't have to wear a coat if she is just going from home to the car and to school - we don't live in Siberia, she's not going to get frostbite.

I do get disapproving looks for this from teachers and other parents, but I don't care. If they want to argue with her for 20 minutes every morning they are welcome to.
posted by sutel at 6:02 PM on November 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm just chiming in here to agree with the people who recall being too hot when "bundled up" for a Canadian winter, and especially with restless_nomad's memory of "I'm cold, put on a sweater". It's only mid-November and snow pants are serious overkill (maybe unless you're posting from the Yukon).

Sometimes you have to side with your kid against an unreasonably restrictive school rule.
posted by zadcat at 6:03 PM on November 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

I hated winter clothes too as a kid, for pretty much the same reasons as your kid. They felt too tight/warm/restrictive and it was really uncomfortable. It was similar to the feeling I used to get when a relative would hug me a little too tight. Just a overwhelming, uncomfortable feeling.

However, it's absolutely true that a coat, hat, and mittens/gloves are necessary in cold winter weather. I grew up in central New York where it was really cold. But snow pants? Is there a reason the school is requiring those? They really shouldn't be necessary unless they are taking the children outside to play in the snow.

Is it possible that some of your daughters winter things are too tight? With all the extra padding in winter coats and snow pants, it's sometimes advisable to go up a size from your child's regular size.

Also some kids prefer gloves to mittens. I always did. They're more tactile so you can still touch things and manipulate objects, unlike mittens.

I also recommend just putting her coat and maybe hat on for the car ride and saving everything else for when she gets to school. I'm assuming you heat your car so there's no reason to be all bundled up in the car.
posted by katyggls at 6:06 PM on November 16, 2012

If your child is a preschooler, I recommend the Patagonia puff ball pants. They're not as thick as regular snow pants. My kid LOVES them.
posted by k8t at 6:13 PM on November 16, 2012

I can sympathize, as someone who once felt the same way. :)

And, I can offer you a solution: Get her dressed outside. 30 seconds in the cold and she'll BEG for the coat and hat and mittens. And no, it won't kill her to go out in the cold without a jacket for a minute or two.
posted by pla at 6:18 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

This was me as a child, only in a chilly but not super snowy environ.

I agree with others that you should pick your battles. As a kid, I hated pants because they itched. So I wore shorts or dresses year round. It wasn't cold enough where I could have gotten harmed, so my parents let it slide.

As long as she's not going to get frost bite or whatever, I think she'll be fine. I imagine if she gets really cold, she'll want those things. For now, let her keep her coat unzipped and make sure she has the hat/mittens/etc packed in her backpack in case she wants them for recess or whatnot.
posted by too bad you're not me at 6:19 PM on November 16, 2012

Possible bonus for choosing not to die on this particular hill: Your daughter could eventually forget that it's a source of stress for everyone involved*, lose her own anxiety about it, and then be more willing to bundle up in genuine frostbite situations.

*because wow, do small children pick up on THAT kind of thing readily...
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:25 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Does she have to WEAR it all to school, or just BRING it all to school for outside play? If the answer is bring, just put her in the coat and carry the rest of it in a backpack. (Possible battle you can win: "I will let you just CARRY your snowpants, but we must zip your jacket if you're not wearing snowpants." She may be willing to buy her way out of snowpants with a zipped jacket.)

If you haven't already, maybe try letting her try on and pick out her own coat and/or hat and mittens? My preschooler is a little weird about hats but if we go to Target and I let him pick it out from among several hats that are acceptable to me, he'll wear it. Whereas if I just come home with one he won't. I'm honestly not sure if it's the fit or the look of it or the fabric or what, but if he picks it out, he'll wear it. Maybe a coat that seems size too big will be more comfortable for her, or something.

She won't get frostbite between the house and the car, or the car and the school. Sometimes when mine is being hat-and-mitten-rejecting, I fuss and fret that his hands and ears are too cold, but really, I figure he'll express noisy discomfort before it gets to a frostbite level.

Hopefully you can talk to the teacher and get some sympathy for "this is not a battle we're going to fight at home right now." (What happens at school? Will she put on the gear for the teacher?) If she can't be sympathetic, that teacher just needs to STFU and keep her judgy looks to herself. :P
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:29 PM on November 16, 2012

You should read Thomas's Snowsuit.
posted by Violet Hour at 6:38 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

That's really difficult. I think those who are recommending that you get her in what she's willing to wear and drop the rest off in a bag have the best approach.

One thing that might help your decision-making on this might be the instructive from carseat manufacturers and emergency response personnel to not have children in bulky winter clothing while in booster seats or other carseats, because it reduces the efficacy of the restraint system. For me, that pretty much equals putting those things on at the destination point, rather than beforehand.

Teacher disapproval isn't something I'd base this complicated interaction with your daughter on, if I were in your position (and I have been, recently - mine doesn't want to put on her jacket before heading outside at daycare, and that tends to be what she goes directly to at drop-off, which has led to frowns from a couple of the morning ladies).
posted by batmonkey at 6:41 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unless she's going outside for recess it seems crazy to require all of these layers

She probably is. But at recess it's the teacher's problem and there's peer pressure to help her get ready.

Agreed with everyone that you compromise on some of the gear (maybe just the coat and boots) and bring the rest with, when it's just to and from school. If its somewhere where you're going to be outside a while (skiing or something) then naturally, have the fight.

Look, I do live in a place where there's snow on the ground right now, and where it was -25 F this morning, and while I gear up my daughter before we get in the car (since otherwise we 'll forget something, like the snow pants), there are lots of parents who don't bother, and it's not a big deal (unless the car breaks down). And the kids go out to recess as long as it's above -20.
posted by leahwrenn at 6:42 PM on November 16, 2012

Chiming in to say I'm Another grown-up who was like this. My mom finally made a rule that I had to have the warm stuff With me, but didn't have to wear it. She figured that should I Actually get cold, I'd probably put in on (yes), and that forcing me to wear it just made me more upset. It was the perfect choice.

Yes, I did suffer a little frostbite while walking through snow in flip-flops. But it was completely worthwhile to learn the lesson myself.
posted by ldthomps at 6:43 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you talk to the school and see what their bright red lines are concerning winter gear? They may just require that each kid have the gear available in the event of an emergency that requires evacuation outside.

Secondly, it might not hurt to get your kiddo evaluated for sensory issues. I remember being absolutely miserable due to tactile stuff as a small child, and I couldn't verbalize what was wrong. There are tons of things that can help.
posted by charmcityblues at 6:45 PM on November 16, 2012


1. if she has other sensory issues (tags on shirts or socks, for example), then this may be a sign of something more than "I hate wearing a coat" and you should look into sensory issues associated with spectrum disorders and other such things.

2. you could try letting her choose her own outdoor clothes -- toddlers and preschoolers often have meltdowns because they have no other way to communicate that they want control and choice. I had a kid once who refused to wear a hat until I presented him with two options. He picked the one he liked and then that was that. They want choice, but limited choice. Pink snowpants or purple ones? The end.

3. if this is an issue with the school, then you need to talk with them, especially since it does seem to be a sensory issue. No right-minded school is going to require a kid that is freaking out to wear the very thing that is freaking them out. Find out the issue and then figure it out with them. Start with the teacher, then go to the developmental specialist, then the principal.

4. if you show your stress, then the kid will respond accordingly. I know it's frustrating, but try to remain calm and collected. If she senses you are going to lose it, she'll feel the same. Try choices and then if she refuses, then go on about your morning, snowpants or no. Don't beg. Don't cry. Don't bargain. Toddlers and preschoolers can't comprehend those complex emotions and you'll only confuse the issue with her if you bribe her one day and beg her the next. Give her the options, let her melt down if she needs to (for whatever reason), tell her mommy loves her and she's right here if she wants to talk, but don't engage (let her melt down) and then go on.

It will get better. She'll grow up and then you'll laugh and laugh.
posted by mrfuga0 at 6:46 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe she's just not prone to getting cold. I feel like I am DYING of heat exhaustion if I wear anything heavier than a cardigan and nylon tights in the dead of winter, and yes I know what cold is-- I have lived in both Michigan and upstate New York for years of my life. I absolutely cannot wear coats a majority of the time.

If her school requires her to bring all that nonsense, maybe you could dress her in lighter clothing underneath and buy lightweight versions of the outerwear-- cotton jacket, soft shell/track pants, really thin gloves, etc.
posted by joan_holloway at 6:59 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Depending on the style of booster you're using, she really shouldn't wear thick winter clothing in a car seat anyway. Just throw the stuff in a bag and send it with her to school if they require it.
posted by chiababe at 7:16 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I was just saying to a coworker that this is the time of year everyone looks at me askance and asks me aren't I cold. When I was 5, the head of my school came over and asked me where my mittens were. I've never really gotten more into winter gear since and I've turned out fine. Can you explain to the teacher that your daughter does not need all that winter gear?
posted by mlle valentine at 7:25 PM on November 16, 2012

I put my son in layers.

He has his regular shirt under a sweatshirt or a jean jacket under a slightly warmer but still not winter coat. I put up his hood or hoods, as the case may be, and then offer him my hat after waiting at the bus stop. It helps that he gets to pick all these layers, too.

Can't help you on the snowpants because I wouldn't make him wear those to school. They'd go in his bag if he needs them at school.

I've given up on gloves but have been trying to teach him to pull his hands inside his sleeves.
posted by zizzle at 7:30 PM on November 16, 2012

We got around this with ToddlerTaff when we were in the Himalayas by putting her in slightly oversized (expensive) funky thermal underwear. Not bulky, and not too snug.
posted by taff at 7:37 PM on November 16, 2012

I've always been "warm-blooded." I grew up in North Dakota, where it gets really, really cold in winter, and as a child, I always hated having to wear winter gear. When I was in elementary school, my grandmother INSISTED on buying me a new snowsuit every fall. I maintained that such things were too hot, too restrictive, and too hard to put on at recess (what kid wants to spend playtime getting dressed?), so I'd just stick my arms through the sleeves and let the rest of the suit drag behind me, inevitably ruining the whole thing by midwinter. Finally, my mom figured out that if I were actually cold, I'd choose to wear the appropriate clothing, so I was allowed to wear what I wanted. Thus, a jacket instead of a snowsuit, shorts when I thought it was warm enough, no more layer upon layer upon layer.

To this day, I never wear a hat and rarely wear gloves. They just feel so itchy and hot and sweaty and yuck. If I get cold, sure, I dig out the appropriate clothing, but I'm in a much warmer climate now and that's not usually necessary. Kids aren't stupid, and I think if you provide the winter clothing as an option rather than making it a requirement, your child will wear it if she needs it. If you keep fighting with her about it, she may feel like she has to resist your demands merely for the sake of resisting, you know?

(As for the teacher, she can wear warmer clothes if she feels cold. It would be a different scenario if your child were complaining about not being warm enough because you were neglecting to send sufficiently warm clothing, but in this particular situation, I don't think it's the teacher's business what you do as a parent.)
posted by easy, lucky, free at 7:56 PM on November 16, 2012

Another parent chiming in to say don't force her to wear clothes she finds too hot, and for the love of God not in the car. Just the thought of riding around in a heated car wearing snow gear... ugh! Tell the teachers to back off. If she's cold she can pull the gear out of the bag she's carrying it in.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:06 PM on November 16, 2012

You've never heard that a sweater is something a child wears when her mother is cold?

Yeah, make sure kiddo has all the clothes she might ever need in a duffel bag to carry. Explain to her that she has to wear what her teacher tells her, but you will allow her to make her own decision if she's cold or not. Let her go out to the car without a coat if she likes. She won't die from the walk, and she may decide after a couple of days of independence and testing you that she'd rather have it on at least unzipped.

I used to wash my hair and go to the bus stop to wait 20 minutes in the snow with wet hair. Cut all the buttons off my coat because it was too hot. Never wore gloves or a hat until I was in my 30s. I can still be in a t-shirt when my husband has a winter jacket, hat and gloves. Some people are just warm-blooded.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:25 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

oooh I hated snowpants as a kid. But I remember getting a long hooded wool coat and loving that - for people that overheat easily, anything that doesn't breathe is crazy uncomfortable. Can you get her a long coat with a hood? if the coat is long enough to reach her boots, then the legs are covered, the hood can be flipped up or down at a moment's notice, and a pair of mittens in the pocket and she's all set. I would have loved something like this when I was wee. Fleece may even be better than wool, since it isn't scratchy.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:25 PM on November 16, 2012

I was like this. It's been over thirty years and it's still a horrible, anxious memory. Let her wear what she wants.
posted by ead at 8:49 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

just thought of another thing I hated about snow pants - none of the adults had to wear them! they were able to quickly slip into a nice coat and boots, and I had to laboriously wiggle into too-hot snowpants? totally unfair!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:54 PM on November 16, 2012

Yet another parent chiming in who hated winter gear - sned it in a bag so she has it - don't make her wear what she hates!

If it is any consolation - my son kicked off swaddling and hats as an infant, now as a 19 month old, he also hates blankets, and usually, full pajamas when he sleeps. We live in LA, but it still gets cold at night and in the winter. He doesn't care, doesn't seem to feel the temp at all.


If he looks cold, I take care of it best I can. Otherwise, I'm always colder than everyone else anyway, so I assume he's just dandy until it looks/seems otherwise.


Send everything she might need with her to school. Let her be comfortable in the meantime.



They make awesome ones of silk, or polypropelene - the type I would use for camping and hiking - thin like a second-skin, so non-restrictive.

If I lived in super cold climes - that would be my GoTo solution. Actually, My son still fits his longsleeve onesies, and that is what he wears with a sweater on top for colder days here.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:50 PM on November 16, 2012

Most people don't ride in their cars with coats (or jackets, or blazers) on and will take the time to take them off. There's no good reason to make your daughter do It.
posted by halogen at 10:16 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Consider getting a pair of windpants, a light jacket, and the lightest hat and mittens you can find, to meet the school's requirement. Spend some time after school trying things on and finding a comfortable set of winter gear. Talk to her teacher, explain that your child is comfortable in lighter winter gear. You can keep a fleece pullover at school as an extra layer in case your child gets cold, or the weather gets colder.

You'll be helping your child learn problem-solving, as well as making her more comfortable.
posted by theora55 at 5:43 AM on November 17, 2012

[A little depending on where you are, true...]

Disapproving looks - what's to fear? Belongs to a teacher's toolbox, none of your business. You're a parent. Talk to the teacher. None of your other efforts as described above is worth any more of your (or your daughter's) time.

The trick against frostbite is anyway multi-layered normal clothing. I grew up without frostbite and without any of that newfangled stuff. Long underwear, yes, and something on my head and hands when it was freezing too, but no life-restricting cocoon and cyberwool-stuffed magnum pants. My kids hated these Mars-suits too; they are no good for playing, and playing is the profession of children. Imagine having to work in a library with diving gear on, in a bakery with working gloves and safety goggles, in a car repair shop with a Ballet suit, or on the concert stage in a combat uniform. (On top of that, more than two thirds of the main brands of kid's winter gear got bad ratings in our local (Swedish) paper.)

You can always keep an eye on her, though. Introduce, eventually a what-is-what talk into winter safety, with some well-founded explanations about wind temperature versus what can be read on the thermometer outside the door and things like that. Kids do listen to arguments, at least if there are no direct disadvantage to be anticipated.
posted by Namlit at 6:56 AM on November 17, 2012

This was (and still is) me. To this day I avoid anything beyond a hooded sweatshirt while temperatures are above 0F. I have cold gear that I take with me in the event of a car breakdown, but it's too hot and restrictive for 99% of winter (in the American midwest). It also takes too long to get on and off and I'd lose something anyway.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 7:35 AM on November 17, 2012

Respect your child's good sense a little more. They know when they're cold and hot. You may not know best all the time. Your body temperature may be different than theirs.

Just listen to this NPR piece, "Why Kids Hate to Wear Coats"Kids run around! They're more active and likely need less clothing, but for many parents, bundling kids up, "satisfies a deep-seated parental impulse to protect. And culturally, it's considered the right thing to do."

Is this about making sure your child is comfortable, or making sure you feel like a "good" parent?
posted by amoeba at 8:10 AM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm cold all fall and winter (and most of spring) but, I still take my jacket/sweater/coat off to get in the car. I hate the feeling of it, and I'm not shoved in a car seat.

I'd make sure she had the stuff in a bag, and let her wear what she wishes to. Some kids just run hotter than others and it is more dangerous for her to get all sweaty out in the cold, than to not have on snow pants.
posted by SuzySmith at 12:45 PM on November 17, 2012

Just one more piece of anecdata: our toddler daughter threw a FIT about any sort of over-clothing until we started assigning names and stories to them. Her raincoat is yellow: it became Duckie. Her toboggan with ears is Bunny-Bunny Hop-Hop. You get the idea.
posted by tigerjade at 6:52 PM on November 17, 2012

I always ran warm as a kid - combination of high activity level and a fast metabolism, which were probably related too. Now I run cold and love the hats, gloves, and scarves that I hated as a kid - but if I were going to go outside and play frisbee, you'd better believe the coat is coming off within 10 minutes unless it's truly just too cold to be outside.

Oh, and I only love the hats, gloves and scarves because I'm able to pick out my own ones and so I can get ones that don't itch and have good freedom of movement.
posted by Lady Li at 7:51 PM on November 17, 2012

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