Horizon ChildrenA frustrated parent wrote to The Washington Post's Family Almanac column to ask for help because her 4-year-old daughter wanted to wear the same clothes everyday. Some of the tactics she had tried were cutting out tags (so the child couldn't complain of being scratched), timeouts, giving her two options to wear, and buying her new clothes. Since her daughter was not sick, was well fed and sleeping enough, and the letter writer really didn't know the underlying reason for this behavior, she sought the advice of a child development expert.

Overall, columnist Marguerite Kelly felt that this child was testing boundaries, "Young children may pretend that they’re running the family show, but they still want to know that their parents are in charge. This is what makes a child feel safe. Unless your daughter knows her limits, she will push for wider and wider boundaries…"

Although parents are often advised to offer a toddler or young child choices so they feel empowered, there are times when this approach may not work. Kelly suggested creative ways to alter this well-worn path of refusing to change outfits: having the child wash the outfit twice weekly or even daily if necessary (although she admitted this will be more work for the parent who has to supervise the process). All of this effort would likely lessen the appeal of wearing that same outfit daily.

Kelly also wondered if this behavior wasn't a bid for attention since negative behaviors tend to get a parent's attention in a way that positive behavior does not. She also suggested trying to find out what lies behind the desire to repeat this outfit--is it more comfortable than other clothes? Or have people been saying nice things about her clothes?