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A few month ago, I asked: Can I avoid nice clothing being a source of argument? That was mainly focused on my eight year old, and now I have a related question... but about a preschooler.


Our youngest (three and a half) only wants to wear about five shirts, all t-shirts with dogs on them. Any other t-shirts (e.g. dinosaurs, trains) are rejected as "too fancy"* and are only worn after a lot of arguing or negotiating. An actually "fancy" shirt (with a collar, either polo or button-down) is rejected and leads to incredible tantrums if we try to push the issue; I once suggested he could wear a tie and he nearly exploded.

Since he's a preschooler, this has not yet been a major problem: we don't go many "fancy" places anyway, and there are different standards for acceptable clothing for young kids in a lot of situations. But, he's been asked to be the ring bearer in my cousin's wedding. If we accept, the event is going to require a suit.

I have no idea how to get him interested in the idea of dressier clothing. We have two months to prepare: what can I try to make him more open to different, "fancy" clothes?


* I feel it's important to note that neither parent defined these shirts as fancy: it's an adjective that he decides how and when to use, and we have a tough time predicting when it will be an issue. (I would not, on my own, decide that a bicycle t-shirt is fancier than a doggy t-shirt.) I'm also unclear on why fancy is a bad thing, but that's the implication he makes.

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    Does he wear costumes at all, without problem? – user11394 Jul 21 '15 at 19:08
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    @CreationEdge Thinking along the same lines - a wedding party wears some kind of "costumes", after all. – Stephie Jul 21 '15 at 19:17
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    Batman's secret identity is billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, who would be very at home in a tux or similar dress. He must maintain the facade. Maybe that's your way in! (Tony Stark would have also been a good super hero model for wearing nice clothes). – user11394 Jul 21 '15 at 19:24
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    @CreationEdge Oh right, and after the ceremony he can break out the mask and cape...! – Stephie Jul 21 '15 at 19:30
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    you don't "persuade" a preschooler to do anything, really - you're the parent, they are the child. In a parent-child relationship, persuasion may be a tool used sometimes, but often enough it is a command relationship. You don't see a Colonel trying to "persuade" a Corporal to do something in the Army. – warren Jul 29 '15 at 19:47
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But, he's been asked to be the ring bearer in my cousin's wedding. If we accept, the event is going to require a suit.

No, it shouldn't be if you accept, it should be if he accepts.

If you haven't, then do tell him about the occasion and then do tell him in detail what exactly is he going to do there. Tell him that he can't back out if he says yes once.

Is he okay with it? Does he even want to go there and do what is expected of him?

If yes, only then I would take him to a kid suit showroom, and ask him to choose the least fancier suit (let him decide according to his definition of the word fancy).

If he says "No, all suits are fancy here", I'd say "We can get you a tailor made suit, and you get to choose the design for the same!"

I'd even say that I'd be willing to put a small dog cartoon on his suit somewhere if he likes it.

I am saying all this because I remember from my childhood when I was 6 years old, we had to go to a wedding. I was forced to carry a small empty fancy purse with long handle because according to my mother that was an important occasion and I had to look good.

I never wanted to carry it for the reason being that it is difficult to run and enjoy yourself when something long is constantly dangling from your shoulders and you can't even throw it away because it has been stitched to your dress.

I had to carry that purse up till the age of 13 years to most of the ceremonies we went. It was torturous.

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    "No, it shouldn't be if you accept, it should be if he accepts." this is really the key of it. You will not be able to make this go smoothly unless your child actually WANTS to be the ringbearer and dress accordingly. – Erik Jul 22 '15 at 9:05
  • I meant "we" in the sense of me, my spouse, and our son, all of us. I completely agree that he needs to have input on this in order to be comfortable and happy! Since he is only three, we do need to retain some level of judgment on his behalf (e.g. if he only agrees on the condition he goes barefoot, we'll decline), but his opinion is absolutely going to be the most significant factor. Thank you! – Acire Jul 22 '15 at 9:48
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    I would also add to that if he does accept, to make sure to keep taking about the wedding and what he will have to do regularly, especially in the weeks leading up to it, so he will be really used to the idea when the time comes. – user14172 Jul 22 '15 at 15:21
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We went to one wedding when our oldest was three, and managed it by:

  • Talking about it ahead of time (we didn't have an opportunity for 'practice' runs as the shirt was at Grandma's, but we would've done that if we could)
  • Making a big deal out of the shirt ("Grandma bought this shirt just for you!")
  • Showing him Daddy dressed up similarly
  • Showing him the other guys all dressed up similarly
  • Making a game out of it ("Let's see who can get in his fancy shirt first")
  • Telling him how long he needs to wear it for, and have a change of clothes to swap into right after the ceremony ("You need to wear this for one hour, until [ceremony ending point]. After that we'll have your back-up clothes to change into, which are your most fun clothes ever!")
  • Getting a couple of fun pins that he could add to make it still "train" related (that's our guy's fixation) while still looking mostly formal
  • And of course, his favorite pair of underwear and socks!

When he ultimately agreed, it was after a lot of thinking and talking and calm time, but he did ultimately agree. Even wore a bow-tie. I would also suggest "letting" him button up the shirt himself - if he can, mine can but he's always liked wearing hawaiian type shirts so he's had a lot of practice. Anything that gives him control over the situation.

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