Our family has three boys and now a baby girl. My oldest is in his teens and was so gentle on his clothes that I have had a steady supply of well cared for and almost brand new hand me downs available for the next two boys (and a select few for my girl). Fewer things survive my second boy, but what does gets saved for his younger brother. I have the clothes organized in a closet by season and size and I let the boys "shop" in the closet at the beginning of each season before we hit the stores. This has been going on without any issues for years.
Lately, my 5 year old has been catching up in size to my 7 year old, so that right now, they are almost the same size. One is 7-8 and the other 6-7. Ususlly the clothes are "out of circulation" for two years but it's been barely a season lately, and this winter they are overlapping. My 7 year old has always been very possessive and kind of jealous, and now he's refusing to "allow" my 5 year old to wear "his" clothes. It's true that some of the stuff was his not too long ago (a month is as long as I could let them sit in the closet before my 5 year old needed to "shop".) The 7 year old goes into the 5 y.o. drawer to "takes back" what's "his" or attempts to rip the clothes off of his brother if he sees my 5 year old wearing them. He calls my 5 year old a copy cat, a thief, a scrub (for wearing someone else's clothes), and other nasty names. Poor little guys, each in their own hell. One getting tortured simply for getting dressed and the other by his emotions. This is very distressing for everyone. Our mornings have become total chaos.
Here are some things we've tried:
My oldest son has tried to reason with my 7 year old, and remind him that the clothes were his and he's never once gotten mad at the 7 year old for wearing them. He also pointed out that the baby wears onsies, sweatpants, and mittens that were my 7 year olds and he doesn't get mad at her. My 7 year old's response is "well, they aren't your clothes anymore because they are mine, so you would be an idiot for being mad at me for wearing things that are mine." He then rejects his own "logic" when we apply it to his brother who is wearing his clothes that are his. My 7 year old says "no, they are mine forever once they are mine."
We tried doing a "swap" in the closet. He had to "buy" the clothes out of the closet with his old clothes. He was fine with this. He happily swapped out a pair of size 7 jeans for an identical pair of size 8's. We then waited a few weeks before we brought our 5 year old to shop. Our 7 year old immediately spots "new" clothes on his brother and will tackle him and inspect the tag for the size.
We've tried buying the 7 year old clothes instead of going shopping in the closet, and skipping him altogether with the hand me downs. He still gets mad at my 5 year old, claiming that he should have first dibs and they are STILL his even though he never laid eyes on the items since my oldest last wore them years before.
We've bought new clothes for our 5 year old, and our 7 year old screams and cries that we make him wear my oldest son's rags while the 5 year old gets new stuff...when we mention that he has several brand new pairs of Hanna Andersson sweats (not cheap!) that he picked out for himself he says "yeah but you'll take them and give them to him! You only wanted them for him!!"
We're worn out by this. Our 5 year old, who has mastered the morning routine and has been getting himself up, dressed, and fed every morning without much intervention now won't get dressed, and is moody and snippy in the morning. He won't put his clothes away because he insists it's a waste of time Bc his brother will just rip them out during one of his "raids." Our 7 year old has also started going thru our daughter's books and blankets to weed out what's "his." At this point he doesn't get mad at her, but comes to me all teary eyed that I've given away his baby things like he "doesn't even exist." Then he gets mad at me. He goes thru the trash to see if I've thrown away his school work, and inspects the contents of boxes that go out to make sure I've not donated any of his things. He's like a little hoarder in the making! (No, we've never suffered a loss like a fire or flood, been poor or displaced, and we've never forcefully down sized his belongings for any reason. We also don't give into tantrums, but he hasn't given them up yet nonetheless.)
I suspect he's got a larger issue (we're already in therapy for his anger/temper/tantrums) but for now, if anyone has any tips on what to do about the hand me downs I'd appreciate it. I saw the other question here that deals with resentment of a younger child, so, how about we cover the topic from the opposite perspective? How can I make this easier on my 5 year old, who just wants to get clothes on so he can go to school? I've already spoken to our therapist about this and she was stumped! She says most kids are happy to see their stuff go, or, couldn't care less.
Please don't say stop using hand me downs because with 4 kids, it's not economically feasible to purchase new clothes for all of them every season.