Unless he's going swimming, my 3 1/2 year old son always wears a long sleeve shirt and pants (not jeans and not button down shirts). I'm not expecting a 3 1/2 year old for logic and but I don't think this is merely psychosis, just stubbornness and a desire to assert his own will.

I think he needs to wear less clothes, especially as hot as the summer has been and his clothes are just plain old wearing out. We've got 3x more t-shirts than long sleeve shirts and they've never, ever been worn.

What's a good way to coax a little man out of his style, just for the sake of prudence.

  • 3
    I can't answer the question, but will say it's not uncommon for kids to have particular (if not weird) preferences with the clothing.
    – DA01
    Jun 26, 2012 at 20:01
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    The summer came and my daughter would start her winter song of "boots, coat, hat, mitts." She'd keep asking for them, so I just hid them. "Boots all gone! Let's wear sandals!"
    – Swati
    Jun 26, 2012 at 20:14
  • 2
    Maybe stop buying t shirts and jeans and trade the ones you have. My kids hate wearing certain kinds of clothes. I would hate wearing burlap. Some battles aren't worth fighting.
    – Kai Qing
    Aug 2, 2018 at 16:57
  • 1
    FWIW, he did grow out of it. Aug 2, 2018 at 17:11

6 Answers 6


Be sure that you are certain about what the common factor is. It might appear to be the long vs. short but it might also be a texture thing. For a while my son would refuse to wear anything but soft clothing most of which were long like sweat pants and warm long sleeved shirts.

I have to disagree with what Rory said though. I reserve such draconian measures for the things that really matter like sugar and TV. It's important that our children feel like they have some control over their lives so I find it important to give in on the things that don't matter and take a stand when it does. Pick your battles as there will be many.

In the end our son simply got over his insistence upon only wearing soft clothes. Whether it was due to him growing out of it or our parenting is impossible to know but here are the things that we do when it comes to his resistance to new things (like food).

  • Not make a big deal about it. I find telling him not to do something he likes doing only encourages him to do it. "No shorts today? Ok. What do you want to wear?"
  • Give him an out. If you re-enforce the idea that he may change his mind later then it allows him to come to it on his own without feeling forced into something he doesn't like. "Ok, maybe tomorrow."
  • Bribery. Give him some sort of direct incentive to try something new. This doesn't mean "you can have a cookie if you wear shorts" because that is indirect. Does he have a special character or type of toy he really likes? "Do you want to get some Lightning McQueen shorts & t-shirt today?"
  • "If you try it you will like it". This one is last because it has more to do with food and he got it from his school but it's done wonders. Just getting him to try a food is usually the hardest part so when he brought this little saying into his life (said with a bit of a sing-song aspect) it was a game changer.

These aren't really parenting techniques as they are communication techniques. Specifically non-violent communication which I have found to be my best tool for parenting a stubborn three year old.

  • 2
    "If you try it you will like it" - we do it in the reverse: since Yo Gabba Gabba taught the kids "Try it, you might like it!" I actually sing "Try it, you might hate it!" The kids take pleasure in correcting me, and then forget that they were going to hate it, try it, and, more often than not, decide they like it.
    – Tanktalus
    Jul 5, 2012 at 16:35
  • Depending on your local climate, keeping a 3 year old out of pants and long sleeve shirts during the summer really matters.
    – afrazier
    Jun 26, 2013 at 14:57
  • Oh that's a god one @Tanktalus I'll have to give that a try. Jul 3, 2013 at 4:51

If you don't buy long sleeved shirts and trousers he won't be able to wear them. If you want to limit what a child wears, it is easier to only give them choices which you approve of.

If the trousers are wearing out, perhaps they should be thrown away and new ones not bought until the winter. For ones that aren't wearing out, hide them away during the summer.

We tend to move clothes into and out of the attic as appropriate for the seasons, not because the kids demand them, but just to save space, and this means that through the summer they have summer clothes, and in the winter they have winter clothes.

It may seem a bit dictatorial, but it actually makes things pretty easy.

  • +1 A lot of professionals seem to recommend offering your child choices whenever possible, but limiting them to those you find acceptable. Here's one site I found with a quick search, but there's a lot written on this. earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/…
    – Jaydles
    Jun 26, 2012 at 21:09

One of my children also refused to wear shorts. I found zip off pants were a great solution. You put on pants, and if it gets hot you zip off the legs and now you're wearing shorts. Feel a little cool, put the legs back on. For the shirts, you could suggest wearing a tshirt under a longsleeved shirt, and later if it's hot suggest taking off the long sleeved shirt.

I only started caring about it because there were times when he was clearly hot and uncomfortable mid-day, and not playing as he could outside, as a result of clothing choices made much earlier. Using zip off pants and layers of shirts made these decisions less binding and gave him the freedom to control what he wore. This is especially true if you're dressing in the morning and then leaving the house for the day.


First of all, don't worry too much about it - quite likely he doesn't really have a particularly strong reason, but as an adult, you can too easily turn it into a problem and a conflict. Have you asked him why? Children do have some sort of logical reasoning even at such an early age - they just have different priorities than an adult. My daughter would insist on sleeping with her wellies (what we call rubber boots in UK) for a long time, because they were SO beautiful, and her granny had given them to her. Very logical, just different priorities.

Apart from that - when push comes to shove, remember that you are the adult, and you are way, way stronger in every way. If you feel it is important enough, you can put the clothes on him and let him have his tantrum; it will pass. I wouldn't recommend it for something like clothes, but as parents we can sometimes let a child push us around until we crack and do something we really regret; compared to that, it may be better to just force the issue while you are feeling calm and in control.


Try laying out two choices you like and saying, "Which outfit would you like to wear today, this one or this one." If it is about his wish to assert himself, he'll feel like he is being given a choice and you are still getting him to wear lighter clothing. Try this everyday for a month of so and if it works, by the time the month is over you can let him totally choose again with the assertion, "as long as".


There are some good suggestions here that might help you dress your child in more weather-appropriate clothing, but if you want to know the "why", only your child knows the answer.

At such a young age, it is difficult for children to answer that directly and you may be bombarded with a combination of "I don't know" or "I don't want to" or just plain ol' nonsense. Starting your conversation by relating may be more fruitful. For instance:

You: I like to wear heavy warm clothes in the winter when the weather is cold.
You: What do you like to wear in the winter?
You: I like to wear light breezy clothes in the summer when the weather is warm.

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