Independence Building: Self Dressing With Matching Clothing Sets


Dae-Ho 6-Piece SetIt’s a sad fact.  From the moment the cord is cut, your child is on a steady march toward independence, and it’s your job (gulp) to help him get there.  As a new mom, I was shocked by how quickly it all started.  I got a little weepy the first time I put away outgrown clothes, packed up disused toys and when I left my small boy wonder in someone else’s arms, even though it was just for the afternoon and even though the arms were my own mom’s.  

Now, two years after my eldest was born, “I DO IT!” is a near-constant battle cry ringing through the halls of our house and I’m always looking for ways to ease the tension as our tiny boy becomes a big boy.  At a parenting workshop I attended recently, educational consultant Laura Barr, of eMergeing, recommended employing independence building techniques to decease friction and build confidence by giving kids more autonomy.  Since employing some of her methods, I’ve seen a budding self-confidence in Huck that truly makes him shine and now, delighted exclamations of “I DID IT!” are quite nearly as common as the more shrill demands of “I DO IT!”  A coups in my book.  

Independence building is about giving your child options, ceding some of your control, respecting her as an individual and giving him the latitude and tools to build her skills while keeping a loose grip on the reins of your life together.  In my brief experience, independence building has nearly eliminated time-outs, (proverbial) head-butting and other manifestations of power struggles.  We’ll cover independence-building tools in a few installments, from this, our first on clothing and self-dressing, to kitchen and pantry items as well as safety.

Right around 24 months, Huck started expressing his opinions on fashion.  “Nooooooooo!!!  Noooooo el-PHANT.  No el-PHANT!”  he howled one morning, as I tried to dress him in what I thought was one of his (my) favorite shirts, a graphic tee with an elephant on it.  “Huh?  But it matches your pants, Peanut,” and with that, I wrestled it over his head, he protesting the entire two minutes it took to get the job done.  From there, the morning dissolved into a full-on, laying on the floor, flailing fists and legs classic temper tantrum that snowballed into a hectic departure, sans coffee (!), and our very tardy (and grumpy) arrival, 15 minutes late, to a 45 minute music class.  As I took the lunch-bespattered shirt off and put him in fresh clothes for his nap that day,  I realized that shirt was sooooo not worth it.  I gave him a choice of shirts for his nap (whoah-BOT! hands-down) and every day since and it’s been hilarious and sweet to discover his preferences.  

Right now my little man can only take his clothes off, but as soon as he’s able, I look forward to letting him dress himself entirely.  Getting myself and two other people together and presentable every morning is taking its toll. Although having him dress himself will simplify life a lot, it will, undoubtedly, bother me if he comes out of his room looking like a total train wreck, so I’m investing in coordinating, interchangeable outfits, like the Dae-Ho 6-Piece Set, or for those with little chicks, the Sook-Joon 7-Piece Set or the adorable Myung-Ok 6-Piece Set, from Tea Collection’s Daily Tea sets, which provide at least 9 different looks and are completely interchangeable.  A more budget-conscious option would be the Garanimals line at Walmart.  And a more eco-conscious option would be to look for clothing sets and lots on eBay or at a thrift store.

Sook-Joo 7-Piece SetMyung-Ok 6-Piece Set  Garanimals 4-Piece Set


Stay tuned for more on (gulp) independence building!

– M.



  1. I TOTALLY know what you mean! “I DO IT!” is probably the most common phrase in our house these days and our 20 month old daughter insists on being involved in putting on her clothes, if not choosing them, too. So far I’ve found the best way to avoid tantrums is to give her some choice in the decision- hold up two shirts that both match the pair of pants I’ve chosen and let her decide. Or when she refuses to wear the dress I’ve picked, I pull out another equally cute one and say she can wear that one if she prefers. Hearing her say “I DID IT!” is the best.

  2. You ladies are good at keeping your kiddos matching! My son picks what he wants to wear straight out of his drawer. Last weekend he went to the park in a yellow short sleeved shirt, red sweat pants, an orange hat, and green rain boots. (It wasn’t raining.) I wrangled a sweatshirt over him that he insisted on keeping unzipped to show off his style.

  3. Update: My husband just sent me a picture of our son’s outfit of choice for today. Red and white striped pj’s (yes, pj’s), brown hiking boots and the orange hat.

  4. Kuddos on trying to keep Hen matching. I decided to only have jeans and khaki pants to keep the totally crazy outfits at bay. He is able to chose whatever shirt he chooses and usually chooses jeans as his ‘pants’ of choice. I get told, ‘no pants’ several times if I try to get him to wear them. But please tell me – how do you stop the head butting? How did I miss the workshop? Humpf. You’ll have to download your insights for me… Lunch????? anyone, anyone? M is quite the little rebel these days, even if he is my ‘boy wonder’ 😉

  5. I love these kid-chosen “outfits”! Too funny!
    I’ve stuck all inappropriate clothing (shorts in winter, sports jerseys, etc) in a high drawer where he can’t reach. But I’m always amazed at how young these kiddos form opinions. R will only wear one long-sleeve item – a gray Splendid hoodie. And even then, it’s gotta be COLD. I’m usually the mom at the park in a parka and hat, with the two-year old in a t-shirt. I’m now immune to the surprised looks, LOL.

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