It’s that time of year…August was a blur and back to school is upon us. This, for many parents, can mean stressful morning standoffs over what to wear.

Kids as young as two can start to show preferences for what they wear — and how they wear it. The simple truth is that even if you think you “brought them up right,” kids still head into that closet and mix dots+stripes+sequins+tie-dye or (in my house) wear an additional skirt under their dress. Maybe your little man refuses to {ever} wear a coat! Whatever the battle in your family, your job as a parent includes your kids leaving the house in an ensemble that is a little less cringe-worthy and slightly more practical than they had hoped to wear.

Here are a few tips to help accomplish that job with (hopefully) less tears and more harmony.

Take your toddler/kid/tween shopping with you.

I know, I can picture the incredulous look that you are giving your computer. The idea of shopping with kids in tow can be downright frightening. BUT  if you have a persnickety peanut, getting  his or her “buy in” on what you buy will save you valuable energy later. Trying things on will also help with multiple trips to return or exchange. Make it a fun day out with just you and one child {if you can pull it off }and be sure to take lots of patience along.

**TIP** If you cannot take your child with you, check the return policy so you don’t get “stuck” with an item or a credit you can’t use.

Listen to the words that are coming out of their mouth.

More often than you would guess, children have legitimate reasons for refusing to wear an item. Investigate their objections with care so you can buy to better address their needs and save yourself the battles. The easiest issues to address are tactile. Something as simple as an itchy tag, a restrictive cuff or a pinching seam could be behind your child’s A.M meltdown. Ask specific questions when your child tells you something isn’t comfortable. Peel the onion to get to the bottom of specific needs.

**Tip** When you are shopping for kids clothes, put your arm inside the garment to check that inner seams are flat and soft, and that tags are cloth or easy to remove. Remember that investing in better quality pieces will keep kids not only looking better but feeling better after many washes. Lesser quality fabrics pill and can become itchy and uncomfortable.

If the itchy-s aren’t your problem, your child may have aesthetic preferences that you have been shopping away from (intentionally or unintentionally). I’ve seen everything from an all rainbow stripped wardrobe to refusing to put on anything without a John Deere logo. This can be early self-expression and works out the independence muscles which we, as parents, love and support. That said, too much indulgence can take this harmless exploration down the road of manipulation … so tread lightly.

Prepare, participate…

The best trick in a parents tool box is enlisting participation from their child. Kids are more apt to eat foods they helped to cook, maintain toy organizational systems that they helped to set up, and more likely to wear outfits they helped to “design.” You can help your child look put together without stripping them of their input.

Each school night at bedtime, give your child three options to choose from to select their outfit for the following day. Pick pieces that mix and match so they can’t go wrong. You can control the seasonal appropriateness (shorts in December?) and tone down the “creative” combinations while still allowing the magic of self-expression and encourage sense of self.

That’s called a parenting win-win.