Parenting Advice Needed

What’s a mom to do?  You see, I seem to have passed down some of my neurotic character traits to my poor, unsuspecting children.  They can’t help it that they’re wired this way, and because I share the same tendencies, I feel their pain.  I try to humor them as much as is reasonable, and when possible, I try to teach them to compensate.

For instance, my 5-year-old has an awful time with her socks and underwear.  Sometimes we put her shoes on her several times until her socks feel right.  And don’t get me started with the underwear.  I don’t know what it is about them that bothers her exactly, but she has a hissy fit over her underwear not feeling just right.  I have gotten to the point that I just leave her alone until she finds a pair she can handle.  This means I usually find a trail of discarded underwear in her wake, but I just toss them in the wash and wish them a better fate the next time.

Then there is my 3-year-old.  Her biggest issue is with her highchair.  We long ago discarded the tray and just push the chair up to the table.  At some point, she decided that both arms of the highchair must be flush against the apron of the table.  She has a complete meltdown until someone pushes her in so that her chair is just so.  I usually anticipate the problem and make sure to push her chair all the way in, but my husband refuses to feed her neurosis.  He makes her deal with it not just right.  I just don’t have the energy to fight that battle.  Besides, I know how I feel when the pictures on the fridge aren’t all lined up at 90-degree angles. (It’s a sickness. I swear.)

The latest issue with the 3-year-old is her pants.  She has this thing where she is convinced her pants are falling down.  They’re not.  She just feels that way when she wears anything that buttons or snaps.  She has a lot of stretchy sweatpants and yoga pants, and I put those on her if at all possible, but she has a couple of really cute outfits that I bought before I was aware of this latest issue.  She refuses to wear them.  I have tried leaving her in them and telling her to deal with it, and she outlasts me.  I finally give in and let her change.  I can’t decide if this is a battle I’m willing to fight.

Just this morning, I put together the three offensive outfits and told my husband I was going to give them to a neighbor at the bus stop.  I will just buy a few more pairs of stretch pants.  Who cares.  But he said he thought I should make her wear them.  And perhaps I should.

So I take this question to you, oh wise internets.  Am I creating a monster by giving into her OCD tendencies, or is it not worth the fight?  What would you do?

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41 Responses

  1. Oh, JoLynne, I feel your pain. My 2.5 year old is also OCD. I sometimes give in, because some battles aren’t worth fighting and I don’t want her to be uncomfortable. She has a slight obsession with thinking her pants are falling down, too. It started with a pair of jeans that were a little too big in the waste and I guess she just can’t forget hem even though I’ve put them away until they fit better. I think every situation is different and you have to decided which battles are worth fighting on which days. Good Luck!

  2. I can truly, truly relate. My oldest has acquired many of my OCD mindsets. On the lighthearted stuff I allow him to feed the monster, such as clothing. I have been taking biggers steps though with his need to never ever be dirty by doing stuff that required non-stop dirt (this was easier in the summer with planting, the beach etc). My only advice and it is not much, is to pick your battles. I am never sure what is going to be the next flare up with my oldest, but I KNEW when he was a baby lining up his toys perfectly ALL the time I was going to have problems..problems I know I passed onto him.. ugh and sigh.

  3. Oh sweet mercy… me and you would get along fabulously. The whole pictures-on-the-fridge-thing, I know exactly where you are coming from. As far as the 3 year old, I have one just like her, only he’s a him. He is so much like me he stinks. I have learned that some battles are not worth fighting because I do not have the energy to fight. So, I, like you, just let it go most of the time. On days that I do have the energy it is sometimes necessary to get out the spankin’ spoon. The very appearance of that thing is a great behavior modification tool. (Don’t you like that fancy psychology talk). Anyway, I guess what I’m sayin is that I wouldn’t give the pants away, but, I would only pull them out on days that I had the energy to fight the battle.

    And fetch the pampered chef spankin’ spoon.

    Just sayin.

  4. I have found that a battle like that is not worth it. As long as they look presentable why not let them be comfortable and happy. We would if it was our choice. We choose so much for them that this is an area that they can have a say, as long as what they have to choose from is suitable. You aren’t likely to get her to change if that is the way she is wired. Of course there is a lesson there for how they react to situations that aren’t to their liking but I haven’t figured out that one yet! Good luck!

  5. Oh, isn’t it amazing what they learn? Or what characteristics they are born with? Wouldn’t it be nice to know the difference sometimes!? I’ve passed along the “need to know the plan at all times” to my kids. Can’t wait to read the advice you get.

    Here’s my 2 cents:
    I would not fight clothes or the high chair. I think your husband does have a point that there is value in learning to live with it, but I don’t think at 3 that she will get that part – it would just be a power struggle with you. 🙂

    This may be “crazy” (wink), but I think the best thing to do to honor your husband’s point of view is to work on showing your kids when you are just living with something. “I wish I had time to straighten the pictures today on the fridge, but I don’t, so I’m just going to live with it.” Then pick your battles wisely to force them to live with something- something that would not be a daily battle such as the high chair or clothes. 🙂

  6. When my sister and I were little, we refused to wear jeans. Or any pants that weren’t soft. I think they just felt awkward and stiff and different. Maybe it’s weird to switch from baby brithces and suddenly not have that same snug, elastic-y fit, so she thinks her pants don’t fit? Anyway, our mom just let us wear the pants we liked and didn’t make much of the issue. And we were fine when school rolled around. And we’re fine now. For what that’s worth. : )

  7. I am in favor of being comfortable at all costs. I have bought stuff that I thought would be great for me, and it turns out when I get around to wearing them there is something that just isn’t right, so then end up in the donation pile. I wouldn’t force it. As long as she has a range of attire that she is willing to wear, who needs those buttons and snaps anyway!

  8. OMG – We could write a book…I swear you just wrote a typical morning in my house. My 3 old won’t even bother wearing socks anymore and I gave up the fight – but I have to wonder how can the shoes be ok with no socks – maybe that is why she still wants her flip flops even though it is 30 degrees out (I do not allow that) I have to cut the tags out of EVERYTHING – I try not to but she can’t stand them – she even gets hives from some of them – Pants are a nightmare unless they are Gyboree Leggings – gaps waste bands don’t feel right – most dresses are OK but tights – are a whole nother oprah – MOM – I feel your pain, I agree with your husband too though. I thinned Hailey’s closet to 7 outfits 4 acceptable and 3 offensive (the rest of her clothes are in drawers) I alternate what I hang as choices each week and she has to pick from what is there – I am not CRUEL about it if I found TRULY offensive aspects of outfits I gave them away – lets face it we all have clothes we hate to wear because they pull or tug in the wrong way.

    Anyway we are only in our second week of the new regime and it is going OK, not perfect but OK. There are tears in the morning and PJ’s before dinner sometimes but she is wearing some things she doesn’t like at least for a few hours. I try to take note when I buy clothes and look for items that border on acceptable to her issues but we all have to cope at times even when you are 3.


  9. My soon to be 8 yo is VERY picky about her clothes. The only thing she will wear are Land’s End dresses. No buttons – don’t even think about it.

    When she was 2, I had the most adorable Hanna Andersson coat put away for her. I took it out and she refused to wear it. The advice given to me by more experienced parents was to not make clothing a big deal. There is nothing you can do to make them wear it and all you’ve done is entered a power struggle. As angry as I was at the time, I didn’t make her wear the coat.

    Now that she’s almost 8, she picks out her own clothes and if she begs me for an outfit that she just HAS to have (beyond the standard Land’s End dress), then she is obligated to wear it or she has to take money from her piggy bank to pay for it. She’s always chosen just to wear it.

  10. Oh gosh. I’m probably the wrong person to comment on this since I’ve passed my OCD tendencies onto my children. My daughter has the same problem with her socks, tights are even worse. Drives me bonkers. My son has the same problem with feeling like his pants are falling down. He is always tugging on them. The only advice I have is to only buy pants that have the little elastic adjustable waistband. Those and elastic waisted ones are the only kind I buy for my kids anymore. As far as the highchair goes I would get rid of it and get her either a boaster for a normal chair or buy one of those kid barstools from Ikea. We have one that my three year old has used since she was two and it is a lifesaver. Good Luck!

  11. i would try baby steps – ask her to wear the outfit just to the store or just to church. then let her change as soon as she gets home.
    thats what i do with ellie. she HATES pants. as soon as she walks in the door of our house, she runs upstairs and changes into her yoga pants. she totally got that from me 😉

  12. I’m not the one with the OCD tendancies – my husband is. I don’t if it would have made any difference if his parents had worked to correct his behavior but I do wish they had tried a little bit 🙂 I love him dearly but his inability to “go with the flow” in some situations drives me crazy!

  13. I’m SO with you on this one! My son just turned two and is showing so many signs of having the OCD tendencies that I have! I’ll just keep reading the comments for advice! Sorry I’m no help, but I really feel your pain!

  14. I can’t tell you whether or not to give into these tendencies, mostly cause I have no idea!
    But for some reason, the way you wrote about your 5-year-old, triggered a memory about something that I’ve read before. I googled “sensory integration” and “socks” and found that they make seam-free socks. I’m willing to bet that they do something similar for underswear. At least with your older one, perhaps its not OCD, rather she is just overly aware of the way the clothes feel on her body? I think its a fairly common issue with kids.

  15. I wouldn’t fight over the clothes or the high chair. Those battles wouldn’t be worth it to me. I think you just need to pick the battles that bother you the most and stick with them.

    I have OCD tendencies, and so does my son. I defintely feel your pain. I do try to find the times to show my son to go with the flow, but I’ve also learned that preparing him in advance of those times is the best.

    Whatever you do, make a decision and stick with it. When I require certain things from my son on some days and give in on other days, the mixed messages lead to more fighting. Good luck!

  16. I think your girls are going through a phase that will soon run its course. My daughter went through a phase where she didn’t want to wear anything but dresses, no jeans. Next year it was all about jeans, no dresses. This year its about leggings, soft pants, NO jeans (after I bought her 3 pairs!). Kids like to keep us on our toes.

  17. have you heard of the book, “The Sensitive Child”? It describes some of my kids’ traits. It is about a trait – not necessarily a detrimental one either. It is not a disorder or something wrong, it is simply a trait that some of us. And it is to be ultra sensitive to some things. I have one who is sensitive to light – seriously. sensitive. She was a horrible baby.

    I have one who needs her socks and pants, JUST SO.

    The other one? I don’t think she’s sensitive to ANYTHING. lol

    Anyway, the book didn’t peg my children exactly, but some of the traits are in every child to ONE degree or another, right? This might be just what you’re looking for. Send me shipping money, and its yours. I’m feeling all jolly and bright today. lol

    As far as the battle, of course pants are just pants. As long as you are winning in some area. She wears pants, right? I can’t for the life of me get my daughter in anything other than skirts. the thing is that she learns to deal with some, she gains some coping skills from you, and she has to just simply give in to your better understanding sometimes. Sometimes, I’ll just pick a battle in order to win it. Because the day to day battles? Ugg. Too much!

    On the underwear thing, I wonder if they have thongs for toddlers? lolol


  18. I’m going to agree with your husband a bit. I don’t know you or your kids at all since I just clicked over for the first time, so I’ll just tell you my story and see if it helps.

    I have 3 little ones. The oldest is 7 and exactly like me in unfortunate ways as well as fortunate ones. All toddlers have some degree of particular preference. It’s normal. they are learning how the world operates, they like the predictability of routine and daily life. It helps them to feel safe and learn about their world. And you wouldn’t like walking around in pants the always feel like they are falling down. Maybe they don’t really fit her that well, in which case a belt may help, or give them away is a good solution. These are probably normal toddler things they will outgrow.

    So why am I saying that I agree with your husband? THey should learn to deal with things they don’t like now.

    I don’t want my children to have my neurosis. And I believe that since I am their mother and I know what it feels like to have them I am ideally equipped to help them through theirs.

    Only I can say, “I know it’s painful and it bothers you when everything isn’t perfect but life isn’t perfect and you are going to have to get used to it. Things happen all the time that are beyond your control and the only thing you have control over is how you will choose to react to them when they happen.”

    When I allow them their way, when I don’t force them from time to time to accept and deal with the fact that they can’t always get their own way I’m not doing them any favors. The older they are when they have to deal with and learn to accept reality the more painful it will be. I know this from personal experience.

    Disappointment, frustration, discomfort, are all things that children should experience when they are young. What better time to learn to deal with them than in the safe embrace of a loving parent?
    And if a child has a tendency toward OCD or perfectionism how much more important for a parent to work with them to help them accept and work with the things they cannot change instead of being paralyzed by it?

  19. You may not realize it, but Dave and I both have OCD tendancies. I used to think Dave didn’t care about anything. But after a couple of years, I found out ….wait. This is a blog. Come over to my blog is you want to hear the rest. 😉

  20. Oh that’s not gonna work. And not totally fair. 🙂 I am of the view that you
    1. affirm their feelings and even give them a hug
    2. teach them how to calmly respond

    They are only 3 and 5. They aren’t spoiled and bratty. They are just hyper sensitive to certain things and may have some sensory things. They think and feel what they think and feel. Legitimizing their feelings lets them feel supported and safe. I think continueing to let them feel frustrated only adds to their angst and adds to the notion that things are out of control.

    For example, I think you and your husband and maybe even D know to push C in. You teach her – ask nicely and someone will push you in = make wise choices and mom & dad will take care of you.


  21. You have to establish the fact that you are in control of her & the house. She may have too many choices & too much say so in matters. You want hurt her by being in charge but it actually helps her. Whatever you decide to do make it your decision and carry through with it. Don’t give her the option or let her make the decision. Gain control back now while she is young….it doesn’t get easier! You can do it! 🙂

  22. What goes around comes around, right? I deal with it too. And, after reading your “100 Things”, I’m thinking you and I might be kindred spirits..in the OCD, perfectionist sort of way. Regarding the high chair and the pants, I say the battle’s not worth fighting for now. Soon the high chair will be gone, and she’ll be able to pull herself up perfectly perpendicular to the table. And maybe as she grows, the pants thing will work itself out too.

  23. Might as well give her what she wants at this age. Pants are cheap now. Wait until she gets older!

    That is cracking me up that she is even showing a preference already. What a cutie.

  24. I really don’t know which way to go on this. My son has the sock issue and we let him get different socks – after all, who wants to feel like you have a knot shoved against your foot?

    But in things like insisting that cards should all be perfectly lined up in a card game – not OK. I want him to be able to deal with the fact that life is not perfect, so I purposely make my cards askew and don’t let him fix them! Is that cruel?

    By the way, I have an award for you on my blog!

  25. The first thing that hit me when I read your blog was — who wants the feeling that their socks aren’t on right or straight? That’s annoying. I mean it crimps in your shoe . . . and feels yucky.

    And to be honest, I hunt for certain style undies so they are comfortable–yes, it’s a big deal. I finally bought one brand of Osh Kosh for my daughter for I don’t know how long because of the fit and quit trying to buy the other random ones no matter how cute they were! It doesn’t matter if it’s that brand or not, but the fit. Underware is tricky.

    For the high chair–I think we all have a comfort zone when we are in our regular routine. Sounds like your little one doesn’t feel secure or comfortable until his chair is up to the table. We probably all do this just with our bigger chairs. The main thing is you are all around the table and that’s a good thing, so push him up there snug! As they get older dinners together will be tougher to schedule. So enjoy.

    I guess these seem like little things when you put them in persepctive, and they will pass. As they move on to other phases–as they do. Your child won’t be in that high chair forever–they grow up so fast!

    And the pants thing–sounds like a comfort thing or possibly not a great fit if your little one is irritated with it. Who likes the feeling their pants are falling?

    I know it’s frustrating in the hustle and bustle but they sound adorable and one day you will look back and smile at these things. Okay, I’ll confess a secret. My son did not learn to tie his shoes for a long time! He got left on the playground when it was time for recess to be over and I felt SO BAD for him! There he was still out there trying to ties his shoes while the kids lined up, teacher blowing the whistle. Sure the simple answer might have been to keep at it until he learned to tie his shoe, but we all have our own pace so I went in search of velcro shoes when they weren’t easy to find. And he wore them a long time. I got around it and he didn’t get left behind. It worked for the moment. And then . . . his baby sister taught him to tie his shoe one day and it stuck! Ha! It all washes.

    And I hope no tomatoes come my way, but I think these things make sense and are easy fixes. Not unreasonable. Just hang in there! And have fun!

  26. With underwear–Here’s the answer: Hanna Andersson. It’s expensive but they make it so all the seams are sewn flat and the high quality cotton is so soft. Seriously to have comfortable undies makes such a difference in my girl’s comfort level. I’m serious. They’re expensive (I think $6 a pair) but so high quality they are totally worth it just for how long they last, not even counting the comfort level.

  27. Hanes makes a great pair of no waistband panties for little girls. My daughter is pretty much the same way with underwear. She refuses to wear denim because it feels itchy and in the winter they are very cold on the playground at recess. Umm, did I mention we live in TEXAS where the coldest day is probably 40-50 ? @@ eyerolls there. She will wear cords and stretchy type pants so we’ve come to a truce there. I don’t have ANY advice from you since that is a battle that is just too expensive to fight i.e. buying them clothes and they don’t wear them.

  28. I say let her pick out the clothes and underwear that she wants to wear and feels comfortable in. Push in her chair for her when she asks nicely. Respond to her requests and she will feel heard. I just don’t think clothes are worth fighting over at this age (or probably any age, but my son is 3.5, so what do I know?). I think that shaping behavior is a much better route to learning than forcing them to do things. Use her wants to shape other behaviors that you want (like the polite asking). Help her learn to dress herself by allowing her to choose her clothes, help her learn manners by having her say “please push my chair in, mommy”. You can use these strong motivators to your advantage.

  29. I have six kiddos.

    I have one child who is partially ocd (she “organized” her toys – never played with them and has been color sorting her closet since she was THREE, to name a few examples – and like you, she comes by it honestly) and it took forEVER but I found that she loves the knit-boxer style girl undies- you know the ones that are snug but go lower down on the leg. She only wore dresses for the first 6 or 7 years of her life because she couldn’t stand it if anything touched her waist. Now that she is older and lowrise is in she is a little better. Heaven help her when the high waist stuff hits our little town.

    I have another kiddo with certifiable sensory integration disorder – traumatic brain injury caused – which is different than ocd, but a lot of it acts the same. It took more trial and error but I have to buy certain brands for him – he likes GAP brand undies and socks. Gymboree undies worked until he outgrew them. Hannah Andersson stuff mostly worked. No tags, no open seams, etc.

    Now that I’ve given my credentials and practically written my OWN post – I have to say, I used to be like your husband – make them suffer through.

    Now I am a wuss. I would let them wear what they find comfortable and sell or give away the other stuff, unless it is part of family outfit or something for a special occasion that needs it. Part of my son’s occupational therapy included teaching us, as parents, what sensory integration disorder feels like and after that, I have figured that life is hard enough, let them wear what feels good. They don’t need the distraction of painful feet or itchy seams.

  30. Oh, you and your husband sound like me and my husband. I don’t give into every little weird request – but I definitely give in more than him. My daughter has a certain plate, cup, spoon and bib – if she is given any of the wrong items, she has a meltdown (she’s 3). My smallest child is a little less like that – she’s 2 and she’ll point out to me that maybe I’m giving her the other child’s spoon, but she doesn’t throw a fit. My 3 year old is very particular. From the minute I bring a set of anything in the house – whether it be sippy cups, plates, toys — at first glance, she has already made up her mind which color is hers and she won’t have it any other way. She’s a creature of habit and unfortunately, so am I.

    Wish I had some advice but I’m dealing with the same. Sometimes, I think my husband gives her to wrong plate and spoon on purpose just to “teach her lesson”. It’s quite frustrating.

  31. I would be of the mind that you have to pick your battles with your kids, just like you do with your hubby. My oldest daughter (14 now) still has this thing that makes her go nuts if her shirts touch her arm pits. I let her have that one, but when she refused to wear underwear that weren’t perfect I put my foot down. Not that she couldn’t change, but she had to pick out 3 pairs, and she had to pick from those 3. I got tired of washing essentially clean clothes.

    My youngest (9) has a sock thing, she would prefer to go without, and will cry if they don’t feel right. I have bought like every different type of sock trying to get this fixed. (I think if we could get them without seams she would be fine.) Then I realized that it was just like the thing with her sister. Now we are down to she can take as much time as she needs (normally about 15 minutes), but she can’t change more than 3 times.

    I guess we all have our little weird things, I go crazy if my feet are dirty, so I think some giving in is OK. We just have to be careful not to take that to the level where we are making them have more of those things.

    Most likely I would fight the child on the perfect position of the high chair, but I think I would fight by making slow changes. Making it a little less perfect every time, but I would just limit the sock thing. After all we have to accept things that aren’t perfect or we are set up to feel like the world is failing us or that we are failing the world… So little changes are good, and we have to accept them, but careful balance?

    Now I wrote all that, and I don’t have a clue if it makes any sense. *Laugh*

  32. I have twins that are five and have had much of the same struggles. Only I myself could not stand the whining any longer and consukted the dr. my daughter would undress herself and scream if made to wear clothing like oh you know socks underwear the normal stuff!! well anyway this went on to include pants and shirts and on and on I noticed on days that we call bugaboo days the problem only was the socks and undies, but nevertheless I couldnt take it it turns out what I thought to be an annoying ocd moment for my daughter was actually a sensory issue that is a true medical problem dont I feel like a schmuck at this pount but we bought tagles clothing fleece and stretchy pants yoga outfits and hanes socks the sport kind that dont have that thick seam at the toe and underwearwe went from a bikini fit to a full brief and fruit of the loom is the best…….now that my daughter can understand she will wear some jeans and cute things to school but when she gets home she strips to jammies. my other daughter has the pants falling down issue the big fix adjustale waist pants…. and the whole chair a certain way it is simply a child looking to have some power and control over their life once it stops being a big deal and it no longer gets a rise out of anyone it usually goes away…..these were all tips from our dr and believe it or not it worked!!!!!! having things just so gives children a sense of having power in their own life so maybe you can indulge her without her knowing its indulgence….we used to beat our daughter to the punch line we would say oh can I push your chair in so your cozy and all the sudden it was like you want me cozy???? and no longer was it an issue..but it did take a few days who knew kill them with kindness really worked hope my sorry life helps……around here its a zoo and weve faced it all good luck to you!!!

  33. Man, I thought I was the only one that dealt with stuff like that.

    Boo won’t wear sweaters that have tags, no matter what. I cut them out if I really want her to wear them (and sew them back in when she grows out of them).

    There are certain things I would battle with, the high chair being on the them. But the pants thing, it is a comfort thing too so I would let that one go and wait for her to grow out of it. It happens at some point.

    The shoe thing I do, it is uncomfortable if the sock is rubbing wrong, so I dont’ blame her!

  34. It a nice site collecting all info about Socks.
    I use to buy different variety of socks and i need this information.
    Thanks for your time to post this article.

  35. All advice should be filtered through your mommy instints, of course, but I would probably let her work through it her own way, and try to make a game out of the “neuroses” as much as possible. Kids are very particular about things, especially as toddlers – they are learning how they impact and control their environments.

    What if you sewed a little bit of elastic either in the back or on both hips to help her feel like the pants are more secure? It might be a good way to transition her with minimal stress for all of you.

  36. I got online this morning to search for some sort of answer to my five year old daughter’s symptoms.
    1. socks and shoes on and off at least a dozen times – minimum of 30 minutes
    2. clothes don’t feel good ever…especially in the car, she complains about her
    underwear or the seams in her pants, etc.
    3. she doesn’t like her hair pulled up
    4. she seems more and more frustrated and fussy with each day
    5. also, she continuously complains that her feet are achy

    The socks and shoes issue started when she was probably around 3. Until reading this page, I was completely oblivious to the invention of seamless socks. I have looked everywhere but never thought to look online. In your opinion, do the seamless socks help?

    After reading the comments on this page, I realized that I wasn’t crazy for being concerned. Not knowing what is wrong with her hurts me in a way that only a parent can understand. I now realize that her behavior is something bigger than normal defiance. I have not been as patient with her as I should’ve been and I have completely disregarded her feelings, assuming she was just in a mood. Well, now that the “moods” are anytime we have to put clothes, socks, and shoes on to leave the house, my concern increased.

    Stacey’s suggestions above are very helpful, Thank You! However, I feel so guilty. My baby girl has repeatedly told me that blue jeans hurt her, and buttons, thick seams, etc., she only wants to wear “yoga” type clothing! Why didn’t I believe her? I wish I had researched sooner! I was completely oblivious to this sort of illness. I know it is pointless to dwell on that so I will focus on making the rest of our mornings as bright as possible.

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