If It’s Cold Out & My Son Will Only Wear Shorts, Should I Let Him?

Some boys insist upon wearing shorts, even through the freezing Winter. But should parents let them, or is it our job to make sure our kids dress warmly? Today Parent republishes a story each Winter to address the issue because, as it turns out, it's super common.


The story tells about a boy called Sam who always wants to wear shorts. The 10 degree Winters in Pittsburg, where Sam lives, do not deter him from putting on a pair of shorts. He even wants his shorts when he goes ice skating.

Sam's mother, Cara Schultz was understandably concerned with her son's dressing habits. Any mother would cringe at the idea of a child in shorts in the snow! So Shultz tried to tell Sam that he could only wear shorts if he were leggings underneath, but Sam wasn't having it. Shultz ended up allowing Sam to wear shorts, because he insisted they were the only thing he was comfortable in.

Another mom, Susan Corcoran, had a similar story about her twin boys. They always chose shorts, even in 26-degree weather. The boys wore pants as part of their school uniform but changed into shorts every day, right when they got home.


Most parents will understandably be tempted to insist that their children dress appropriately for the weather. But before we get into that discussion, let's take a look at why some boys are obsessed with shorts. It's always best to understand kids before deciding how to make rules that affect them.

Many of the boys in the Today Parent story claimed to be comfortable in shorts. But the moms suspected they were mimicking their fathers' dressing choices. Parenting expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa weighed in, claiming that some children, boys especially, feel warmer. Gilboa explained that both testosterone and body hair keep boys warmer. However, it could also be the attention that kids get for dressing in something surprising; many people they pass will make comments and that could make them feel unique.

boy running to school
Credit: iStock / djedzura

READ MORE: 10 Big Don'ts For Dressing Kids For Primary School (And 10 Things Parents Often Overlook)


If your child wants to wear something clearly improper for cold weather on a snowy day, should you allow it? In most cases, giving children as much autonomy as possible is preferred. However, if their safety is compromised, parents may need to use their veto power.

Kids thrive when they have choices. At a young age, giving them two or three options to choose from is a great start. Toddlers do not really have the mental capacity to think ahead and dress for the weather.

As children age, they should have more and more control in all areas of life, daily dressing included. If they arrive for breakfast in clothes not appropriate for the cold, it is fine to let them know that today is going to be chilly. But let them learn from their mistakes whenever possible. And don't let yourself say I-told-you-so either! Show genuine empathy if your child is upset about being too cold, and ask them what they'll do tomorrow differently.

If you are not comfortable letting your kid walk to school in shorts on a snowy day, try an alternative that still lets them learn from their own choices. Ask them whether they'd like to wear their coat or carry it...or in the case of shorts-obsessed boys, whether they want to wear their snow pants or pack them in their backpack. What you do not want to do is come to the rescue by driving to school with warmer clothes. This takes away from the learning experience!

In general, if the weather is dangerously cold, parents should reserve the right to require their children to dress appropriately for the weather. But there are many days through the year when shorts will be fine if a little chilly on. Any time a child can choose without putting himself at risk, parents should allow it. This will improve the relationship as well, as kids feel their parents trust them.

READ NEXT: 20 Pics That Show What Happens When Kids Decide To Dress Themselves

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