Well, I don't know about you, but this is a scene that I find very familiar. Mom wants one thing, four-year-old wants something else and it ends up in a big tantrum! Trying to reason with a four-year-old, even when you happen to be objectively right, is never an easy job. In this drama, the mother's feelings are understandable; she wants her daughter to look nice for a special family occasion. She is a caring mother who is clearly trying to do the right thing.
WHERE DOES SHE GO WRONG?
She goes wrong, in my opinion, by giving her daughter only one option -- this one dress or nothing. In my experience, whenever possible, you can only benefit from offering young children several different options.
True, some situations are not open for discussion. A child cannot choose to walk in the street. A child can, however, be given leeway when it comes to choosing clothing. I understand exactly how this mom feels. After all, she went out and chose a special outfit just for this party. And she is certainly correct that she needs to teach her daughter to dress appropriately for special occasions. On the other hand, it is likely that this girl has some other party dresses on hand that, while they might not be the dress the mother has in mind, would probably also be quite appropriate.
Parents, understandably, often have a hard time letting go of the idealized image they have of family interaction. The mother picked out that dress and in her mind, it's what her daughter must wear. She needs to let go of her own needs and images and allow her daughter to feel a certain amount of freedom and independence. She needs to extricate herself from a power struggle that she can only win by force. And she needs to question her motivation: What's more important? What her daughter wears -- or her daughter's feelings of competence and control?