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I'm loading some javascript files in the parent theme. The path in the parent theme is "scripts" > "custom.js".

In the child theme, I'm creating the same path (scripts > custom.js) and changing some of the jQuery inside the custom.js file.

The problem is that the changes are not being applied. Is this the wrong way to make changes to these files in the child theme?

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What is the parent Theme? How are the scripts being called by the parent Theme? – Chip Bennett Aug 24 '11 at 22:17

2 Answers 2

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Child themes only override php files (like header.php) that are included with functions like get_template_part or get_header, etc.

The correct way to add scripts to WordPress is with wp_enqueue_script. If your parent theme uses this, you can override the JS files by using wp_dequeue_script and enqueuing your own.

Like so...

// hook in late to make sure the parent theme's registration 
// has fired so you can undo it. Otherwise the parent will simply
// enqueue its script anyway.
add_action('wp_enqueue_scripts', 'wpse26822_script_fix', 100);
function wpse26822_script_fix()
    wp_enqueue_script('child_theme_script_handle', get_stylesheet_directory_uri().'/scripts/yourjs.js', array('jquery'));

If the parent theme isn't using wp_enqueue_script, it's probably hooking into wp_head (or wp_footer) to echo out the scripts there. So you'd use remove_action to get rid of those functions echoing the scripts out, and then enqueue your own script.

If the script is hard coded into the template file, you'll just need to replace that template file in your child theme without the script tag.

If they used wp_enqueue_script calls that utilize get_stylesheet_directory_uri, then you shouldn't have to do anything. Since this isn't happening, you'll just have to poke around and see what the theme author did.

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if the parent theme uses get_stylesheet_directory_uri to enqueue scripts, then the child theme will have to duplicate all scripts thus enqueued, because otherwise they woun't be found. There is no fallback mechanism in get_stylesheet_directory_uri to check if an individual file exists in the child theme and fall back to the parent theme's file if necessary. – user18579 Jul 26 '12 at 13:20
From the Codex: “wp_print_scripts should not be used to enqueue styles or scripts on the front page. Use wp_enqueue_scripts instead. ”… – Christian Lescuyer Aug 13 '13 at 14:53
Keep in mind when this was written: two years ago. Before wp_enqueue_scripts could be used to only enqueue scripts on the front end. Updated. If you see something out of date, feel free to edit. – chrisguitarguy Aug 13 '13 at 15:02
Sorry, no criticism implied, I did upvote your answer :) – Christian Lescuyer Aug 16 '13 at 19:46
Please note that you may have to set a late priority (for instance 100) to make sure your dequeue happens after the parent theme enqueue. add_action( 'wp_enqueue_scripts', 'wpse26822_script_fix', 100 ); from – Spone Sep 4 '14 at 5:18

In some cases it is important to prioritize both the add_action and the wp_enqueue_script function calls like so:

add_action('wp_enqueue_scripts', 'wpse26822_script_fix', 20120207);
function wpse26822_script_fix()
    wp_enqueue_script('my_storefront-navigation', get_stylesheet_directory_uri().'/js/navigation.min.js', array('jquery'),20151110,true);

In this case, wp_enqueue_scripts was called by the parent with a priority of 20120206 (the date) and so this action is added with a priority just barely greater so that it will immediately be dequeued. Then, the enqueue statement that follows that follows is actually prioritized after that to ensure that it loads after the old one was dequeued. The true, in this case is also important because that specifies that it is to be enqueued in the footer, which is where the parent script was first enqueued.

Also, I can't quite explain it entirely, but I notice that if you are careful with dequeuing the initial script immediately after it being enqueued, it seems you can effectively prevent it from loading in the first place.

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