What to do when your kid hates wearing clothes

You're not the only parent with a child who wants to take clothes off. Here are some tips to help set some boundaries when it comes to baring it all.

Photo: Yarinca/iStockphoto

It’s not unusual for small children to enjoy disrobing at seemingly random times, says Susan Walker Kennedy, President of the Child Psychotherapy Foundation of Canada. “Children ages three to five are learning to dress and undress themselves, and often enjoy this independence and the feeling of being naked. Taking off their clothes may also be a way to protest, or to seek attention.” Walker Kennedy advises helping a child understand that clothes need to stay on in public places.

?Could be the clothes
Sensitivity to certain fabrics can also play a part, especially amongst “spirited” children, says parenting expert Judy Arnall, author of Discipline Without Distress. “If your child always wants to wear the same one or two outfits, she may have a fabric preference. Kids 18 months and older are empowered by choosing their own clothes, and getting out the door will be easier if you keep the drawers clear of clothes that they absolutely refuse to wear, as well as anything you don’t want them to wear outside the house.”

Set some boundaries
Age four or five is a good time to start curbing public nudity, as self-control increases and egocentricity decreases, says Arnall, but at home, parents should continue with what they feel comfortable with. Remember that if you laugh at how cute your little nudist is, she will probably continue to bare her body. And because she’s letting it all hang out, you may have to set some related behavioural boundaries. Many preschoolers are interested in self-exploration, especially when their private parts aren’t covered up. Address this directly, says Arnall. “You can say, ‘That’s something you should do in private,’ and move her hand away, if necessary.” Arnall emphasizes that this is usually a brief, bittersweet stage; children become more private as peer interaction increases. Before you know it, your kid won’t let you leave the bathroom door open.

A version of this article appeared in our September 2012 issue with the headline “The naked truth,” p. 86. 

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