What to do when your kid refuses to wear clothes
Au naturel, defrocked, buck naked, starkers, in the altogether.
No matter what you call it, there comes a point in a kid’s life when running around in one’s birthday suit stops being cute and starts to become, well, a thing . . . at least for the parents.
Usually it happens around age four or five. You’re ready to head out to run some errands and your “helper” is standing there, naked as a jaybird, and refusing to put on clothes. So begins another power struggle. Just when you thought you could actually get out of the house without one of you in a snit. Sigh . . .
Whether it’s a refusal to put on anything, balking at wearing a coat or the same outfit over and over again, getting kids dressed can be a recurring problem. So, in an attempt to keep it from escalating into a scene, here are a few things to think about the next time your kid refuses to wear clothes.
Understand the reasoning behind it
Believe it or not, sometimes your child wants to make a point but can’t be bothered to sit down like a civilized little human and discuss it over a nice cup of milk. I guess that means it’s up to us grownups to look at the possible causes and get to bottom of it.
Maybe the clothes are itchy. After all, fabric sensitivity can get to all of us, especially those of us with extra soft, new skin. It could be that new shirt actually does feel funny or have an annoying tag. Perhaps the reason she wears that same silky princess dress for ten days in a row until you sneak in at night and throw it in the laundry is that it feels so nice on?
Or perchance it’s that independent streak starting to rear its head. Possibly not wearing clothes is more about the freedom to do what you want when you want and not so much the freedom to move about unencumbered. (Although that’s kinda great, too. I mean, think about it, not much beats whipping off your underwear and letting things breathe at the end of the day.)
Then again, almost as nice as feeling a sense of freedom is getting some good ol’ attention – be it for good or bad. Like any protest, the aim is to create awareness. Could it be that the medium is the pair of pants, but the message is “pay me heed”? Hmmm. . . diabolical or just sort-of sad?
Some strategies to try
Listen to complaints. If something is “itchy,” pull it out of the rotation for a while and see if that helps.
Give up some control. Offer a few different choices or let kids decide what they want to wear. Yeah, that orange hat looks goofy with that green shirt, but so what? Maybe work together to come up with different outfits.
Control the environment not the kid. Removing summer sandals and shorts from the mix in February avoids that situation altogether.
Employ older siblings for some peer pressure. Okay, this may seem a little wrong, but a nice compliment from an older brother about a new cool shirt could make all the difference to a situation. Or even a hand me down or two might smooth things over.
Let them go without a coat or rainboots every now and then. If you know they’ll be alright and not stuck out in the snow for an hour at lunch, it’s okay to let them see the consequences of their actions. Having wet feet all day will get anyone thinking about proper footwear.
Call their buff bluff, within reason. Maybe let them come along for the ride to Grandma’s naked. A hot leather car seat or freezing cold safety buckle really teach a lesson the way nothing else can. And wait till her dog comes to say hello!
When it comes right down to it, clothes don’t matter that much. Is it worth the aggravation? I know that in the moment it’s hard to let things go, but step back and think big picture.
Fact is, children grow more private as their peer interaction increases. Kids will grow out of the nakedness phase. And next thing you know, they’ll be locking you out of the bathroom.
Yeah, the “free Willy” stage won’t last forever . . . but pictures do. Just think of the future bribery opportunities.