QUESTION: My toddler hates wearing clothes. At home it’s no big deal, but we recently went to a BBQ at my husband’s employer’s home and she proceeded to pull off all her clothes and run around naked. I was mortified and am worried it reflected badly on my husband. What can I do?
BBB: Toddlers are notorious for loving to be naked. Being naked is being free, and the toddler feels like a bandit with no restraints. I have vivid memories of my three toddlers running around the house naked before their baths every night. They called it “Tushy Time.”
Toddlers do not share your understanding of time and place. They think in the here and now and are driven by their impulses. Hence, the choice of the boss’ house for the striptease.
Explaining why taking one cannot take off her clothes outside of home—propriety—cannot possibly be understood by your toddler. In fact, like so many rules and boundaries toddlers must learn, keeping your clothes just must be learned at as a rule for which, when broken, there is a consequence. That it makes sense to her is inconsequential right now.
Toddlers are able to learn specific “rules” when there is consistency about them. If, for example, we only drink orange juice after a nap, she will get with the program after a while and stop asking for orange juice all the time. So will it be with being naked if you give it a time and a place. Perhaps you could have naked time before or after her bath every day. You will be able to remind her, as she begins to disrobe, that naked time is only at bath time, associating with another milestone in her day. And you might think about timing naked time, using your iPhone or an old-fashion kitchen timer. She will know when it’s over and time to get in the tub or put on her pajamas. No choice; the timer said so.
If your child were older and still preferring to be naked, I would explore other possibilities. The first thing that comes to mind is the way fabric feels on her skin. That would be an indication of a particular sensitivity in the area of feeling. In this case, the person is likely Tactilely Defensive. It is within the range of Sensory Integration Dysfunction. But that is a whole different story and probably not the case with your toddler.
I certainly understand that you were mortified at your daughter’s disrobing at the boss’ home, but rest assured, most adults understand the whims of young children, and they laugh it off. If not, go ahead and show the boss this column in our beloved local newspaper! No need to be embarrassed.
Betsy Brown Braun, M.A. is a Child Development and Behavior Specialist (infants to teens), a Parent Educator, and Multiple Birth Parenting Specialist. Betsy consults with parents privately, runs parenting groups, seminars and workshops for parents, teachers, and other professionals. She is the award-winning author of the bestselling, “Just Tell Me What to Say” and “You’re Not the Boss of Me.” Betsy has been featured on the Today Show, The Early Show and Good Morning America and has been cited in Parents Magazine, Twins Magazine, Family Circle and many more. Betsy and Ray Braun, Palisades residents for 38 years, are the parents of adult triplets and have five grandchildren, so far.