Why Does My Toddler Like to Strip Naked?

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Question: Why Does My Toddler Like to Strip Naked?

My 26-month-old is constantly stripping off his clothes -- sometimes straight down all the way including his diaper. It's a problem at home because he isn't potty trained. It's a problem in public because, well, have you ever chased a naked 2-year-old through the supermarket? Why is he doing this and how can I stop the madness?

Answer: I can picture it: strange silence...then you turn to see his clothes in a pile.

The shriek,"NO!" as you try and coax him back into the skivvies. Then the combination giggles and yells as you chase him down. Been there.

Of courses, your toddler might offer a unique twist to the scenario, but it is a fairly common problem for parents of young children. Take heart -- in most cases, you can take steps to discourage the striptease, but what you do will depend on what is provoking your child's nudity.

There are several factors that usually prompt toddlers to drop trou and streak, including:

He Can. For two years, you've been teaching him how to dress and undress (even if you didn't do it consciously). Now that he's mastered the skill, he wants to show it off in the same way he wanted to flaunt his ability to walk or sing the ABCs for your approval. If seeking approval is your child's motivation, more than likely you will be able to nip the stripping in the bud with some consistency and firmness.

When he starts to undress, gently reinforce the fact that taking off clothes is just for inside the house. Put a quick stop to it in public. But as soon as you get home, you might turn to him and say, "Now we can undress!" Offering appropriate praise when you're home and quickly, gently disciplining him when you're out should help him understand that there is a time and place for undressing...and story time at the library is not it.

He's Uncomfortable. It took us a long time to connect our laundry detergent to a recurrent rash on our son's forearms. While he wasn't a nudist, he was fidgety. Switching to a hypo-allergenic detergent helped him feel more comfortable in his clothes. In some cases, the material of clothes themselves may make a child uncomfortable and eager to get the clothing off. Think of stiff dress shirts or ruffled frocks that look cute but that scratch and irritate. Look over the clothes your child is trying to get out of to see if you could choose more comfortable material (such as organic clothes) or use special detergent.

It's Funny. Odds are you laughed at least the first time your toddler went nature boy on you. Maybe, though, you don't laugh...but your husband, sister, or 10-year-old niece cracks up each time the diaper flies off. Even if no one laughs, your toddler might think it's hysterical to get you so worked up. That chase around the dairy case of your supermarket probably delights your child as much as any game of chase. That means you need to look for ways guide your toddler's funny streak. Teach him a Happy Feet style dance or encourage other ways to be the center of attention (with his clothes on).

One of the things to consider when dealing with a toddler who likes to strip is whether you are okay letting your toddler go naked at home or whether you prefer he remain clothed both at home and in public. If you are comfortable with him roaming au naturale around the house, then your main concern is teaching him about his private body and the fact that being nude is fine at home, but covering one's private body is expected when he's not at home.

Whether or not you want your child to be roaming your home nude or not, you may be eager to teach him to independently dress or undress. You can teach these skills at home while dressing him in what my kids refer to as "comfy clothes" in the house -- elastic band pants, loose shirts, easy to pull down underear, etc.

When going out in public, you might discourage quick undressing by clothing your child in more complicated clothes such as snap close t-shirts, button shirts, and snap-and-zipper pants.

In the end, your child will outgrow the phase, and one of the best ways to help put an end to the phase more quickly is to not get too excited when your child pulls off those pants. It's easier said than done, of course, but like being a fussy eater and refusing to nap, this too should pass.

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