So, my kid wants to be naked…

So, my kid wants to be naked…

…and it’s wreaking havoc with the rhythm of our days.

That might be a wee bit melodramatic, so let me back up.

So, my kid wants to be naked... | Modern Mrs Darcy

the enemy

I want the mood in my house to be pleasant and peaceful, and that doesn’t happen naturally. My husband and I are teaching our kids to be kind, and gracious, and loving. We’ve worked (and are constantly working) on choosing a pleasant voice, on not rolling our eyes, on being responsible for the energy you bring into the room.

The thing that’s undoing it more than anything else? My three year old doesn’t want to wear clothes.

(This will come as no surprise if you follow me on instagram. I don’t share naked pics of my kids, but there have been plenty of my little guy sans pants in places where pants might be considered appropriate.)

My kid wants to be naked | Modern Mrs Darcy

picking big brother up from baseball camp, in a rash guard, underpants, and dress shoes

This started–not coincidentally–when the weather warmed up. We started potty-training about that time, and while we were in process, I encouraged my child to go naked from the waist down. (I don’t know why this works, but it works. Pinky swear.) After a week, we had achieved potty training success, but he didn’t want to wear clothes anymore.

I’m pretty easygoing about what my kids wear. My oldest wants to be sports-ready at all times. My eight-year-old wears her refashioned creations all over town. My six-year-old’s pattern mixing gets pretty crazy. My three-year-old used to wear the same shirt every day before he refused to wear any shirt at all.

And when I say refuse, I mean refuse. He screams before, during, and after the dreadful pants-putting-on time, and it’s only getting worse. When summer began, he’d scream until the clothes were on his body–and then he’d stop. It was like the thought of the clothes was worse than the clothes themselves.

After that, I was able to pop him into the minivan in his underpants, and slip his clothes on when we arrived at our destination. It was like something in his brain said, “oh, we’re here now–time to put on clothes!” and all was well.

My kid wants to be naked | Modern Mrs Darcy

at the library

But as of a few weeks ago, clothes are not okay. Not before. Not during. Not after. He’s only happy in his clothes when he forgets he’s wearing them–which does happen, but not reliably or often enough to count on.

This seems like such a silly thing, but listening to a 3-year-old screaming for half an hour sets everyone on edge and destroys any semblance of peace in our home (or minivan).

He’s my fourth child–I feel like I’ve earned a few notches in my belt by now–but I have no idea what to do about it.

If you’ve got suggestions, I’m all ears.

*****     *****     *****

I’ve always heard that it takes five words of praise to balance out one negative comment, so on that note, here are five six good things to balance out my naked child:

Dining al fresco | Modern Mrs Darcy

1. Dinner in the backyard…in July, when it’s usually too hot.

2. 55 degree mornings, which are unseasonably cool and 100% delightful.

3. Walks with my kids, one on one. My new gadget has me looking for opportunities to pick up steps, and my kids quickly caught on and want to join in for some mama time.

4. Homemade gluten free/dairy free/soy free pizza, which isn’t “healthy” by a long shot but was much enjoyed by everyone anyway.

5. Staying up too late, drinking wine (adults) and chasing fireflies (kids). Just because it’s summer, and because we can. (Last year, everyone fell apart if we didn’t hold fast to our 7pm bedtime. This year, it doesn’t seem to matter if we fudge it and I’m loving it.)

Skipping rocks | Modern Mrs Darcy

skipping rocks

Exploring | Modern Mrs Darcy

exploring–with clothes on. phew. 

On the trail | Modern Mrs Darcy

on the trail

6. Exploring our city’s new parklands on a glorious July afternoon.

(Please note that these activities can all be enjoyed naked–if you’re three–except for #6, which was miserable for the first half hour until my kid forgot he was wearing clothes and focused on having fun instead.)

Talk to me about coping strategies for kids who hate their clothes, or about the little ways you’re experiencing common grace this July. 

56 comments | Comment


  1. Rebecca says:

    Have a cool temporary tattoo he gets after all his clothes are on. Bring a cotton ball soaked in baby oil in your handbag. Clothes come off, so does the tattoo. Just remember to take it off at night 🙂

  2. Rachael says:

    Oh, goodness, we in the same situation. My Little Man is 2 years and a few months, he has always loved naked time, but since he started potty training (yes, he initiated it, not me), he gets to run around naked All.The.Time. It helps that we live in a rural neighborhood, so playing outside naked is no biggy (and he is only 2!), but going to church was an issue at first. We have errands to run today, so we will see if he hates on the clothes again. We’ve pulled out the big boy undies, but I think Little Man finds them…. odd? when he wears them, he is constantly tugging at them, and scratching through them (seams?) And as soon as he needs to potty, off they come and he doesn’t remember to put them back on; plus he’s not too good at putting them on himself.

    :::sigh::: love the potty training. I suspect the naked phase will pass soon enough.

  3. Jillian Kay says:

    No words of wisdom, but I’ll have to say about 15 words of praise to make up for the fact that this very morning I yelled at my child “Fine. Go to school naked and hungry. I don’t care.”

  4. The only thing that worked for us was making everyone get dressed before breakfast. We had a rough first week or so, but powered through the scream-fests and now we all have clothes on at the breakfast table…the days we try to have lazy mornings and don’t stick to that routine are complete wrecks. No idea if this would work for anyone else but my kids crave routines and they are also crazy early risers, so those two things are probably big factors. (oh and for reference, the boys were 3 and 4 when we started this) Good luck! You’ll stumble on something that works for your family I’m sure!!

    • Anne says:

      I have heard other parents swear by this one! My little guy’s not a breakfast lover but I’d definitely be trying this if he was.

  5. Oh my goodness! This post got me giggling. My son is 14 months and since it’s been cool here in Ohio he recently had to go from short to long sleeves. He’s flipping out about it. Screaming, grabbing his sleeve, trying to chew them off, and staring at me like I’ve just locked him in a torture chamber. Makes for an exciting (read exhausting) morning. No words of wisdom, just wishes for a nude-free week!

  6. D says:

    When my little brother did that (20 yrs ago) my mom bought him some Superman pajmas with the velcro-on cape. My brother prefered the birthday suit at home but would gladly put on Superman to go somewhere. It was actually a really cute phase. Good luck.

  7. Bronwyn Lea says:

    Oh my word! We recently had the same dilemma with our three year old. He seems to have outgrown it, but two things we tried with varying levels of success were 1) giving him a designated SPACE to be naked (i.e. “you are allowed to be naked at home/in the back yard, but when we go out then you need to wear pants.”) 2) giving him a designated TIME to be naked (i.e. “We’re leaving in 20 minutes and that means you will need to wear big boy pants. Would you like to put them on now or in 5 minutes?”) Much of the time he would choose 5 minutes, but then cheerfully comply when I told him 5 minutes were up. On the occasions when there was drama and refusal at the 5 minute mark, then his choice was as follows: “It’s time to put on your pants. Would you like to do it yourself or shall I help you?” (Usually this resulted in me helping the screaming child). I TRIED to do this with minimal eye rolling (I LOVE your comment about “being responsible for the energy we bring into the room”), and to finish up with “There you go! All ready to go and have fun dressed like a real big kid!” Good luck!!!

    • Anne says:

      “It’s time to put on your pants. Would you like to do it yourself or shall I help you?” (Usually this resulted in me helping the screaming child).”

      Yes–this is EXACTLY how it usually goes down at my house!

  8. Colleen says:

    My now 12-yr-old son was like this when he was 3. We still laugh about his typical response to my request he put on pants: “Why? We’re not going anywhere.” Of course, how silly of me!

    I solved it by telling him he wasn’t going to get to go on walk/play at park/go to library/whatever fun activity unless he put on pants. It worked, as his desire for adventure was stronger than the need to be pantless. Not sure, though, what to do with a kid who’d rather stay home without pants. Nor what to do if you’re just threatening and really need to go out, and he calls your bluff.

    Good luck. This, too, shall pass!

    • Anne says:

      I’m glad to know you’ve been through it–and are now on the other side! There’s hope for him yet. 🙂

      I’m not sure what to do with a kid who’d rather stay home without pants, either. Maybe I’ll figure out a solution before he outgrows the phase. I’d be fine with either option. 🙂

  9. Stacey says:

    I love how you made me giggle while describing something that is so frustrating- you do a beautiful job of seeing the happiness in it! Neither of my girls have ever gone through this phase fully but my oldest has sensory issue so clothes were always a big deal for her. Fortunately, super soft cotton has gotten us through but seems like sort of a different issue.
    Good luck!!!

    • Anne says:

      My oldest has sensory issues, too–and I think my little naked guy does to some degree, but not like his big brother. Couldn’t agree more about super-soft cotton (and tagless tees).

  10. I’m in the throws of a stubborn potty-trainer, so to me “pants-less and potty trained” beats “not potty trained with pants.” Hands down. But I get that the battle is affecting your family peace. Good luck with a solution. I like the Superman idea above and the “Naked Time” tip.

    My oldest son gets stuck on one, maybe two play shirts he actually likes to wear. He’s been like this since 4. He wears the same shirt over and over and over until it’s threadbare and disgusting, even when clean.

    • Anne says:

      I totally get the “favorite shirt” thing. I expect we’ll revert back to that when it gets cold out.

      And thanks for reminding me that “pants-less and potty trained” is worth something, at least. 🙂

  11. Ana says:

    no advice for you, but you just made me feel better about my 3-year-old refusing to wear anything except (too-tight and ridiculous) pajamas everywhere and everyday. I tried fighting it (I had just bought him new summer clothes!) and it was too stressful, so I returned the clothes and bought more pajamas and pajama-like clothes (he can’t stand buttons/zippers/collars, but anything soft & cottony is good).

    • Anne says:

      These days I’m saying “hallelujah!” when he’s wearing pajamas in public. Pajamas are a lot better than underpants. 🙂

  12. Annette says:

    Wonderful suggestions above! I like the tatoo and the superman cape ideas. Don’t give in. Just keep putting his clothes on. We had to do that with shoes for piper for a little while. They eventually eat use to it and it doesn’t bother them anymore, right? I guess easier said than done. :). Well it won’t last forever anyhow. He will grow up and “get it” eventually.

    • Anne says:

      Definitely easier said than done! That’s advice I’d totally give to other parents, but it’s failing me now. I’m just hoping he grows up and “gets it”, and pronto!

  13. Anna says:

    Oh so funny! If my son tried that my husband would die. I’m much more relaxed about clothing than he is. I would try giving him something to control in the clothing department, just not letting him control whether he wears them or not. Decide what’s non-negotiable and then let him control everything else. Maybe in a dispassionate moment together go and pick out the one pair of shorts that are OK with him and say that if he wears nothing else he has to wear those shorts. Or like others suggested give him times/places to be naked and times to not be naked. My mom did that with me about sucking my thumb when I was a kid and it worked. Power struggles like that are so hard!!

  14. Cynthia Chambers says:

    Forgive me if this is obvious and you have tried it already… could it be elastics or tags that are freaking him out ? My youngest is very, very particular about how clothing ‘feels’. It is very rare that I purchase her something without her trying it on, because she will take something off immediately the moment it irks her. (That’s not fair, now that she is the ripe old age of 6 she rarely does that) I have had to take her along and search out a ‘trying on room’ for clothes shopping since she was 2 1/2 years old. And she like her underwear a few sizes too big… You are so wonderful to see this as a quirk and not deviance. You will find something that works for all of you

    • Anne says:

      He definitely hates tags. My oldest had significant sensory issues, so I’m somewhat used to dealing with those, but I know they can manifest very differently in different kids. I’ll make sure I pay attention as we continue to struggle with this one.

  15. No wonder that shirt’s the enemy – your son must be a Reds fan, or maybe the Cardinals! 😉

    I don’t have any suggestions for you. My son went through a very brief phase where he didn’t want to wear clothes, but it was not anything he was that passionate about. I would tell him that he had to wear clothes or else he couldn’t (eat breakfast/lunch/dinner, or go outside, or … insert whatever it was he wanted to do next.) I know it was a passing fancy for him because that’s all it took. Well, that and telling him that it was rude to go outside of his bedroom or the bathroom without being dressed – he’s really concerned about not being rude. But again, he was never that adamant about it to begin with, so I don’t think our experience is that useful to anyone else.

  16. I teach high school choir and sometimes I have to say “It’s a choir rule, not my rule,” or “It’s a campus rule, not my rule,” Maybe point out that there are no other people without pants where you are going and that’s just “the rule?” Maybe if it’s something he wants to do but can’t while he’s naked, clothes might not seem so bad. Just a thought. Good luck!

  17. Ellen says:

    My mom always says that you have to “figure out what they care about and use it against them”. Sounds awful, but is a reasonable part of parenting, in my experience.

    With our daughters, it means that I am often telling them that “if you want to have (x privilege) in our family, you are expected to behave according to (y expectation)”. I think it is reasonable for kids to learn that they have responsibilities to carry, even if it is just personal presentation! 🙂 It doesn’t seem to matter if the two issues are connected, just if they care about something.

    And I’m talking about a three year old right now – I’ve found that is plenty old enough to understand the deal!

  18. Sarah says:

    I’m thinking you just go with it. I had a cousin who threw a royal fit if she wore anything except a swimsuit. This went on for about 9 months. In Missouri. So it wasn’t always swimsuit weather! She got over it eventually (probably around the time she was putting a coat and boats on over her suit) and she’s a perfectly lovely young lady now.

  19. “He’s only happy in his clothes when he forgets he’s wearing them.” I seem to remember a princess Diana quote that sounded something like that.

    I have a friend who used to live in a nudist colony back in the 1970s. Oh the stories! He wears shorts now. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him with a shirt on. But he DOES wear shorts. So there’s some hope for you. 😉

      • I just found out tonight that Princess Diana was an INFP like us, Anne. I’ll see if I can find the quote. I read it during the pre-internet dark ages.

        And yes, my friend is a hoot. I really like him. He is around 75 I think. He drives up from the city (about 45 minutes) to jog on my road. He always calls to me if he sees me on the porch — “Hellooo, Adriana! Another beautiful day in Shangri La!” He loves my valley as much as I do. And the nudist colony used to be nearby apparently. I didn’t realize they had nudist colonies in the Bible belt, but they did!

  20. Well, my solution probably won’t be popular, but here it is:
    After making sure his clothing fits and is comfortable re tags and so on, just state that he has to put his clothes on at whatever point in the day you prefer and if he pitches a fit, spank. Calmly, lovingly, but consistently. When he understands that there will be no reward whatsoever for what he is doing, he’ll stop.
    And everyone (including him) will be happier in the end.

    • I was raised in a spanking culture. My parents spanked us calmly, lovingly and consistently just as you describe. The problem with using it as a cure-all is that, yes, for now they will concede an go along with the program, but MANY kids raised this way turn to being sneaky with they are teenagers. I won’t go so far to say that ALL spanking is unnecessary and abusive. (If my 2yr old keeps running to the road, a little swat on the bottom might save her life!) but the more I have matured as a parent, the less I see the need for it. It’s a quick fix.

      And here is something else to consider, Lori. As you said, “This probably won’t be popular.” You are right. Corporeal punishment is not popular. When our children are grown it most likely will be against the law! Let’s not be fearful about that prospect, but instead show our kids how they can train up children successfully w/o spanking!

  21. Tim says:

    I’d just let him run naked around the house and shove clothes on him when it’s time to go out (the looser the better so they’re easier to get on). This phase will pass a lot more quickly than some others.

    My kids had their quirks when young, and now they are each leading mission trips overseas, running day camps at home, and leading Bible studies. I think it must have been our permissive ways that led to them being such screw-ups.

  22. I had a similar problem from March – June. Eleanor hands-down refused to wear anything but pink. SOLID PINK. Like if her pink shirt had one white flower on it? Or some purple polka dots? Nope, no go. So for 3 months she mostly wore the same three outfits over and over, because she only had 6 plain pink clothing items.

    Where our battles came in was on the days that the pink clothes all wound up in the hamper at the same time. I would say that it was fine if she wore pink when they were clean, but she has about 42 other outfits to choose from, and that wearing dirty clothes out of the hamper was not ok.

    And thus the hour-long tantrums would begin… it was making me crazy because it was such a negative start to our day. But, a mix of bribery and luck did the trick for us. Bribery especially worked well on Sundays. Our church’s coffee cart sells donuts, and I’d tell her that if she chose her clothes quickly enough that we arrived at church by 8:45 she could have a donut before class. And then on Monday I’d be like, “Remember what a great job you did picking clothes before church yesterday? Can you do that again today?” and slowly she started getting a little better.

    Then, the first week of July, we went to a rainbow-themed birthday party. The next day she put on a blue shirt and blue jeans (um, the kid hasn’t worn jeans since 2012!) and announced to me that since her friend invited her to the rainbow party, she likes all the colors of the rainbow now. And magically, ever since then, ZERO tantrums, and she’s been wearing all kinds of colors.

    I woulda thrown her a fake birthday party in March if I’d known that was all it would take. 😛

  23. Esther L. says:

    We went through a much less traumatic naked phase. The kids were fine putting clothes on to head out, but as soon as we came back home, clothes were immediately discarded. It always put me on edge–and that was only in my house! I hope you find a solution!

    The new park system that Louisville is building is incredible! We went exploring with my in-laws two weeks ago in the one that’s on Shelbyville Rd. Of course as we’re walking along a path next to Floyd’s Fork creek and my mother-in-law starts chatting about what may be living in the long grass between the path and the creek when a snake pops out no more than 2 feet in front of me. I screamed. Unfortunately it was loud enough that one of the park staff came out from the educational building to make sure everything was OK. Aside from my ego, all was fine. Thankfully, I provided a very good laugh to my family which is all anyone could ask for!

  24. Tracy S. says:

    My youngest daughter is very sensitive about scratchy tags and uncomfortable ANYTHING. As a toddler she shed her clothes when she could but I generally insisted on underpants by age three (it helped clarify which parts of her body were particularly private).For years after that, she wore her clothes inside-out because the seams bothered her. She is in high school now, and I doubt whether she has one tag in an item of clothing. You are not alone. 🙂

    My suggestion: Stop letting him be naked at home when he is around other people. If your husband wears boxers, buy him some just like dad and explain that big boys don’t walk around without their boxers on. Then have a week or two of little exciting excursions, like a trip for a treat, going to the park, visiting a friend, trip to the dollar store–where clothing is NOT optional. If he is not dressed in time–any kind of pants, shirt and shoes– the clothed kids get to go with one parent where he is stuck at home with the other. No yelling or cajoling because, hey, you figured if he wanted to go, he would have put his pants on. He’ll get the idea.

  25. Kimberly says:

    Just found your blog and I LOVE it. Also I’m a new homeschooler, so your homeschool posts were most helpful. I wanted to QUIT yesterday.

    Anyway, about your post — I have a three-year-old boy, who will turn four next week, and he has been a handful when it comes to clothes. went through a phase where getting dressed was an absolute scream-and-wrestle-fest, etc. We just had to push through and eventually he grew out of it, although now he is very picky about what he wears, and insists on choosing it all himself.

    Have you ever seen the YouTube videos, “Convos with my 2-year-old?” HILARIOUS. He just put out one about wrestling his daughter into pants. Be sure to watch parts 1 and 2.

    • Anne says:

      I’m laughing so hard I’m CRYING at the first one. And #2 is just like my life…except for the happy kid at the end. Mine would still be crying. 🙂

  26. Lyndsay says:

    I bounced here from Tim Fall’s place, and was interested in your posts. My only suggestion on this one is to move to Canada. Eventually it is way too cold to be naked!! (like today, 14 and raining, in August. Sigh). Hope you find a solution to your challenge!

      • Lyndsay says:

        LOL Tim. From afar I can see Canada’ appeal to the American audience these days (umm political infighting comes to mind!). Though, it must be said I am jealous that a close/on-par/better currency STILL translates into me paying a good $3-5 dollars more for a book! (oh, and it’s hot in SoCal, and the US Target is better!).

    • I’m just curious, Anne — Does positive pressure from his older siblings help your son at all? Sometimes, when my 4yr old doesn’t want to put on shoes when we are going out, I will turn the battle over to my older sons. They will say things to him like, “We’re ALL wearing shoes today, Man. Let’s put these on. These are SO cool!” Team spirit, you know. 😉

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