This week's question for Dr. B (our resident early childhood development specialist) is about a toddler who insists on taking off her clothes and her diaper. It comes from a pregnant mom who is (understandably) in no mood for potty training. Unfortunately, she's got a 21 month-old with Houdini-like skills.
Dear Dr. B,
My 21 month-old daughter refuses to keep her clothes and diaper on. Four-five times last week, she took off her pants, ripped off her diaper, sat in her potty and pooped. I know I should be grateful for this development, however, she is not telling me when she has to go and lacks the language skills to do so. And she only does this to poop, not to pee. Plus my plan was to put off potty training until after I gave birth to my second child in December.
To complicate matters, she is also taking her clothes and diapers off during the night. She has mastered backwards diapers, velcro, zippers and one piece pajamas, even when worn backwards. Giving her a bath and washing all of her bedding every single morning is getting tiresome.
Also, I think her new disrobing habit has as much to do with wanting to explore her genitals as it does having to go to the bathroom. But I am trying my best to simply ignore that behavior until the phase ends.
Many children go through a stage where they take off their clothing and their diapers. If this stage didn’t involve dirty diapers, this would be a milestone of which most parents would be proud. For some children, this could be a sign of readiness for potty training since the child's behavior suggests that they are beginning to be uncomfortable when wet or soiled. You can refer to my post "Potty Training: When to Start" to learn the 10 signs of potty training readiness. If you decide that it's time, you can begin formal training with "Potty Training 101".
However, if you are not ready to tackle potty training yet, preventing the behavior by getting clothing that is difficult to remove is always a good place to start and often works. But when this strategy is ineffective (as in your case), you need to determine and address the reason for the disrobing.
6 Potential Reasons for a Toddler Disrobing and Strategies To Help Prevent It:
Reason #1: DISCOMFORT
Try using a larger diaper or one that is more absorbent (see diaper-changing post). Consider adding an extra insert in her diaper or changing her an additional time during the night or early in the morning to minimize discomfort associated with a soaked and soiled diaper. Also consider changing the temperature of the room or her nighttime clothing if you think she is disrobing because she is getting too warm.
Reason #2: BOREDOM
Create a more structured schedule of activities at home to keep her occupied and teach her how to play with toys independently. Multi-sensory toys with visual, auditory, and tactile elements are best because they engage all the senses and will keep her hands occupied. At nighttime, try putting an extra diaper on over her clothes so she can remove one for fun and hopefully leave the other one on.
Reason #3: EXPLORATION
It is normal for young children to explore their genitals and they may experience a positive sensation from doing so which rewards the behavior. Although you shouldn’t discourage this behavior, you can teach boundaries if your child begins to engage in this behavior outside of the home. Also, consider consulting with your doctor to rule-out any other possible causes for excessive touching such as diaper rash or an infection.
Reason #4: MASTERY OF SOMETHING NEW
If you think she is excited by her new discovery of how to take her clothes off, begin teaching her how to put her clothes back on. At the same time, explain that clothes stay on during the day and come off at night. Try giving her a doll with clothes that come on and off that she can practice with.
Reason #5: LACK OF COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Disrobing may also occur because she does not have the language to tell you she needs to be changed or needs to go to the potty. Use her disrobing behavior as an opportunity to teach a new skill. Start by giving her a simple word or phrase to use when she needs to go (e.g., "go potty") or she's wet (e.g., “wet” or “change please”).
Every time she attempts to disrobe, try to catch her in the act and prompt her to say the word or phrase with repetition. When she succeeds in using the word or phrase, reward her by changing her or bringing her to the potty immediately to reinforce her efforts. Give her lots of praise when she uses this word or language (even if she didn’t really have to go to the potty). Also, make sure to praise her for keeping her clothes on, especially at night.
Reason #6: TO GET A BIG REACTION
Many children continue to engage in behavior because it results in a BIG reaction from a parent (regardless if it is positive or negative). To discourage this, follow a predictable response sequence every time it happens.
1) Calmly and firmly state a simple phrase such as, “clothes stay on” when she attempts or succeeds at disrobing
2) If possible, have her put her clothes back on/partially on and help you clean up the mess (to teach her there is a natural consequence for her actions)
3) Remind her to use a predetermined word or phrase to request a change
4) Ask her to repeat it and praise her for repeating it
5) Take her clothes off immediately and change her (or give her a bath)
Finally, if you wish to pursue potty training, keep in mind that teaching her to keep her diaper and clothes on will also help her learn to control her bladder and bowel movements. When she is able to hold it long enough to tell you before she needs to go, she will be more successful at using the potty inside and outside of the home.
However, if she continues to have difficulty keeping her clothes on and learning to tell you before she has to go to the bathroom, consider starting a more formal approach involving putting her on the potty at predictable times so that there is less room for her to learn bad habits.
— Dr. B
Does this also apply to six and a half year old boys who go commando every chance he gets?
Sincerely, My-Boy-Went-To-Vacation -Bible-School-Without-Hhis-Underwear
Love this post!
My daughter has just started doing this, we’ll notice that all of a sudden half of her diaper is hanging off.
She loves the sound of the velco sticking and unsticking.
Personally, I’m curious as to why AF wants to put off potty training until after her 2nd baby is born. especially given that her daughter seems pretty ready and raring to go. I would think it would really suck to be cleaning up accidents and changing 2 sets of diapers with a newborn in the house, especially with all the sleep deprivation!
http://www.toddlerremovingdiaper.com <--- non removable pjamas will keep your toddler from taking their clothes and diaper off!
good the potential reason
Thanks for the very helpful post. After reading your post I can note few symptoms in my kid.
duct tape worked wonders for our three girls…just don’t let the tape touch the skin
Oh dear ! I wrote a children’s book about this and it is called Tactile Defensiveness. This advice is not fair to the child. Please, look at my website if you really want to help your child. http://www.illtellyouwhy.com
The best solution is zippered back pajamas by Little Keeper Sleeper.
check out there amazing reviews at http://www.littlekeepersleeper.com.
Regarding postponing potty training for a child who is so ready they’re already starting to do it on their own… Be careful. Kids have stages of readiness that come and go, and if you don’t take advantage of one stage, that stage may not come around again for a LONG time.
Are you a mother of 2 or 3? Every mother has her personal battles. You are not perfect at mothering either so stop judging how AF or anyone else mothers.
My 2 yr old who has mastered potty training thru the day but struggles at night does this. Won’t leave anything on whether diapers or big girl panties. Even tried cutting footy pjs off and put on her backwards, she just slips right out of them. Open to any new ideas!!!
When I was 2, I could never undress my boxer briefs without any help! I still even tug to undress my boxer briefs! When I ever urinate on myself, my boxer briefs are part of my body! I’d always wet my boxer briefs if I can’t open the fly!
Also the naked thing is throughout the day and night, I tried the suggestion of “Reason # 4 & 5” ad there’s never a big reaction from us parents good or bad, just say clothes need to stay on unless going potty or bath time..
I just got a call from my 3 year olds preschool teacher I guess he started this behavior today and his reason for this is daddy told him to do it. His father and I are divorced. Not sure what to do now.
You need to ask your son why. And live with whatever awsner he gives you don’t probe don’t coach just ask and if you suspect any sort of abuse call the police take your son to the hospital. Most likely dad just said it was ok once for comfort reasons and unfortunately the child didn’t understand the social reaction was going to be different at pre-school I wouldn’t read to far into it but I would ask you son straight out if anyone’s hurting or touching him
I bout some sleep tight pj’s for my 2 year old from http://sleeptight.tictail.com. He immediately stopped wetting the bed! This has been a lifesaver!!!
My son is over 2 and does the same thing, but he also refuses to listen and getting him to do anything is just a huge fight which is incredibly draining for both of us. I persoanlly do not think my son is ready for potty training just because he takes of his diaper. He also rips a clean diaper off. I have been using duct tape but i wrap it around the whole diaper and make sure it is not tight and not touching his skin in any way. At least that way if he does pee or go number 2 i can change him when he wakes. Also don’t they say kids are not ready if they don’t go for long stretches with a dry diaper because when he does leave it on his diaper is still soaking wet
We should allow children to crap and trash their beds on a nightly basis.
I can remember doing this when I was around 2-3 y.o. My poor Mom would dress me and put me in the back seat of the car. If she didn’t keep a close watch, I’d strip down to my underwear!!! (This was around 1952-3 before child safety seats.) I believe that I did it for several reasons: the clothing was often uncomfortable and too warm. I also later in life had allergies, which I suspect were undetected and contributed. Use non-allergic laundry products, and never use dryer sheets. Make sure that your child’s skin is nice and moist with hypoallergenic lotion and baby oil with as little scent as possible. Also use a diaper for children who have sensitive skin or allergies. Lastly, make sure that your child’s clothing fits loosely and is not too hot for the child’s comfort, which may be different to yours. Hope this helps any Moms who may be reading this later than the original question! God bless!
With me I don’t strip of my boxer brief underwear, esp when needing to pee! It’s only I pee inside my boxer brief underwear or I pee inside my boxer brief underwear with the fly open! However when I open the fly my penis is still inside my boxer brief underwear! No wonder why I feel my boxer brief underwear is peeing instead which I love seeing my pee come out of my boxer brief underwear!
Sounds like she’s ready and your not, unfortunately your the adult so your gonna have to take one for the team prego or not, maybe dad can help more I know he works but perhaps when he gets home he can show her how to get on and off the potty by herself. I notice when my son pees on the floor I just swoop him up and run to the bathroom he got the point I didn’t really say much beside uh-oh and we go pee in the potty it’s ok but pay attention next time……it felt like forever but he finally takes himself flushes and we’re working on the hand washing thing. Get yourself some arm and hammer or pet spot remover because your carpets about to take a beating. I wake up before my son so he doesn’t have a chance to get naked and poo finger paint in the am plus it gives me a cup of coffee alone enough time to talk myself in waking him up. o hear you your prego your tired your mentally and emotionally exhausted not to mention psychically twice the human you use to be but that’s why men don’t give birth we are the stronger sex you can do this these children can beat you down but God would t give you anything you couldn’t handle even if it feels like your ready to explode
Thank you for this article. My daughter started doing this days ago and I’m getting worried. I’ve had fears that something is wrong. I’ll try all of this strategies and see which is effective.
I’m in the same boat, 7 months pregnant with my 3rd. my 2-yo will not leave her clothes on, and now she screams and throws the diaper and won’t let me even put it on. I was hoping to get her to go on the potty, much rather now than with a newborn, but she won’t go. She sits on it, but she’s not taking her diaper off in correlation with the peeing and pooping. She will run around naked for an hour before she pees. I’m at a loss, pee all over the house is getting old. None of these strategies seem to work.
These comments need to be removed! Why are you allowing these pedafiles to leave these comments please report this.
With me I always put on my cloth diapers, training pants, or underpants! Esp if I’m going to pee naked, I’d always hold my pee and put on my cloth diapers, training pants, or underpants and pee inside my cloth diapers, training pants, or underpants!
I suggest trying the duct tape. Never tried it before but it’s not correlated to pottying then it needs to stay on. My concern is my nephew who is ready for potty training is getting bottom half naked. That’s not a problem for me. Because I will put him on the potty. My concern is he only does it at night and the part that is very scary is right after he tries to get my three year old daughter naked who is a deep sleeper. My nephew is two and I’m up a 4am watching my daughter sleep to protect her from him. Should I be concerned. I love my nephew but I’m scared what might happen if I don’t wake up in enough time. I hate even accusing him off anything nefarious.I NEED HELP oh and just for clarification I watch him while his mother works too third shift
My 21 month old has been doing this for weeks. She has been fully potty trained for 6 months approximately and is dry for most naps. I am 4 months pregnant. She can get out of all clothes and nappies.
She can talk anx communicate the need for the toilet so I am not sure what to do and my partner is very frustrated and gives a reaction to it.
I have tried explaining but she hasnt stopped.
Anyone got any advice?
With me I could never get outside of my underpants until I was 3! Even now when I need to pee, I still can’t get outside of my underpants, which I’d pee inside my underpants or pee inside my underpants fly!
My 4 year old step daughter strips her clothes off whenever she’s upset. It’s disturbing. You put her in time out for something simple like not picking up toys she gives this death stare and slowly undresses. She also takes her jeans off crams her pantys up her buttcrack and dances around when she’s bored. I always tell her that it’s inappropriate and to put her clothes back on but any effort I make to teach her couth or etiquette seems to be undermined since her biological mother thinks it’s cute? Hopefully she grows out of it before she’s a teen.
You are disgusting you belong in jail!!! Please someone report these comments, this is not ok.
[…] 6 Reasons Why Your Kids Won’t Keep Their Clothes On (Mommy Shorts) […]
With me my cloth diapers, cloth training pants, and boxer brief undies were always on, esp if I’m wet, which I’m scared to see my wet skin and unambulatory to be outside of my wet cloth diapers, training pants, and boxer brief undies! Even now my boxer brief undies are on esp when I need to pee due to that I’m too scared to pee naked and ambulatory to pee outside my boxer brief undies! It would be is that I pee inside my boxer brief undies or I’m ambulatory to to pee inside my boxer brief undies fly! That’s why my boxer brief undies is peeing instead, due to that I’m unambulatory and too scared of my penis being uncovered by my boxer brief undies!
Why is know one else creeped out by the disgusting inappropriate comments by these men (“Gary” and “Harry”) on here? The creator of this website should really Monitor these comments, this is not ok. This is a place for parents to get advice not a place for disgusting pedafiles, this needs to be reported. These are the sick people that are out there in this world with our children. PLEASE REPORT THESE COMMENTS AND REMOVE THEM!!!!!!!!
Me and my brother Joey is definitely going to get naked with you
I know this post is old but this is for parents of toddlers with the same issues that don’t know what to do. I had the same problem with my son and I decided to design rompers with a back zipper. My son is two years old now, he is still wearing these rompers every day, and I hope that this will help other people too. People, please don’t duct tape your child diaper and please do not use safety pins to keep their clothes on (both are very dangerous). There are so many other solutions out there. There are so many companies out there making clothes for toddlers that are undressing proofed. You can check us out at terrible2s.com or on Facebook at Terrible2s Solutions. Take care
My boxer brief underwear is like undressing proof when I was under 3! Even now my boxer brief underwear is like undressing proof, which is why I pee inside my boxer brief underwear or pee inside my boxer brief underwear with the fly open!
I love these Strip-Free Sensory Friendly Toddler Rompers with a Back Zipper
My boxer brief underwear was strip free when I was under 3! Even now when I need to pee, my boxer brief underwear is strip free, which I’d pee inside my boxer brief underwear or pee inside my boxer brief underwear with the fly open!
Hi there,I log on to your blog named “6 Reasons Your Kid Won’t Keep His Clothes On – Mommy Shorts” on a regular basis.Your humoristic style is awesome, keep doing what you’re doing! And you can look our website about proxy server list.
Thanks for the very helpful post.
Thanks for the very helpful post.