9 answers

Toddler Won't Wear Clothing with Buttons

This is a request for my co-worker. Her son will be five this fall and refuses to wear clothing with buttons. Ever since he got scratched by a button on a shirt, he won't wear anything with buttons, even if they are for decoration only. At first, he wouldn't even hug his mother if she wore a shirt with buttons. She doesn't know if they need to seek out a therapist, but has anyone experienced something like this? You have always been helpful to me - thanks!

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My daughter says, "no buttons no zippers" about her pants. She doesn't want us to button the backs of her dresses or shirts and she doesn't like to strap her shoes. As far as I know she hasn't had anything happen to make this preference anything but a preference, but she will cry and take clothing off if they do not meet her guidelines. She is 2 1/2yrs old. One trick is to have someone, other than mom, help with the dressing or buttoning. Rather than pay a therapist have someone else try to reintroduce buttons and show him they are not scary or dangerous. Teachers, grandparents, babysitters who the child trusts are good options. Good luck!!

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I'd talk to the pediatrician or seek some sort of testing/diagnosis of some sorts. This doesn't seem normal at the age of five; besides soon he will be going to pre-school/kindergarten. What's he going to do - not go to school or be around others who are wearing buttons?

my son was the same way when he was small. It eventually passed!

My daughter is almost 4 and has the same "fear" for about 6 months now for the same reason. A button got stuck in her hair and pulled it very hard. However the word therapist would have NEVER entered my mind! The way I see it...it is natural for people to have fears at all ages. Adults have fears of many things: heights, flying, spiders, etc. Don't you think its natural for a small child to have a fear of somthing that has hurt them? This is probably the first of MANY fears to come...sounds like its being blown out of proportion to me. Buy clothes without buttons for awhile...adjust to the problem.

As far as going to school soon...this will probably help the situation. Kids do what they see others do and he will soon learn that buttons are not a thing to fear. Just my opinion.

Hi! I say tell your friend, just let the kid not wear buttons. Buttons are nothing to fuss over. I think he/she will eventually come around to buttons. Not worth the stress.


Hi C.,
At first I thought it might be a sensory issue, but you said the reason why this boy is like this is because he got scratched from a button. So I am guessing there is a fear attached to the issue at hand.

If it was my child, I would not seek a therapist based on what you told me. Rather, I would drop the subject by avoiding shirts with buttons for a long time.... like a year and NOT talk about how he hates to wear anything with buttons and NOT talk about how he got scratched from a button in front of the child.

My guess is that is memory about being scratched from a button will fade if the topic is not discussed. Then after a year or so, the boy and his mom could look for shirts and she could say... "Help me pick out some shirts for you... they all look so nice.... which two do you want me to buy for you today?" (And have the choices be from buttoned
shirts) Hopefully he won't mention that they all have buttons on the shirts... I think it's worth a try.

Side story that is similar: My son decided he was not going to wear shirts with no sleeves (tank tops) anymore. He would not explain why, but it appeared that the reason was because he felt he was exposing too much of his body... like it was a private part or something (his armpits)It seemed like he feared showing too much skin.

Well... the more I focused on it by saying.... "oh it's going to be 90 degrees today, why don't you wear a tank top?" ... the worse it made him feel. I decided to not buy anymore tank tops and didn't talk about the issue anymore.

I thought... okay no big deal... he prefers not to wear them. WELL... just last night he asked if he could wear his baseball tank top to bed. He also wanted to know wear the rest of his tank tops were. I said I gave them to his younger cousins because they were getting too small for him. So he asked if we could go to the store and buy some new ones:)

So.. with my personal story, I felt compelled to share and tell you that with time, I think your friend's son may outgrow this issue of no buttons. The only thing is if he has to wear buttons for say... a private school (uniforms). So I hope he does not HAVE to for any reason.

My son's "little hang up" (I don't say that to him) about the whole tank top issue has lasted well over a year. And for the last three years he has insisted on wearing a swim shirt when he wears his swimming trunks. (even if it's just in his backyard) He thinks by showing his upper body, he looks naked. He does not want to expose his upper body to anybody and that's okay even if most of the other boys aren't wearing swim shirts... hey at least he is being protected from the sun's harmful rays, too.

Take care,


I would just avoid buttons for awhile. Come to think of it, my kids don't have that many buttons on their clothes! They have shirts that pull over their heads and snaps on their shorts/pants. There are a few buttons on their polo shirts.

If there were other things he refused to wear because the tag bothered him or he didn't like the way they feel, then I would be concerned (possible sensory issues). But if it's just the buttons, I would try to respect his wishes and try to ease back into them after awhile.


Your friend can have him evaluated (for free) by his school district (even at his current age). They would be able to evaluate him for any developmental issues, including sensory processing disorder. Some children with SPD have aversions to clothing (tags, certain materials, etc.) If she is interested, she should contact her school district and inquire into their testing schedule for developmental issues.

We went through a tight issue for a while...clothes were all too tight, even though they were not....we made jokes out of it...asked if tightasourus was coming out today. Evenutally it has passed. I talked with her preschool teachers and they said clothing issues are very common. My daughters best friend from school would only wear sweatpants. I say it probably is a stage. Oh and I talked with a phyciatrist at my mom's group and he said it will pass. Do not make a big deal out of it.

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