Nudist 5-Year-old!!

Updated on August 17, 2009
D.S. asks from Lake Stevens, WA
9 answers

My eldest boy is such a nudist! If he had his choice, he would be naked all day long. He understands that the minute someone other than family comes into the house, he needs to run upstairs and get some shorts on and he does it all the time. But the minute it's just us, he's naked again. He sleeps naked. He doesn't want to wear underwear.

I really okay with it for the most part because we are not a closed/concealing family. We shower together, get dressed in front of each other, talk about body parts freely, etc. We had to work on the "no touching self unless in private" and have stressed that it's fine to do it, just when you are alone. Here's my issue:

We have to ask him MULTIPLE times per day to put clothes on. He is going through this rude phase where he thinks it's cute to climb up on the couch and spread his butt cheeks and frankly, I'm tired of looking! It has been weeks of "hey, go upstairs and put some shorts and a t-shirt on, please." We don't get mad or yell or anything, but I'm wondering what the message is that we're sending? I don't want him to be embarassed by his naked body, or about sexuality.

I'm looking for advice from those of you that have grown children that were like this when they were little. I'm curious if we're handling it okay and what you think the long term affect is and if we're going to get the results we want (e.g. a confident, sexually comfortable young man) Thanks!

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answers from Portland on

I'd suggest just explaining to him that nudity is ok, but he also needs to respect others' comfort levels. When you ask him not to spread his cheeks in front of people, he needs to respect that. Tell him that when he does it you'll leave the room. And follow through. Don't make a big deal about it, just get up and walk out. I guarantee you he's doing it to get a reaction, and after a few times being ignored like this, he'll probably stop. Good luck!

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answers from Seattle on

Even in cultures where nudity is the norm, there are expectations for modesty. Kids are taught appropriate ways to sit and stand so that they aren't offending other people. That's not squashing confidence or sexuality. That's engendering respect for other people and for one's self. Sexuality is a very beautiful thing, but it is also a very powerful thing, and your son needs to appreciate that other people don't like having his body forced at them. He also needs to learn to respect you and your wishes as his parents. I get the feeling that he is wondering whether or not this is a boundary he needs to respect. You need to hold your ground.

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answers from Seattle on

I think that there is a difference between showering together and promoting self confidence and good hygiene. Sitting naked where visitors and friends might also sit is not okay...has nothing to do with body image and feeling free to walk around naked - it is just not sanitary. At 5, he should be able to understand that it is not appropriate...I think that you should make more limits - now that he is older, being naked in the house is only ok at certain times (like at night) or in certain places (his bedroom). I really think that 5 is the perfect age for him to start to wear clothes!

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answers from Eugene on

Being a nudist myself (that is, when it's warm enough my most favorite thing in the world is to go swimming at the nude beach), I can understand the wonderful free feeling of not being encumbered by clothes. Personally, I'd probably let him be nude in the house (unless other people are coming over, which it sounds like he understands and accepts) and not make a big deal out of it, and just have really clear rules that he needs to wear clothes under clear circumstances (like around other people, and outside of the house). It sounds like he's maybe enjoying the extra attention he's been getting when he's nude, so if you can avoid making a big deal out of it, it doesn't seem there would be a problem.

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answers from Seattle on

My nephew is 4 1/2 and loves to be naked too. I dont think its a problem unless the they start using it for attention and disobeying when asked to keep their clothes on. My nephew did not seem to care where he took his clothes off or if their were people around. His parents did not do anything to reinforce much rules about this either. Being 4 1/2 he should know there are rules and boundaries and that it is inappropriate to do when strangers/guests are around or if you are at someone elses house other than your own home. He just recently started getting "interested" in his older sisters friends. Now he wants them to see him naked (flashes his privates at them) "liking them in the most inappropriate way" as the father says. His parents are appauled and are worried they have created a future pervert. I think its important that the children are comfortable with their bodies but also that they understand why it is important to have these boundaries. I'm all for the "free breezy world" but if you tell your child to put his clothes on and keep them on, then for goodness sake he should do it! It should not translate as you making him feel bad about his body, but translate as you parenting him giving him an order that he should obey. He's obviously everything BUT embarrassed about his body so I don't think you should worry about that. Good luck!

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answers from Seattle on

My kids loved to go without pants on but they had shirts and underwear on and they outgrew it, once in a while they still do that but not when anyone outside of family is around. That being said your son is 5 and should be starting school this year right? He needs to get used to wearing clothes now because that is 3 weeks or so away, unless you plan to homeschool and I would still make him get dressed. How much have you been outside this summer? Do you require clothes while outside? Get outside and enjoy the sun and ensure he gets dressed, maybe he will learn to accept the feeling of clothes. As for inside I would insist on underwear at least in the public parts of the house, he can go naked in his room and the bath, it is unsanitary especially with a younger child around to have private parts rubbing on every surface. I would say you can have him clean the surfaces he touches with his butt and pee pee if he disobeys. He might end up being a nudist someday which is fine but right now he is in your house and needs to learn your rules. I am sure you are doing fine conveying to him ettiquite without ruining his confidence.



answers from Seattle on

Do the same thing with the butt cheek thing that you did with the touching your self thing.... not in front of you....

I must warn you however. He is 5 and is entering into about 4 years of weird gross you out humor that is only funny to other boys that age. Perhaps you will need your husband to translate to your son that this behavior is just not appropriate, even if he had his clothes on.

Good luck.



answers from Portland on

Since I don't have to deal with this one myself (yet, anyway), I had to laugh. I get this funny image of your son's cheeky pose in a family album alongside others' faces. Unfortunately, he's still too uninhibited to blackmail him now with the threat of showing such portraits to his future dates.

Sounds like you've successfully clarified the matter of privacy. I presume the rest of you go naked briefly only when showering or dressing. If you tend to spend more time than that sans clothing, he might still be confused about when nudity's okay, or why. He is getting old enough to start sorting that out, though. You sound pretty healthy to me; I don't think there's much danger of negativity toward his body in your family.

Body humor is such classic little-boy behavior. It is completely normal. And he apparently can still get your attention for the rude butt pose. Have you tried ignoring that one completely for a few weeks? I imagine the problem here would be how to keep the little bro from being amused.

But consider positive reinforcement. Keep it low-key so it won't look like manipulation. Give him more attention when he's dressed than when he's nude. Play with him more. Offer most-favored snacks or meals only on days when he's dressed. Offer a spontaneous trip out for ice cream occasionally – only while he's dressed. (You may have to secretly plan these little rewards ahead, coax him into his clothes, then "casually" offer the treat before he gets back out of his clothes.) I heard a great story about a college behavioral science class "training" their instructor over a few weeks to lecture only from the side chalkboard; that's where they sat up and gave him all their attention.

You might consider a reward chart for this one. Tally how many times a day he undresses, and start with that average. Give small rewards (maybe a special one-on-one trip for lunch, to park, to library…) for fewer undressings. Or for more hours dressed - whichever works best. Keep upping the requirement. He may become more accustomed to being dressed.

I also wonder whether he finds his clothing comfortable. Some kids are more sensitive to seams, tags, textures or constrictions. You might inquire into which of his clothes he likes best and which ones he never wants to wear, and why. Irritation can be subtle (my own experience) but discouraging. I've given away lots of clothes that I just couldn't be comfortable in.

It will probably be a good move to make certain times of day okay for nudity until his natural sense of modesty begins to kick in. It (probably) will, at least by adolescence. My going-on-four grandboy loves being clothing-free, too, and I sure don't blame him. Feels so good! He's been so resistant to putting on jammies after bath that he's being allowed to sleep nude.

I see nothing wrong with it, but there was a late-night trip to the emergency room for his dad recently. They had to wake the little guy and hurry him into jammies to take him along.



answers from Seattle on

I agree with Erin: the real issue is respect. You asked him to do something and he doesn't do it. You asked him to not put his butt in your face and he continues to do it.
He is being rude and disobedient and that needs to be addressed just as much as if he was refusing to put away his toys, get ready for bed, hitting, using foul language, or any other typical 5 year old behavior. Right now, his just looks different because it looks like a "sexual/body awareness" issue.
When my oldest was 4, I told him I wanted privacy when taking my shower. He snuck in to watch me. The issue wasn't him seeing my naked body. The issue was he didn't respect my privacy and he disobeyed.
I hope this helps!

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