My nephew is 3 years old, and like most boys, loves to run around naked. Sometimes we can't go somewhere we were planning to go because he refuses to get dressed again (although candy usually will do the trick).

How do parents usually deal with this? Or will he just grow out of it?

4 Answers 4


I don't personally subscribe to "children should be allowed to run around naked all the time" concept, though I know parents who do. Though I have had issues with getting my son out of his pajamas and into regular clothing.

I started by making it a rule that the first thing we do when we get up in the morning is get dressed. I do it, my husband does it, I get my daughter dressed, and my son gets dressed. At that point, getting undressed is more of a pain in the butt than just staying dressed. There is no wandering around the house in our pajamas unless we're sick or something. That may or may not be something you have any control over.

Otherwise, if you know you're going to need to leave at 2:00 to get somewhere start encouraging him to get dressed at least an hour before. Let him pick out which shirt he wants to wear (or pick between 2 shirts), make it a game to see if he can get dressed before a timer you set goes off.

If push comes to shove and you absolutely must be somewhere and he refuses to get dressed, keep in mind that he's three. You are bigger and you can dress him. He might fight and pitch a fit, but I'm going to guess it's not the first time he's thrown a fit. Telling a 3 year old that he won't get to go do something fun when he's all ready having fun running around naked isn't usually going to motivate him to get dressed and go do something else even if you know he'd enjoy it, too.

He might grow out of it--he probably would--but he might be 4 or 5 before that happens. At some point something is going to necessitate him getting up and getting dressed on a regular basis (school, for example). Plus, at age three, now is a good time to start working with him on learning to dress himself. Once he masters that, he might be more inclined to wear clothes.

  • 7
    +1 for "you are bigger and you can dress him." I am not been-there and done-that like you are, but everything I see about parenting tells me that believing that your child can and will cooperate with your boundaries and then enforcing that belief is critical.
    – justkt
    Aug 9, 2013 at 13:45

He has learned that if he doesn't get dressed he gets rewarded with candy. One thing I've learned is never to reward children for doing something basic that they should be doing anyway, otherwise they will expect a reward every time they do it. So:

  1. Give lots of extra time to get kids dressed. When planning I always leave 20 minutes for that with my 3 year old. Sure, it should take 2 minutes but it never does.
  2. Be patient, and give the child space to do it himself: it's very hard - you want to, need to leave - but if you lose your patience then it becomes a conflict. This is why it's so important to build in time for it to be done. With my son I give him the clothes and leave the room, otherwise I am very tempted to sit there and direct him, which is not productive
  3. Make him understand that if he doesn't get dressed he won't get what he wants. Want to go to the zoo? Get dressed. Want to watch a cartoon? Get dressed. Want breakfast? get dressed. Try giving him a basic choice, for instance does he want to get dressed first or brush his teeth first, as children feel empowered if they have some choice.

I suggest you read the Lifehacker article “10 Things to Stop Saying to Your Kids (and What to Say Instead)”.

In this article I found many nice tips for dealing with kids. I think these tips are very logical.

One tip from there was,

“If you _____ then I’ll give you _____”

Bribing kids is equally destructive as it discourages them from cooperating simply for the sake of ease and harmony. This kind of exchange can become a slippery slope and if used frequently, you’re bound to have it come back and bite you. “No! I won’t clean my room unless you buy me Legos!”

Instead try, “Thank you so much for helping me clean up!” When we offer our genuine gratitude, children are intrinsically motivated to continue to help. And if your child hasn’t been very helpful lately, remind him of a time when he was. “Remember a few months ago when you helped me take out the trash? That was such a big help. Thanks!”

Then allow your child to come to the conclusion that helping out is fun and intrinsically rewarding.


Kids at three like to feel they have some control even though they really aren't ready for a lot of control yet.

First, I suggest having a schedule or routine everyday that is predictable and even posted for your child (using pictures). Having it be predictable for your child when getting dressed will be required actually helps him feel "in control." If he needs a reason for getting dressed, have an "outside time" set sometime mid-morning (before you would normally go out) that he must get dressed for and then keep him dressed from that point on in the day. Perhaps you just go for a quick 5-10 minute walk, maybe you kick a ball around the yard, but going outside is a reason to get dressed.

Second, use warnings - i.e. Getting dressed time is in 10 minutes. Now there are only five minutes to dressing. In two minutes you need to get dressed, I'm going to set the time for you and when the buzzer dings it is time! . . . Knowing it is coming helps him transition from his favorite nakedness to his less favorite, wearing of clothing.

Third, if you don't already, allow him some choice in what he has to wear. At this age giving him all the choice will just be overwhelming and work against you, but if you set out two shirts and ask, "which one do you want to wear." You are offering him a sense of control even while he really has no say in anything important about what he is wearing, when etc.

Finally, make a game of it. "(child's name)," put the pants on your head like a hat, "Is this how you wear pants?" . . . "no? Oh well, show me wear they go." You can also put socks on your ears, start to encourage him to put a foot in a sleeve. . . You get the idea. Laughter often gets them going.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .