Parent Question:  My 20 month old has started a habit of peeling the nappy off and taking his clothes off. He does it most days. I'm tired of cleaning up his `puddles' after his nappy has been peeled off. How do I break the habit and keep his gear on?  Amanda

Amanda your concern is quite usual for this age as your son has developed the skills to remove his clothes on his own and is enjoying his ability to do so.  Some children do this more than others and it can become quite exasperating for a parent.  However, realistically there are some downsides to this behaviour such as the puddles everywhere as you are well aware and there are a number of strategies I would recommend.

Firstly, take notice when he does keep his clothes on.  This may seem a little strange however; praise him for ‘keeping your clothes on’ and no response for removing his clothes is essential.  Not even that sigh that escapes your lips!  When he does take his clothes off, I would say something like ‘ let’s get a drink and go outside’ and try not to make it too obvious why you are taking him outside and take his clothes with him.  The puddles are manageable outside on the grass.  When he is ready to come inside tell him that to go inside we need clothes on and he can put them on himself or you can help him.  It is more than likely he can take them off but not put them back on.  Do not make it a battle…just a fact.  If he is unhappy about putting his clothes on do not force the issue but rather say something like ‘when you are ready to put your clothes on, tell me and I’ll help you’, then get busy watering some plants.  He will come to you saying he wants to put his clothes on and then simply help him, no frustration, and no annoyance just calm.  When dressed take his hand and say ‘let’s go inside’ and be careful in using this outside strategy and that it doesn’t become a game to him.

Again, when inside whenever you can praise his ‘keeping clothes on’ and of course at bath time or when it is time to change clothes, make a big deal out of it for him, about how clever he is now that he can pull his clothes off.  Lots of excitement that he can do it and praise his efforts along with a few comments like, we take out clothes off when we need to get changed or get in the bath.

One of the most difficult times to manage is sleep time during the middle of the day.

When he removes his clothes and eventually falls asleep you then have wet bedding to wash as well.  For this time of day I would suggest putting him in pull up’s and overalls that have tricky buttons or clips that he cannot undo to make removing rather difficult.  Be sure not to get overalls with the clips all along the inside leg and stay away from the shirt and shorts as they are too easy too remove.  Likewise with the pull-ups versus nappies the Velcro is easier to remove than having to pull them down over a bottom and kids like to pull the Velcro tab and watch the nappy fall.

Also a big tip….be sure to clean up his puddles in the house without him seeing you, this is important for changing this behaviour.  I would also work with teaching him how to dress himself.  And make sure you have time for him in the mornings and at night to do this and get your attention and praise at this appropriate time.  It may mean starting 10 minutes earlier however you will reap the rewards.  Persist with these strategies and removing clothes will soon be a habit of the past.

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