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Refuses to Wear Underwear – Is That So Bad?

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Child Refuses to Wear Underwear

Boy, you think once you’ve gone through potty training your nightmares are over, but recently I had an email from a mom asking me what to do with her 4 year old who refused to wear underwear.

Well, all you Adlerian trained parents who have taken courses with me, are you thinking back to the theories you’ve learned to answer this one in your own heads?

I guarantee there are no journal articles written by either Dr Dreikurs or Alfred Adler on this exact situation, but here is how I pieced my answer together:

  1. I asked myself what is the usefulness or social benefit of the behavior?  Probably she gets into a fight with mom and so this could be a power struggle.
  2. If it’s power we ask ourselves to divest our personal power and authority and instead try to look a things situationally.  What are the TRUE needs of the situation?  Well, gosh, why do 4 year olds wear undies? I agree they must cover their private parts, but if they are wearing pants or leggings or opaque tights, does it really matter to anyone else if they have panties on underneath?  If it doesn’t bother to child and she is covered, is this something we need to busy ourselves over?

I think not. 

What say you?

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

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6 Responses to “Refuses to Wear Underwear – Is That So Bad?”

  1. Lindsay

    I really enjoyed your talk today thank you so much so many “Ahah” moments!!
    reading this reminded me of the struggles i had with my sons neither of which would wear underwear i too came to the realisation that as long as they were wearing pants whats the harm, however unfortunately the school did not agree and advised me that it was a “health” issue and that they had to wear underwear 🙁

  2. Andrea Pursley

    I agree, if it makes getting dressed in the morning less stressful then off with the undies (as long as they are covered). But what do I do with my 7 year old daughter who is very sensitive to the way clothes feel or fit with her underwear, that she has a daily meltdown about her clothes . I tell her to take the underwear off and she has even a greater meltdown because she feels she needs to wear them. i do not know what to do, I have started to ignore these daily outbursts ( this has been going on for nearly 2 years now) and she gets more upset. Help.

  3. John the Aussie bloke

    The previous answers to this were dated 2008 now 2013 but here goes.
    I stopped wearing underwear at the age of 7.5 back in 1951.(second grade at primary school).If I couldn’t leave home without wearing any I would remove them on the way to school or take them off at school,but no way was I going to wear them all day.
    I have no idea how many fights I had with groups of kids watching and how many saw that I wasn’t wearing underwear or how many teachers noticed before we were dragged apart.
    My second grade teacher found out and asked me why I didn’t wear undies;I told her how uncomfotable they were,so she asked her own kids if they wanted to try it to see how it felt.I knew this as I was asked to go to one of her kids birthday parties and playing chasey (what we aussies call it) around the house the middle aged girl fell over at one stage and I aked her why she was dressed without anything under her dress,and she said mum came home from school one day and asked us if we’d like to try it and now we hardly ever wear them.
    After I married my wife and I foster parented several chidren over a long period .When it came to clothing replacement for some reason my wife had problem with buying the boys underwear and totally refused to to get any for them (most of them loved it).
    If it can’t be seen/or shouldn’t be seen why bother with it.Parents should ask their child if he or she wants to wear underwear rather than wear them or else.
    Most of the children that don’t wear them or go without them fairly regularly seem to have more confidence in them selves or atleast appear to.

  4. Diana

    I know a family with two sons, age 6 and age 11. Neither boys wear underwear. I didn’t ask their mom the reasons, but my point is that both boys don’t seem to mind, even in jeans!

  5. JJJ777

    It keeps the clothes clean lol
    My 3 year old hates underpants. It’s driving me crazy. Only started happening 2 weeks ago. When she wears underpants with tights she can wear tights several times. When she doesn’t wear undies I’m forever washing and changing tights 3 times a day because she may wee a bit. When she starts doing the washing she can choose to wear or not to wear undies.

  6. deirdremallory

    Pff I suppose you’d have the worry of pulling a Lenny Kravitz if your pants split, but in general? I don’t bother either unless it’s summer and I’m wearing a short dress or one made of material that will fly up in the wind. Leggings and pants? Generally no, although lately since I’ve lost some weight, two of my jeans don’t fit properly anymore (The waist is too big), and since I have trouble with belts these days? I just wear undies for those. Otherwise, NOPE. And I will barely tolerate a bralette, if I must.

    tl;dr: Underwear is usually unnecessary, why do we torture ourselves?


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