Disrobing in Car

by Addie
(Ocala, FL)

Question: My 4 1/2 year old granddaughter insists on disrobing every time she gets into the car. This has been going on for months. She then gets dressed before getting out of the car, but is still embarrassing, for example, in a parking lot, not to mention time-consuming.

She won't say why she does it, and my extremely busy daughter does not have time to argue with her about it. She has not mentioned this behavior to the doctor for fear, I think, of what she might be told.

The child will be starting kindergarten in September, and my daughter has told her that such behavior will not be acceptable there, and she will have to keep her clothes on in the car. Maybe this will do the trick, but meanwhile I would appreciate any advice or suggestions as to why the child does this.
Many thanks!

Answer: It is difficult to determine why a child does a behavior without knowing more about what happens before/after, observing her and gathering other assessment information. However, I may be able to help you and your daughter eliminate this behavior.

One thing to consider is that she is too hot in the car and taking her clothes off helps with this. Possibly starting the car 10-15 min prior to leaving to help cool it down may help.

Your daughter may also try working with her on a day that she doesn't have to be somewhere and she isn't in a hurry. Perhaps a Saturday or Sunday. Have her talk to the 4 1/2 year old saying from now on we have to wear our clothes in the car if you want to go places. Plan a day of multiple fun outings, such as the park, favorite restaurant, zoo, or pool.

When getting in the car if she begins to take her clothes off, don't go anywhere until she puts them back on. If she won't put them back on within 10 minutes simply say, "That's too bad, I guess we can't go to the.... anymore. Maybe we can try again later." and get out of the car.

Try again about 1 hour later and repeat until she wears her clothes when going on the outing. Everytime she wears her clothes while driving, give lots and lots of praise. You may need to do this on both Sat and Sunday to really help her realize you aren't leaving until she gets dressed.

For the following week try to plan ahead leaving 30 minutes early just to be able to wait her out if she attempts to disrobe again.

You may also use a reward system with her by allowing her to earn tickets or tokens evertime she wears her clothes on a trip that she can use to exchange for a special toy or outing. If that isn't motivating enough then allow her to earn them for things such as TV time that she likes to do every day. One token/ticket could be worth 10 minutes of TV time that day and don't allow any TV time or whatever the activity may be without the ticket/token.

She may have to save some tickets or tokens from the previous day to watch first thing in the morning if that is her favorite time to watch. Hope these ideas help!

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