Q&A: Nakedness in front of the group

S writes:

"I walked into daycare during snack time. All the children were sitting
at tables and it was pretty quiet. The teacher promptly updated me on
how good my daughter was was then said “come on, let's change your pants before
you go". Then instead of lifting my 25lb 2yo onto the changing table the
teacher squatted down on a stool and pulled my kids pants down with her
butt facing all those kids eating. My daughter just looked at me kind of
funny. I redirected the situation by asking her if she wanted to try
the potty before putting the diaper back on. She shook her head yes and
I took her into the bathroom and then finish, leaving the teacher to
take care of the other children. I was very surprised at the act and
plan on discussing with the manager of the daycare but am I being too
harsh?? When do children develop modesty?? I remember being this young,
not a whole lot but the stuff that was emotional to me."

Most kids seem to develop modesty later than 2 years old, but I don't think that that means that it's ok to just pulll down a kid's pants in front of the whole class. It's completely possible that your daugher was embarrassed or just felt like something was wrong. And, even if she didn't, this is sending the message that her body is fine for display.

I think of this the same way I think of forcing kids to kiss people: It might not be uncomfortable for the kid at any one instance, but you're' sending the kid the message that their body is subject to what other people want. That they don't have the right to control who sees or touches them, or who they're forced to touch. Even if you don't mean it, you're telling your child that their own personal boundaries are not worth enforcing.

So, yes, please say something to the teacher. Who I hope just wasn't thinking, but should be more sensitive about what we're teaching kids about their bodies. And good for you for standing up for your girl and her body and her right to her body.

When did your kids start to notice modesty about their bodies?

44 thoughts on “Q&A: Nakedness in front of the group”

  1. I think it’s worth mentioning to the director – I’m hopeful that it was just an oversight, but dude. First there’s the not on the changing table modesty stuff (which is plenty to be concerned about). Then there’s the sanitation and appropriateness of pants down at lunch. (ew.)We already have enough trouble as parents with having an appropriate place to change a little baby’s diapers (e.g. airplane bathrooms vs. tray table? “Grownup” restaurant ladies rooms?) that when there is a perfectly good changing station already set up, why not use it?
    Also, instead of lifting up toddlers, our daycare has a step stool so kids in the 2s room can climb themselves up to the changing table. Also, there’s a set procedure of putting down paper, wearing gloves, and putting the whole shabang into a plastic bag and then to the garbage after.

  2. My daughter’s daycare has been doing the “standing diaper change” with her since she entered the toddler room (18 mos). It’s in a “private” corner of the room. There is a changing table there in case parents/children object, but I have actually seen some benefits to it. 1) My daughter never fights diaper changes b/c she’s involved in them (handing diapers, holding shirt, bending over), as opposed to when she is on a diaper changer. 2) She’s become extremely easy to change anywhere (like a park). I protect her privacy in those situations, but I don’t have to look for flat/clean spaces like I did when she was little. At 30 mos, they started taking the kids to the potty room and changing their diapers there. So, there’s the added privacy, but they’re seeing the toilets too.Honestly, I’ve had a number of concerns about daycare since we started (she was 6 mos), but this wasn’t one of them. Now, if she were 4 and this were still the method, I would certainly feel differently. But only now, at 2.5 is my daughter even starting to talk about biological gender differences, so I feel ok with it.
    Anyway, go with your gut and talk to the teacher and see if there’s a more private space, but also ask what they see as the advantages of their system. Maybe there is a happy and healthy compromise in there somewhere.

  3. At our daycare, once they start potty-training, all the kids see each other’s external genitals and butts everyday. It’s purely functional – 25 kids waiting in line for two potties. I appreciate that the daycare doesn’t make a big deal of it. While I respect the need for modesty , I don’t think the solution is to ruin their innocence with oversexualization.

  4. I don’t know, I can see your point and think you should definitely say something if it bothers you that much, but I’m not sure I would personally agree. Kids in diapers get their pants changed all over the place. Granted I’ve never done it standing up, but I’ve changed my 2.5 year old on floors all over the place in front of all kinds of people and never thought twice about it. He’s never shown any issues (in fact he usually tries to jump up and run around pantsless), and I see friends doing the same thing with their kids routinely. I understand it’s different in front of peers, but doesn’t she get changed in front of them routinely anyway? Daycare providers don’t take kids to the bathroom individually to change their pants, do they? Mine doesn’t (they get changed on the playroom floor with everyone else), but maybe I’m out of the loop. As for sanitation, it’s not like she was being changed ON the lunch table. If it’s away from the eating and everyone washes their hands, I don’t see that it’s any different than if she has been up on the changing table.Does your daughter seem shy about her body around other people? Does she act odd if you change her diaper in front of others? Does it seem to be a problem for her, or are you assuming it’s a problem for her because you’d feel embarrassed if it was you? If your daughter has a problem, then her wishes should certainly be respected–and of course if she can’t articulate her needs you need to interpret and communicate them for her. It’s her body so she should get to choose. If she doesn’t seem to care then I’m not sure I’d make a big deal about it. I wouldn’t want to create shame where it didn’t exist, and I wouldn’t want to make the daycare providers hesitant to care for my kid. (They need your daughter’s cooperation and you need their help if there’s ever a problem, assuming you trust them. If not, that’s a bigger problem.) I’m interested to hear what others think here though!

  5. My daughter started to be concerned with modesty around 5(ish), but I wouldn’t make bets on when any specific child makes that transition.I’m not particularly concerned about modesty or even sanitation – something in me twitches at doing wet diapers in the same place as snack, but I don’t think it’s a real problem as long as the teacher washes her hands. I think it’s worth encouraging 2 year olds to think about bathroom-related things happening in bathrooms with relative privately, though. And if it really troubles the original poster she should bring it up.

  6. My daycare also does the standing diaper change. They do it next to a changing table. I have no problem with the modesty issue at age 2. Later on to a degree i would be more concerned. In this situation, I would have a much bigger issue if the one and only teacher was somewhere that she couldn’t see all the children at once. And usually diaper changes are part of their schedule and not during snack time.

  7. At our daycare, potty learning can begin in the 18-month toddler room and continues through the 3-year old preschool room. The changing area and two child-size potties are all in the same designated area with half-walls. Like poster above says, once they’re potty learning en mass – it’s a lot of bare behinds and talking about who stands, who sits, what comes out of where, etc. So the modesty isn’t really there just yet. And we’re OK with that for now. The teachers are keen to look for any nervous/modest/aware behaviors and protect that instinct in the children. (**pointless anecdote follows**)I’d honestly be more concerned with diaper changing activity happening around eating tables and food preparation. Hello, E coli and Hepatitis?
    **For example, my 3-yr old, while finding no issue with peeing on the potty, prefers pooping on the potty in private, and refuses to do so while there are other “friends” around her. It took a few weeks to pinpoint this in the trials and tribulations of potty training – but the teachers were the ones that figured it out and we put it into practice at home. At school, they let her go last in the potty line so she can have what she calls “her privacy”. At home, she’s free to close the door if she needs to/wants to even though we have a pretty relaxed open-door tendancy.

  8. I think mores about the body and nudity vary culturally, but I do agree with you – vehemently! – about the principle of respect for the child’s body and right to privacy. That forcing a child to kiss someone never sat right with me.My husband recalls being in diapers and in extreme distress because his parents didn’t put pants on him when unexpected guests came over; I know he was potty trained well before age 2 so even at that age he had a sense of modesty and when it was violated.

  9. I’m also in the camp that it should be addressed if it bothers your daughter, but is otherwise probably fine. I’ve certainly changed my almost two-year-old in public when a changing area was not available.I am still having a hard time explaining privacy to my 4.5 year old, so maybe my view is different because my kids are less sensitive to it.

  10. I’ve just been wondering when or whether I should teach my daughter about modesty–she’s 4 now, and honestly I like that she doesn’t have any sense of shame about her body. I still strip her down and change her in public when warranted (i.e., when she tumbles into a pond fully clothed), and would rather not make a big deal about it. If she starts wanting privacy I’ll respect her wishes, but I’m happy letting her guide this. If the public daycare diaper changes bother you, though, your daughter will pick up on that and feel uncomfortable, so it’s probably warranted to ask for more privacy for her.

  11. From a practical perspective, in a day care situation, her diaper will be changed out in the open, and potty training is as everyone else described (a room with several small potties and all children in there at the same time…with the door open for ease of the teachers and supervision reasons).I wonder if she had a strange look on her face because she was leaving and her friends got to stay or because they were having a snack and she didn’t get to have any or because her mother was now here but someone else was still taking care of her. It could be a lot of things so while taking her to the toilet seemed to end the situation, it could be that she got her mother’s attention/care and not that she got privacy.

  12. I too would be more concerned about diapers near the food. Here’s my anecdote about daycare kids and potties: at my son’s 3rd birthday party, one of the kids decided they needed to go. At that time, we had the potty chair in the hallway outside the bathroom, because otherwise I tripped over it a dozen times a day. I think I mentioned bringing it in the bathroom, but maybe it was urgent — it didn’t happen. And what started as one kid going potty became a thing, and they all had to go potty one right after the other: a total potty party.They’re just used to it.
    I wouldn’t want the diaper changing area to be too private, myself: I want to make sure the kids aren’t going off into a small, private room with a grown-up, one by one.
    It’s possible your daughter felt awkward with someone else changing her while you were there. However, I do think if something’s bothering you about the incident, you should speak with the daycare director, who will either say something that you find reassuring, address the situation — or not, in which case you have some valuable information.

  13. I am incredulous at these responses. I have taught my child privacy and modesty since she was about 18 months old. In this era of oversexualisation of children, isn’t it essential that we teach kids what is private, personal and in their control? We haven’t changed a diaper or used a potty in public since she was about 2 and even use a towel to shield her at public pools etc.

  14. After reading, I didn’t thing so much about modesty but rather the daycare’s protocol for changing children’s clothing and toileting. In addition to possibly embarrasing your daughter, it’s unsanitary and should be against procedure to take clothes off at the table or out where everyone is playing. I’m sure they have a changing area or bathroom off the main classroom for those sorts of activities. The Director definitely needs to hear about this incident!

  15. I was recently confronted with this in a resort-type setting, where groups of mixed-sex kids were with mixed-sex counselors. These were littles–2-3. The ones that needed help with clothes were helped right there on the pool deck. At first I was a bit taken aback, but then I thought, “Well, much less opportunity to have something horrible happen when they’re in the sight of others.” I’d rather see a few nakey kid bums than have them taken advantage of in a changing room.

  16. I agree with Modest Mum but am taking the complete opposite tack to get there.In this era of oversexualisation of children, isn’t it essential that we teach kids that their bodies aren’t sexual because they are children? My sons’ private parts are just more body parts with functions. They have bodily autonomy but I don’t go into privacy until around age 6 or 7 (and that means when they are 6 or 7, I demand that they give me privacy and I will give it to them in return…if they want it, but everyone wants company in the bathroom still).
    I don’t think I’ll ever introduce modesty (perhaps if I had children who wanted to dress in a fashion that is not age appropriate I would but that hasn’t happened and even then we would talk about it as apparopriate not modesty). Modesty seems too closely tied to shame to me. I want my middle school aged kids to be able to change for gym class without running for the bathroom stall out of some kind of misplaced modesty or shame.

  17. PS: 2.5 and 6, both boys. Neither have a shred of modesty yet. The 6 y.o. is mayyyyybe showing a sign or two, but there’s certainly no respect for *my* modesty, that’s for dang sure.I would love a shower alone, without conversation.

  18. I don’t believe that oversexualization of children has anything to do with changing a toddler’s diaper in public.I would worry about propelling an innocent child into some modest/shame sphere prematurely.

  19. I’m surprised that I’m the first person commenting to note that at this age (my daughter is just shy of two), it’s actually difficult to get her to keep her clothes ON. She’s yet to try to strip in an actual public place, but she’s certainly taken off pants, tops, diapers, etc. in front of various caregivers in our home. Yes, we’re in the middle of casual potty training, but also, she seems to quite like being “nakey” some of the time. And my mom has lovely stories of me and her friends’ children at the same age removing clothes in public. So no, I don’t think modesty has kicked for most kids at this age. 🙂

  20. My kids were about 5 or 6 when they started wanting privacy. Even older when it started to bother them seeing other people naked or half dressed (or at least that they vocalized it).I don’t think it’s appropriate to change a kid where people are eating, but I don’t get the ‘oh wont someone think of the children!’ mindset for this. Especially at a daycare where kids are all potty training in a herd, it’s really not unexpected to me.

  21. I’m totally shocked at the idea of people teaching 18-month-olds “modesty.” I understand in theory the idea of body autonomy — and agree with the kissing thing — but no toddler I’ve ever met seems to have any concept of body as private or shameful or secret or whatever “modesty” connotes here. I…kind of thought that was an awesome part about childhood, that bodies were pure function, free from sexualization.We do have a rule that my children (almost 4, almost 2) wear underpants at the very least when guests come over (tho many parents of potty-training children in my circle do not have this rule at all), and I have a hard time articulating why, exactly. Mostly for the comfort of the guests, or for reasons relating to my own sense of modesty/shame. Not for the kids, though. They couldn’t care less and I think that’s a good thing.
    Agree with chorus of bring it up if it bothers you, but you might want to think hard about why exactly it bothers you. It seems like an adult issue, not a child’s.

  22. I think the changing the diaper right by children who were eating would bother me, because it just seems unsanitary. Standing diaper change? Super handy, exactly how our daycare & later preschool did diaper changes once we moved from an infant room to a toddler room. I agree with Moxie though about personal boundaries, rather than modesty.

  23. First, anything you’re uncomfortable with, you have every right to voice with the director. That is absolutely every parents right, and you are entitled to child care you feel comfortable with. Second, I think it’s way over the top to be concerned about a bunch of two year olds seeing each other’s bottom. Of course, my cultural perspective is influenced by my German roots (note: I live in the US). At my son’s German preschool (in Northern CA) changes the kids in the bathroom, but, after three years, all the kids have pretty much seen each other naked at this point. What does a two year old have to look at? Why would a two year old feel embarrassed? Why would an adult feel embarrassed by seeing a two year old bottom?Of course, I get that the German context is different. Many German kids don’t wear any kind of bathing suit swimming until they’re three or four and it’s completely normal to see naked four or five year olds running around a beach at a lake in Germany (or among a group of Germans in NorCal :-). In Germany, kids that still need help changing can change clothes pretty much anywhere (pool side, beach, public park, what have you) without anyone batting an eyelash. Little girls can wear bikini bottoms only to the pool pretty much until they start to develop breasts; heck, some grown women lay in to sun topless at the pool and in the park and no one does a double take. Swimming pools have family changing areas where the whole family goes in together and grown adults and their kids all change clothes in the same room. Adults also go into co-ed saunas naked together at the regular old swimming pool (not the nudist colony or swingers swimming pool); in fact, Germans find it totally bizarre and weird that an American would ever go into a sauna with a bathing suit on, and find it utterly unfathomable that they would do so in a sex segregated sauna.
    So, all in all, Northern Europeans are pretty chillaxed when in comes to nudity in general, so the idea at feeling uncomfortable (or thinking that other toddlers would feel uncomfortable) at seeing a toddler’s bottom seems…unimaginable.
    I also do not get at all the linking of “modesty” with the right to bodily integrity, autonomy and privacy. Just like wearing a short skirt doesn’t invite rape, being naked (especially if you are a child!) doesn’t invite a violation of your bodily integrity. In fact, I think placing the burden upon individuals (especially women) to be “modest” lest they invite unwanted attention creates an atmosphere where it is presumed there are occasions where women “deserve” the unwanted attention for failing to be “modest”. I would point out that the countries with the most ingrained and rigid standards of modesty (e.g. Saudia Arabia, Afghanistan, et al) have the worst records when it comes to rape and women’s rights; and countries where nudity is considered fully appropriate in some contexts (e.g. in a German sauna or kids in a Swedish park in summer time) seem to have a lot more respect for women’s bodily integrity.
    I certainly teach my kids that there are times when it’s appropriate to be clothed and that we shouldn’t make others uncomfortable (say by running out in front of the guests naked as my four year old did a couple of times); that’s just manners. But I think a day care setting with a bunch of other kids is a perfect normal place for a two year old to have their pants changed.

  24. Doing the diaper change in front of the other kids doesn’t seem like a big deal to me, especially since most of them probably cared a lot more about their snack than a naked butt. As for the sanitation issue, I’d be curious how close this all took place to the food. If the pants change was on the carpet 10 feet away, then I wouldn’t blink.If it was literally next to the table the snacks were on, or the child was holding onto the table to keep her balance, I would want more space between food and diaperless bottoms (or hands touching diapers and bottoms).As for modesty, my 4-year-old has NONE and my 6-year-old has started to develop it in the last six months.

  25. I think I misused the word modesty. I should have said privacy, autonomy and integrity because those words more accurately express what I mean (as BlueBirdMama has).I disagree that keeping your body private and autonomous is a ticket to a shame filled life – rather, I think some things are not for public consumption, and nudity is one of them, at least when you are not in a position to choose (i.e. are two years old). I think knowing the difference between public and private creates power and autonomy, not the reverse. However, I do see that there is a arguable case the other way, particularly in cultures where nudity is more common (again referring to BlueBird Mama’s comments).
    I certainly didn’t mean to throw my hat in the ring with “modesty” as practised in states where women (and others) are repressed by those rules. Yikes!
    My thinking is more that I want to teach my children that nakedness is reserved for home or private or whatever, not that it is a big secret or awful in some way, just that their bodies are theirs and are not for viewing indiscriminately by others (at least until they are grown ups and can make that informed choice to run naked or seek out a nude beach, or whatever, themselves – which of course they should have the right to do if they want to).
    I also really hate the idea of people that I don’t know and trust looking at my child naked or unclothed, which makes her even more vulnerable than she already is.
    It is tough to explain the core of what I mean – good manners is one way to look at it, but I think it goes deeper than that – maybe my perspective can be summed up as believing in the child’s right to privacy, even at a young age.
    All of this may reflect the fact that my daughter started wanting privacy for her diaper changes very early on – she has been known to throw a tantrum when an in-park diaper change is proposed, or example, and once at about 22 months told her auntie to leave her nursery during a diaper change (auntie and I had been chatting). Moreover, she has always insisted on privacy in the bathroom during “key” moments so that also informs my perspective.
    I hope that adds context to my earlier comments.
    At least we all agree that diapers and food should be kept separate, FWIW. Diapers at lunch table = gross.

  26. I’m with Modest Mum.”I also really hate the idea of people that I don’t know and trust looking at my child naked or unclothed, which makes her even more vulnerable than she already is.”
    My almost 5 year old doesn’t care about what she’s wearing, but I don’t think it’s OK for random strangers to see her naked. I do change her into her swimming suit at the lake without wrapping her in a towel, but I don’t just let her run around naked. I know child predators are rare, but don’t we need to be concerned about people who would view naked children in a less than innocent way? Or have I just missed the mark?

  27. I’m sort of curious how cultural this association of nudity, shame and modesty is. I fully agree, 1000% with the German commenter above, and that is my roots as well although I was raised in North America.

  28. I agree with @SarcastiCarrie here. I’m reluctant to teach my boys (4 and 2) about not being nude in public because I love their unself-consciousness. But they have always been given as much bodily autonomy as is appropriate (that means, no forced kissing or touching, not even from mom and dad, unless we’re talking about a very serious situation – that is, they need to be removed from a space and it requires man-handling). I have respect for their bodily autonomy and they for mine. The pulling the pants thing while the children are eating bothers me, however, because it seems like it’s making an unwilling spectacle out of a change – why not just take the child into a private corner or the bathroom? Surely there is more than one adult in the room? My son’s daycare always had 2 adults, so one could take someone into the bathroom if necessary. My problem with the scenario is that the child is not choosing, it is being forced on her, and it could make her self-conscious, whereas the exact same child might prefer to run stark naked through the sprinkler in her front yard.

  29. I’m wondering what the teacher/child ratio was at the time you came. If there was only one teacher in the room, she couldn’t very well leave to change your daughter in the bathroom or even turn her back to the kids (especially while they were eating). I agree, though, that the proximity to the table is a concern. If she were across the room and everyone’s hands got washed, then I wouldn’t be as concerned.As for modestly, my son loved being naked at two and is only showing some inclination for privacy now that he’s four. I started talking to him about private parts about a year ago and also requesting that underwear be worn anywhere other than the bathroom or his bedroom (for the most part.. I’m not too strict). Mostly, I did this because I don’t want his naked butt on my furniture, not because I want to make him ashamed of his body in anyway.

  30. Cultural differences. We live in Austria and CR and I’m with BlueBirdMama. Nudity at young ages is standard practice around here and I’m delighted that my children are comfortable with their bodies and aren’t shy about changing in front of their peers.

  31. Haven’t seen a hint of modesty in my 4 yo boy yet- he got the paper off the porch this morning in his bday suit. But every kid is different, and it would be totally reasonable to request that your daughter’s provider conduct diaper changes in a less “public” setting.

  32. As a preschool teacher, I would advise that if you feel the need to address the issue (personally I’m not too sure that I would find it a big deal), do so with the teacher and maybe not go directly to the manager. Having parents not respect you as the primary person who cares for the children in your care is a real slap in the face. There may be a very practical reason for the teacher for doing what she did (supervision, as some have mentioned), and it’s not a blatant transgression – I would first bring it up with the teacher involved and see how that conversation goes first before involving her superior. If I ever had to change a child it would be in the bathroom area unless there was a particular reason not to. Also, I prefer (and it’s better for the children’s sense of ownership/participation, not to mention the adult’s back) to change children of that age standing up.

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  34. Put me with BlueBirdmama in terms of where I fall on this, and I wish we could be a lot more relaxed not just about child nudity but adult. My mother tells of how my grandmother (European) used to change in front of the open windows of their suburban home and if she noticed somebody looking in at her (as they walked by) would wave at them — provoking embarrassment (on their part) and them averting their eyes. Really, whatever the norms are, this is a “two person” problem, and I’m much more in favor of those within viewing range looking the other way when appropriate than of us all (especially children) having to hide our bodies all the time. I’m not calling for shameless exhibitionism here, and I know boundaries get fuzzy and cultures vary, but I will, e.g., stand in a not-busy corner of a parking lot, pull off my pants and pull on my running shorts — blatant violation of what’s “OK” (for an adult) in the US, but so much simpler than the alternatives (and really, if you happen to walk by and see me, well, you’d see more revealing attire at any nearby pool and, yes, you can/should just avert your eyes).Our most recent (and only large) preschool for 4-5 year olds had 20 kids and 2 teachers and a standing rule that the bathroom doors for the 2 one-holer stalls the kids have access to in the classroom (at that age the kids of course manage their own pottying, at least mostly) must always stay open, including when someone is using them. Makes perfect sense to me, I’d much rather know an adult can see and if needed assist my kid, and be confident that kids are always in sight of an adult, than the alternatives.
    Our other (not licensed) preschool had just 5 kids and one teacher, and she taught them to pee outside in the wooded play lot on the “pee tree” on the periphery (as the other alternative would be rounding everyone up to go inside). Those who saw my reply to Moxie’s question about parenting mission statements on August 10 will know why I love this.
    At 5.5, my son is starting to develop some modesty.

  35. Not much modesty from our girls yet, they are nearly 5.I have found this discussion very interesting. I was definitely on the “modesty” side of the issue when I began reading, now I’m not so sure. Thank you all for your perspectives

  36. No time to read the entire thread, so apologize if this has already been said.Our daycare did standing diapers from the toddler room on (14 months or so). What bothers me most about this story is the diapering and eating together. Teachers were required to wear gloves for diapering, and also for food distribution. These shouldn’t be happening in the same place.
    It makes me wonder if there are enough teachers if there wasn’t someone who could stay with the eating kids while the other got up from the table to change the diaper?
    I don’t care much about the modesty..at that age it was fairly common for our son when they were learning the toilet to walk around with his pants on his ankles asking for help wiping, pulling pants up, etc…

  37. One more voice for diapering + food = ickbut
    nudity among children who are unbothered by it = no big deal, at least not among a group that spends a lot of time together. I get not wanting your kid to be naked when on view of strangers.
    I am as mainstream and whitebread an American as you’ll fine.

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