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How old is too old for a girl to go shirtless?

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
I have a 4-year-old who doesn't always like to wear a shirt, and my older daughter also didn't like to wear a shirt when she was little. (Or pants for that matter.) If we go out somewhere, I put a shirt on her, but around the house and yard I let her be how she wants.

I have had a neighbor comment on it and she said that my daughter was getting a little old to run around without a shirt. Her shirtless body isn't different than a boy's shirtless body at this point so I don't get it.

And then at the beach a couple of summers ago I remember a lifeguard told the mother of a really young girl - like 18 months or so - that the girl had to be wearing a shirt. She was just wearing a swim diaper.

I'm trying to remember when I would have the older one put a shirt on when she was outside. (I don't care about inside.) She might have decided to wear one herself at some point because I don't remember a conversation about that.

Do you think there's an age where girls should wear shirts?
post #2 of 29

Our 9yo DD sometimes doesn't wear a shirt at home, including in the yard at times (but not for too long b/c of the sun).  Our yard is really private, however, so there's no one who could see her.  She always wears a shirt out in public.  She hasn't started developing yet, so there's nothing to hide.

 

At 4 going around without a shirt at home doesn't seem like a big deal at all, especially if she knows she has to wear a shirt when you go someplace.  I'd probably ignore the neighbor.

 

As for an age, it really depends on the situation.  Maybe 6 or so in a semi-private situation like a yard that others can see is reasonable - but I'd think she'd want to wear a shirt outside around then anyway if there's a chance other people could see her.

 

But an 18 month old wearing a swim diaper at the beach?  Yeah, no shirt is fine there.  As long as she has plenty of sunscreen on, that is :).

post #3 of 29

I dunno, like, 5 or 6? Hard to say.

post #4 of 29
I really don't get this at all. I had a similar experience at a water fountain park with my then three year old splashing shirtless like her older brother. Someone came up to me and told me it was inappropriate. She was 3! I would have thought a pre-develpment girl chest has the same rights as its counter part.
post #5 of 29

i was told at 2 dd needs a shirt on. not from just one person, but a number of persons.

post #6 of 29
This makes no sense to me at all, and seems to indicate a hyper-oversexualization of breasts since we can't even stand the thought of them being exposed, years before they even begin to grow! Ridiculous. Until my daughters actually begin to develop, I intend to let them go shirtless in any setting where it would be reasonable and acceptable for a boy of the same age to be topless.
post #7 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by meemee View Post
 

i was told at 2 dd needs a shirt on. not from just one person, but a number of persons.

Thats a joke. I really hope noone takes that seriously.

post #8 of 29
In our city ten is legally too old unless you are breastfeeding but it is rare to see even a preschool age girl shirtless though because most are out of diapers and use a swimsuit in water. Casual nudity in the home is different and that really depends on the child.
post #9 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by kitteh View Post

This makes no sense to me at all, and seems to indicate a hyper-oversexualization of breasts since we can't even stand the thought of them being exposed, years before they even begin to grow! Ridiculous. Until my daughters actually begin to develop, I intend to let them go shirtless in any setting where it would be reasonable and acceptable for a boy of the same age to be topless.

I completely agree. 

post #10 of 29

Many of the kids here go swimming only once or twice a year, so no bathing suits, just their skin. Most teens and adults have something on, although they can be naked if they want. Actually the teens are more covered than the adults, in general. My kids both have swim suits, so they use them, and I think my 9yo would now prefer that, even if he could go naked. I think my 6yo wouldn't care. And I don't care what others think of it. The only ones who would think it strange are the foreigners. 

post #11 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by contactmaya View Post
 

Thats a joke. I really hope noone takes that seriously.

oh no. it wasnt a joke. some neighbors wanted to call CPS on me. 

post #12 of 29

In retrospect, I think they're "too old" to go shirtless at whatever point that they themselves start wanting to cover up. Due to most preteen and teen's high sensitivity to social norms, I think most girls will automatically start covering their breasts well before the time when they actually start developing. I'm not saying that our society "should" sexualize breasts, but simply that because it does, girls seem to really absorb that idea quite well without even needing any help from their mothers, by the time they reach the point of actually having a chest that looks any different from a boy's.

 

But when dd1 was somewhere around 3 or 4, I remember thinking that she needed to "get used to" the idea of covering her breasts out in public because she would need to when she was older. I now think that was kind of silly of me, because I've learned, as I mentioned above, that when kids reach a certain age they generally become quite sensitive to social norms. I'd say dd1 is now much more aware about being "in public" than I am. It literally humiliated her a while back when we took a walk together, and I didn't bother to change out of my skirt but just put on my socks and tennis shoes and headed out the door.

 

She feels like any time she leaves the house, she's "in public," while I see taking a walk as in a different category than, say, going to church or to a party.

post #13 of 29

I was at a local park this summer and there was a splash area with sprayers and whatnot. There was a little girl there maybe 2 or 3 yrs old not wearing a shirt. I have to say even though i totally get what everyone here is saying....i was a bit taken aback. EVERY other girl was covered except this one. She wasnt a young toddler or baby. I have a two yr old foster daughter and it would not occur to me to let her walk around in public without a shirt on. Heck my BOYS wear swim shirts most of the time when swimming. 

 

I'm not saying it was good or bad but definitely stood out as being different than what was the norm for that particular setting. 

post #14 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by queenjane View Post
 

I was at a local park this summer and there was a splash area with sprayers and whatnot. There was a little girl there maybe 2 or 3 yrs old not wearing a shirt. I have to say even though i totally get what everyone here is saying....i was a bit taken aback. EVERY other girl was covered except this one. She wasnt a young toddler or baby. I have a two yr old foster daughter and it would not occur to me to let her walk around in public without a shirt on. Heck my BOYS wear swim shirts most of the time when swimming.

 

I'm not saying it was good or bad but definitely stood out as being different than what was the norm for that particular setting.

 

I think it's definitely true that our ideas about appropriateness are affected by what seems to be "the norm" among those around us. I think that years ago, when I felt like my 4 year old dd needed to wear a shirt to "be prepared" for when she actually would have breasts that differed from male breasts, I was definitely affected by the culture of the conservative homeschoolers that we were currently spending a lot of time with. In that culture, there is such a strong belief in the differing roles of males and females, that clothing choices for many parents go waaay beyond even just having the girls "shirt up."

 

When you believe that there are so many strict rules for living a good life, and that those rules originate from someplace outside of you and you need to internalize and conform to them, raising children becomes such a hard task and you think a lot about whether letting your child do something now might be "setting a precedent" and making it harder for her to tow the line later.

 

Moving out of that culture, into a much more liberal homeschooling/unschooling community, introduced me to a world in which many parents are comfortable not just with shirtlessness for girls, but with children choosing/discovering their own approaches to gender. And I've come to strongly believe that we are born already connected to truth and goodness, so rather than having to work so hard to enforce a bunch of external rules, I can relax and watch them to see how they interact in various situations.

 

So now I would say that when it comes to norms, I think it's usually healthiest to let my children determine which norms they want to comply with and which ones they don't care about, with the exception that I do feel we all need to be reasonably clean when we go out in public.

post #15 of 29
Quote:

 

Moving out of that culture, into a much more liberal homeschooling/unschooling community, introduced me to a world in which many parents are comfortable not just with shirtlessness for girls, but with children choosing/discovering their own approaches to gender. And I've come to strongly believe that we are born already connected to truth and goodness, so rather than having to work so hard to enforce a bunch of external rules, I can relax and watch them to see how they interact in various situations.

 

So now I would say that when it comes to norms, I think it's usually healthiest to let my children determine which norms they want to comply with and which ones they don't care about, with the exception that I do feel we all need to be reasonably clean when we go out in public.

 

I def. dont live in a conservative area and am a (former) unschooling parent. But while i agree with a lot of what you wrote i think there is an additional component which is giving our kids enough information so they can make informed choices. If my child wants to wear something to school that may cause him to be teased or get in trouble or anything like that i think its part of my job as a parent to help him be aware of the possible outcomes. That doesnt apply so much to a 2 yr old not wearing a top at the beach....but if it were a five or seven yr old? and it was the cultural norm for girls that age to wear one? i'd be giving a lot more info than just eh do what you want, isnt freedom great (which seems to be the default of many unschooling parents, not necessarily anyone here.) 

post #16 of 29

Most kids it is hard to tell if they are a boy or a girl till around age 6-8.  I know a lot of girls with short hair and lots of boys with long hair.  So to me they are fine without a shirt until around age 8. 

That said my boys are very rarely alowd to be shirtless, so I do not see me letting my girl go shirtless either past about age 2 even in the house.

post #17 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by queenjane View Post
 

I was at a local park this summer and there was a splash area with sprayers and whatnot. There was a little girl there maybe 2 or 3 yrs old not wearing a shirt. I have to say even though i totally get what everyone here is saying....i was a bit taken aback. EVERY other girl was covered except this one. She wasnt a young toddler or baby. I have a two yr old foster daughter and it would not occur to me to let her walk around in public without a shirt on. Heck my BOYS wear swim shirts most of the time when swimming. 

 

I'm not saying it was good or bad but definitely stood out as being different than what was the norm for that particular setting. 

Well, i think its bad, and very sad.

post #18 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by queenjane View Post
 

 

But while i agree with a lot of what you wrote i think there is an additional component which is giving our kids enough information so they can make informed choices. If my child wants to wear something to school that may cause him to be teased or get in trouble or anything like that i think its part of my job as a parent to help him be aware of the possible outcomes.

 

Yes, I agree that it's important for our children to be well-informed, especially when going into new situations on their own. With unschooling, children tend to branch out into situations without their parents somewhat later than the age at which most children start school. I realize there's a lot of variation among children, but my own girls were well beyond the 5 to 7-year age range when they started expressing a desire to do stuff without their dad or me present. Dd2, at 8, still seems happiest when I'm with her.

 

Dd1 expressed the desire to attend public school a year ago at age 12, and it took us a year to send her because of our desire to give her a chance to get more comfortable with reading before sending her into a setting where she'd likely be needing to read whole chapters for assignments, and possibly read out loud sometimes. And she agreed that this was a good idea and got busy with it. Even though that's not a clothing-related example, it's an example of some information, or a skill, that we felt like she needed to have in order to feel successful in a school setting.

 

But as far as social issues like how to dress, by the time she wanted to go to school, she was much more adept than her dad or I at figuring out what worked and what didn't. Which I think may be why many unschooling parents seem like they're set to the "isn't freedom great" default that you spoke of -- if unschooled children end up in situations like a public school setting where they're likely to get ridiculed for wearing a particular outfit, it's because they themselves are the ones seeking these experiences out, and when they want to be in particular setting, they're usually eager to absorb all those unwritten rules  -- or if they choose to fly in the face of some norms, as dd1 sometimes does, they've already weighed out the risk and often devised their own plan for dealing with any fallout.

post #19 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by mammal_mama View Post
 

 

Yes, I agree that it's important for our children to be well-informed, especially when going into new situations on their own. With unschooling, children tend to branch out into situations without their parents somewhat later than the age at which most children start school. I realize there's a lot of variation among children, but my own girls were well beyond the 5 to 7-year age range when they started expressing a desire to do stuff without their dad or me present. Dd2, at 8, still seems happiest when I'm with her.

 

Dd1 expressed the desire to attend public school a year ago at age 12, and it took us a year to send her because of our desire to give her a chance to get more comfortable with reading before sending her into a setting where she'd likely be needing to read whole chapters for assignments, and possibly read out loud sometimes. And she agreed that this was a good idea and got busy with it. Even though that's not a clothing-related example, it's an example of some information, or a skill, that we felt like she needed to have in order to feel successful in a school setting.

 

But as far as social issues like how to dress, by the time she wanted to go to school, she was much more adept than her dad or I at figuring out what worked and what didn't. Which I think may be why many unschooling parents seem like they're set to the "isn't freedom great" default that you spoke of -- if unschooled children end up in situations like a public school setting where they're likely to get ridiculed for wearing a particular outfit, it's because they themselves are the ones seeking these experiences out, and when they want to be in particular setting, they're usually eager to absorb all those unwritten rules  -- or if they choose to fly in the face of some norms, as dd1 sometimes does, they've already weighed out the risk and often devised their own plan for dealing with any fallout.

 

 

Perhaps reframe the question to-'at what age should a girl be informed that most girls her age, wear a top event though they dont really need to?'

 

(apologies for not reading the full last couple of posts....in a hurry)

post #20 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by contactmaya View Post
 

 

 

Perhaps reframe the question to-'at what age should a girl be informed that most girls her age, wear a top event though they dont really need to?'

 

That's a good way of putting it, LOL! The funny thing is, by the time they're old enough to even care, they're already paying attention themselves to what most girls their age are wearing and they seriously don't need us to tell them. And when they're too young to even care, they probably don't need the information.

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