Explaining to my 4 year old daughter why girls have to wear tops when boys don't. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 27 Old 09-30-2013, 05:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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How are those of you with daughters explaining to them why they're expected to/need to wear something on top while little boys are walking around shirtless on hot days? We live at the beach and my 4 yo daughter, who is in a naked phase as it is, sees little boys in swim trunks or shorts and nothing else all the time. I can't seem to find the words to explain why I don't want her running around topless, or standing in our windows without a shirt on where people walk by. For me, the motivation has nothing to do with her body- I wish little girls were as free to go topless. Heck, I wish women could. But for me, her needing to wear a shirt if far more about keeping the eyes of sick people off of her. :/ I'm sorry if that sounds awful, and it makes no difference to know the stats of who and who is not hurting children. But I was brought up with that, and it stuck. "Little girls have to wear shirts, there are too many sickos out there."

So how do those of you who feel a need to explain this to your daughters do so? I'm finding myself at a loss for words.

 

 

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#2 of 27 Old 09-30-2013, 08:02 PM
 
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We don't, as a 4 yr old girls chest does not differ from a 4 yr old boys chest. Anyone who is sick enough to get turned on by a 4 yr old girl will do so whether or not she is clothed.

 

Our DD doesn't want to go shirtless much, but we let her. I will worry about it later as she gets older. But usually society will take care of it and pre-teen girls rarely want to go shirtless.

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#3 of 27 Old 09-30-2013, 08:24 PM
 
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I let little girls run around shirtless in the summer too. Unless I'm having a fit of worry about melanoma, and then it's rashguards for everybody.

I can't prevent people from looking at the kids when we're out in public, and I can't control what they think when they do. I don't think a shirt is going to somehow protect my daughter from people who might hurt her for any reason, and not wearing a shirt doesn't make her more vulnerable. Shirt or no short has no effect on my son's safety either. (TBH, I resent the suggestion that it's my job to prevent people from looking at or thinking about my daughter in sexual ways. I have no control over the insides of other people's heads. At best, I can police how people behave. It is a sign of illness in our culture, IMO, that we police the dress and behavior of potential victims, while excusing agression and assault when they happen.)

When the kids wonder why girls wear tops at the beach and boys don't, I'm all about how most women appreciate the breast support.
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#4 of 27 Old 09-30-2013, 09:00 PM
 
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I let my under six year olds go shirtless in public. No big.
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#5 of 27 Old 10-01-2013, 04:14 AM
 
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I think it's fine for girls and women to go topless, anyplace where it's fine for boys and men to do so. But in our culture, most girls beyond a certain age don't feel comfortable doing so. For as long as the girls themselves DO feel comfortable, I think it's great!

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#6 of 27 Old 10-01-2013, 04:43 AM
 
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People have a hard time telling girls from boys at that age anyway, so I vote you get the girl some nice comfy board shorts and let her be a "kid".  When people used to refer to my ds as a girl he'd pipe up and say "I'm not a girl, I'm a kid!", which didn't make them any less confused, but did a fantastic job of pointing out that at that age being a boy or a girl is often secondary to being a kid.   For the record, I have two kids- one boy, one girl- and people frequently get them mixed up.

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#7 of 27 Old 10-01-2013, 09:22 AM
 
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My explanation was this (non-explanation):  "Girls grow up to get 'mama breasts', and in our culture, those are private.  So even though a 4yo still has flat nipples, just like a boy, some people get uncomfortable seeing a girl with no top because they would be uncomfortable see a woman with no top.  [Moment of confusion].  I don't think it makes any sense either......"

 

I didn't sweat it at 4yo.  I did have neighbors across the street that had a lot of (the wrong kind of) visitors (tweakers) come and go, and I didn't feel comfortable with having the girls naked in the front yard.  I realize they are not necessarily more likely than an ordinary-looking person to cross the line, but that was my personal boundary, and I think we should respect that in ourselves.  What did I explain?  Unfortunately, I explained that some people who are not nice like to look at children's bodies for fun and I am not OK with that.  

 

Realistically, though, the child could be a boy or a girl, so I don't know why we as a society are so protective of our daughters' bodies and not our sons'.  Because if covering up was to keep our children safe from oglers, then the issue goes way beyond just a top on a 4yo.  No, putting a shirt on a 4yo girl when the boys are running shirt-free is rooted in sexism, for sure.

 

ETA: Like the idea of board shorts.

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#8 of 27 Old 10-01-2013, 09:51 AM
 
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SweetSilver, I would really not be comfortable with my kids playing in the front yard at all if the neighbors across the street seemed to have a lot of visitors who were using.  It's not about clothes for me, it's about the essential unpredictability and irrationality, also the likelihood of DWI, and drug-related crime. 

 

By all means, honor your personal boundary, whatever it is.  But shirts don't provide safety.

 

But I love board shorts too.

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#9 of 27 Old 10-01-2013, 12:14 PM
 
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We don't, as a 4 yr old girls chest does not differ from a 4 yr old boys chest. Anyone who is sick enough to get turned on by a 4 yr old girl will do so whether or not she is clothed.

 

This. Shes only 4, no boobs.

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#10 of 27 Old 10-01-2013, 02:52 PM
 
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Personally have not burdened our kids with that angle yet.  We also spend a lot of time on a beach (public), but also live on a farm (private) and the kids are nude, often.

 

We frame it by saying some people are uncomfortable with nudity, and in order to not upset them and be polite we will put on some clothes.  (If the situation warrants a discussion and some additional clothing!)

 

Agree with a PP, clothing is really irrelevant to pervs. 

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#11 of 27 Old 10-02-2013, 07:19 AM
 
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We don't worry about tops until they are much older and by then, I find that they have (usually) developed modesty and don't want others to see them anyway. 

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#12 of 27 Old 10-02-2013, 12:12 PM
 
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Pervs dont always discriminate by sex either. Does that mean we should put shirts on boys?

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#13 of 27 Old 10-02-2013, 01:04 PM
 
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Pervs dont always discriminate by sex either. Does that mean we should put shirts on boys?

 

IMO, it means that if we think little girls need shirts, we should also think that little boys need shirts.

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#14 of 27 Old 10-02-2013, 05:50 PM
 
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So happy to hear all these posts that I can relate to and totally agree with!  Yes, a 4 year old doesn't need a shirt to protect them from weirdos. It is 100% a parents responsibility to be sure a 4 year old is safe. At some point, way down the road we can talk with our kids about their role in keeping safe but 4 is way, way too young, IMO. 

 

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I'm sorry if that sounds awful, and it makes no difference to know the stats of who and who is not hurting children. But I was brought up with that, and it stuck. "Little girls have to wear shirts, there are too many sickos out there."

 

It really does help to know the stats -- and it may alleviate your fear and help keep your child safe to know. From what I've read, it simply isn't weirdos walking by the window who are a threat to children. It is people she knows. People you may be comfortable with her around. A great book if you want to read up on the stats as well as brush up on keeping kids safe is called "Protecting the Gift".  

 

ETA: somehow I missed Sweetsilver's post and I want to be sure that my comment above isn't hurtful to her. Yes, in general, I do think the conversation with a 4 year old just doesn't need to happen unless there are some special circumstances like what you experienced.  

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#15 of 27 Old 10-02-2013, 08:23 PM
 
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ETA: somehow I missed Sweetsilver's post and I want to be sure that my comment above isn't hurtful to her. Yes, in general, I do think the conversation with a 4 year old just doesn't need to happen unless there are some special circumstances like what you experienced.  

 

(Zzzzzzz) who, moi?  :zzz

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#16 of 27 Old 10-03-2013, 04:02 AM
 
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#17 of 27 Old 10-03-2013, 04:19 PM
 
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yeah, as a few others have mentioned, i don't know how in the world a random stranger is going to know that the little 4-yr-old kid is a girl or a boy.  and also, if you're afraid that some person is thinking disgusting things b/c of a topless child, then it really doesn't matter what type of kiddo, you probably are putting a shirt on the kid for some reason other than because it's your little girl (would you be okay with pervy thoughts about your son of the same age?  i will venture a guess: no.)... therefore, you don't actually have to explain why girls wear shirts and boys don't, b/c that's not an issue right now, at 4 yrs old.

 

you've made it clear you're not going to change your mind on this issue, so i won't try to convince you of my point of view, that for your particular fear, it accomplishes nothing to put a shirt on your little kid.  you are going to do it, and you feel that you should therefore explain yourself to the kid, which i think is a respectable thing (way better than "because i say so"!) so... if you are doing it to "protect" the kid, then maybe you should just tell the kid it's to protect their skin.  it's not age-appropriate to talk about protecting from what -- to mention pedophilia to a 4-yr-old doesn't make any sense -- so if you're making it in age-appropriate language, you can just leave it at that it protects their skin.  if you happen to think it's smart to protect them from UV rays and would rather not slather on the loads of chemicals in sunscreen, then you're really not lying very much even if you choose to say, specifically, it's protection from the sun.

 

geez, this really makes me wonder when and under what circumstances it's okay and appropriate to lie to your kids?  in general, i favor honesty.  but i really wouldn't want to burden a small child with concerns that are mine (it's my job to protect the kid, not theirs, as they're incapable anyhow), especially ones that could tweak out their psyche at too young of an age and give them a pessimistic view of the world.  this thread has given me stuff to think about (and most of it tangential to the topic)!  these forums are good at that, which is one of the reasons why i love them, even things that i start out feeling inclined to roll my eyes at.


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#18 of 27 Old 10-03-2013, 05:06 PM
 
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I dont think lying is  a good thing in this situation. Its not much better than... 'because i said so'. That would break the trust of the child. That actually makes a child more vulnerable to abuse.  I want my children to trust me so that if ever anything happened, or could potentially happen, they knew they could turn to me. You cant explain to a 4 yo that wearing a tshirt is necessary, because there is no good reason for it-thus, no good explanation. Really, in this situation,  'because i said so', is the only, most honest explanation.

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#19 of 27 Old 10-05-2013, 01:14 PM
 
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I have two boys, no daughters.. but amongst our group of friends, it isn't uncommon to see shirtless little girls playing at the park, etc... Like many people mentioned, you can't tell the difference between a 4 year old boy or girl by their chest, but I guess it really depends on where you live and your cultural beliefs. I was raised in a strict household where nudity was not ok- even the boys kept their shirts on when swimming! Yet in many European countries, it is perfectly fine for children to be completely nude at public beaches. 

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#20 of 27 Old 10-09-2013, 09:36 AM
 
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I think it was around 4-5 when we started telling the dds to wear clothes in public. In the house, they run around naked more or less freely (we don't like bare bottoms on the furniture, but otherwise we don't shame or make a big deal if they are naked). When they asked why, I'd say something like, "It's a social convention. In our culture, that's how people think people should dress, and I don't care enough about it to fight it." (They KNOW there are other issues that I care about a lot more, and am very willing to buck the trend.) That really is the long and short of it.

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#21 of 27 Old 10-09-2013, 11:56 AM
 
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I think it was around 4-5 when we started telling the dds to wear clothes in public. In the house, they run around naked more or less freely (we don't like bare bottoms on the furniture, but otherwise we don't shame or make a big deal if they are naked). When they asked why, I'd say something like, "It's a social convention. In our culture, that's how people think people should dress, and I don't care enough about it to fight it." (They KNOW there are other issues that I care about a lot more, and am very willing to buck the trend.) That really is the long and short of it.

Thats really a question of hygeine more than social convention.  Pinworms get spread that way.

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#22 of 27 Old 10-09-2013, 04:01 PM
 
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What I was saying was that we don't allow bare bottoms on the furniture. Other nudity we don't really care about, in the house.

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#23 of 27 Old 04-14-2014, 09:24 PM
 
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Haha! I also have two boys, one learned quickly without me telling him what the convention here in america is, and while he would spend his summers naked in my country, he would be embarrassed in boxers in front of his friends here. My younger one is not getting the modesty, at least not yet... I'm also not going to tell him this long story about sick people who might look etc... I don't want my kids being self concious about that, I'm there to keep them safe from the sick people I hope. So I guess I "LIE" and tell him that just put your pants on because in america you have to. And I'm not lying that much anyways. (and he knows some friends houses are exceptions) I used to say, "when we go outside we put on shorts", at some point there came the "why", so I had to blame someone, sorry america. 

If I had a daughter and if I felt like I need to keep her covered, I would not go into the sexual predator issue, especially if you are always with her. I would also vote for the white lie, "to protect skin" or the bossy mom "because I say so" because it's totally ok to lie, to your kids if the truth is too much information for her age, and totally ok, if some rules in the house are just cause mom says so. I don't know how on earth respecting your mom and taking her word for it sometimes without explanation would be damaging to her or make her an easier victim (seems a little intense) if the home environment is open to conversation in most cases... I mean if you have sex with our husbad and your kid wants to come in and demends an answer why she can't, which one is better, to say just cause we say so, or to explain that seeing what private things your parents are doing right now would be damaging to you...?

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#24 of 27 Old 04-15-2014, 01:22 PM
 
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  I mean if you have sex with our husbad and your kid wants to come in and demends an answer why she can't, which one is better, to say just cause we say so, or to explain that seeing what private things your parents are doing right now would be damaging to you...?

This would have the be the weirdest, silliest and grossest argument in favor of telling children white lies i have ever had the displeasure to read..What child would even do that? 

I wouldnt cover up my daughter more than my son for reasons of sexual predators. Im with her after all. And clothing wont  change the predator,  anymore for children than for adults. Teach her(and him) about bodily autonomy, teach them that  its their body, and they  can say no. Teach them  to tell a trusted adult of they sense something is off, tell them to scream bloody murder if someone tries to touch them inappropriately.  But dont  lie to them unnecessarily and then wonder why they wont trust you when you need them to most.

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#25 of 27 Old 04-15-2014, 02:49 PM
 
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Sunblock is a must, especially on nipples. Ouch! I remember my French relatives had special cream they put on their nipples when they went topless!

 

In any case, I agree that in our society, there is probably a cut off for girls to go topless...overseas, not so much. I don't get why the US is that way, but they are. 

 

I saw a family (I think they were Brazilian from what I could hear) with a topless girl at a pool in the Disney area and she was developing already. She was probably about 8 or 9. No one told her to cover up, and I think that is great, but I am sure some families were uncomfortable with it. 

 

I have a 7 yr old daughter and an 11 yr old son. My son likes to sleep naked, and is comfortable walking around in his underwear sometimes (we live in a hot climate). I have to remind my daughter to put on a shirt sometimes at home. In public, she was covered full time by about 3 but she never protested or asked why. I guess it didn't occur to her. 

 

If my daughter did protest it, I would just tell her it is the law in most places for women to cover up their breasts in public, and the same goes for girls over the age of (fill in whatever age you are comfortable with). You can tell her you think it is a silly law, but that you still have to obey the laws. 

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#26 of 27 Old 04-16-2014, 01:59 PM
 
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Sunblock is a must, especially on nipples. Ouch! I remember my French relatives had special cream they put on their nipples when they went topless!

 

In any case, I agree that in our society, there is probably a cut off for girls to go topless...overseas, not so much. I don't get why the US is that way, but they are. 

 

I saw a family (I think they were Brazilian from what I could hear) with a topless girl at a pool in the Disney area and she was developing already. She was probably about 8 or 9. No one told her to cover up, and I think that is great, but I am sure some families were uncomfortable with it. 

 

I have a 7 yr old daughter and an 11 yr old son. My son likes to sleep naked, and is comfortable walking around in his underwear sometimes (we live in a hot climate). I have to remind my daughter to put on a shirt sometimes at home. In public, she was covered full time by about 3 but she never protested or asked why. I guess it didn't occur to her. 

 

If my daughter did protest it, I would just tell her it is the law in most places for women to cover up their breasts in public, and the same goes for girls over the age of (fill in whatever age you are comfortable with). You can tell her you think it is a silly law, but that you still have to obey the laws. 

You might be surprised to know that it is not a legal requirement for a woman to cover her chest in New York State.  I dont know about other states or countries. You may be  surprised. The law in any case, would not necessarily apply to a child. I believe in getting my facts right when explaining these things to kids.

When it comes to underaged children running naked in sprinklers, it turns out there is no law at all. I researched it once when harassed by a playground employee when i let my 2yo son run naked. Admittedly, even when i put pants on him, he took them off.

Personally, i cover up nipples as well as most body parts when in the harsh sun, and wouldnt think twice about covering my children in the same way. In the late afternoon however, its a different matter. The sun is not harmful then.   

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#27 of 27 Old 04-24-2014, 07:51 PM
 
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You might be surprised to know that it is not a legal requirement for a woman to cover her chest in New York State.  I dont know about other states or countries. You may be  surprised. The law in any case, would not necessarily apply to a child. I believe in getting my facts right when explaining these things to kids.

When it comes to underaged children running naked in sprinklers, it turns out there is no law at all. I researched it once when harassed by a playground employee when i let my 2yo son run naked. Admittedly, even when i put pants on him, he took them off.

Personally, i cover up nipples as well as most body parts when in the harsh sun, and wouldnt think twice about covering my children in the same way. In the late afternoon however, its a different matter. The sun is not harmful then.   

No, I'm not surprised to know that. I am from NY. That is why I said "in most places". But yes, I didn't think about the fact that laws don't apply to kids necessarily. Good point. You would have to clarify that for a kid so they don't think they are a law breaker! 

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