TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN examines the appropriate age that kids should be allowed to dress up themselves
Being a parent comes with various responsibilities. Bathing and dressing children are part of such. But there should be a time to put a stop to such activities. At what age should parents allow their children to dress up for themselves?
A mother, Mrs Oluwaseun Adeoye, said she tried to make her boy learn to respect his body on time.
She told our correspondent that it was wise to teach children to own their bodies at an early stage because children nowadays were intelligent and parents needed to understand and work with such a reality.
Adeoye said, “For me, a child can start dressing up for himself or herself at age four. Children of these days are smart and wise but we should not rush them to adulthood; we should let them grow.
“We can teach them at an early stage. It is very wise to allow them to possess their bodies by making sure one leaves them to wear their underwear such as pants and singlet as young as four or five years old. At that age, they can’t bathe themselves yet but they know that it is only their parents who should bathe them. When their father or I bathe them, I teach them and allow them wear their underwear.
“When the child understands that privacy is honoured, the children will learn to respect their bodies and keep them from strangers.”
A civil servant, Mrs Hannah Ifeanyi, said for her, there was no particular age to allow a child to dress up himself or herself, noting that parents should let the children have their privacy when they began to observe they were no longer comfortable being naked around them.
She said, “I think when a child becomes uncomfortable with it, it should stop. And as long as the children can care for themselves alone (dressing, bathing, etc), it is fine then to discontinue with seeing the child’s naked body. I stopped seeing my children’s bodies around age nine or 10, I think. I now knock on their doors before entering their rooms. They are now 12 and 13 years.”
Another parent, a worker with one of Nigeria’s commercial banks, Mrs Seyi Adegbola, told SUNDAY PUNCH that parents should stop dressing their children once they began to experience puberty.
She said, “I think one should stop when children no longer want to be seen naked and can take care of themselves. Most kids no longer want their parents to see them naked by the age of 10. Therefore, they should be able to take care of themselves long before that so that their parents do not have to see them naked.
“For example, my girl was no longer okay with her father seeing her nakedness when she was eight and began to develop breasts. Two years later, as she became more developed, she no longer wanted me to see her nakedness.”
A father of one, Mr Babatunde Jeremiah, believed that children should be allowed privacy over their bodies from age five.
He said, “My boy is five and he grudgingly allows his mother to bathe him; he also does not allow his aunt to bathe him. He wouldn’t even let them bathe him outside.
“The age and season have shifted that the children born in this generation are plus one higher than children of our days. I marvel at what comes out of the mouths of the children. I feel that at age eight or nine they should have their privacy but should be monitored and guided closely.”
An information technology expert, Mrs Bukola Ololade, said her son of four years told her that he didn’t want to see her around him whenever he was changing his clothes.
She said, “My son is only four years and he tells me he doesn’t want me to see him change; he would rather do it himself, which is good, but I still ensure that he is dressed right when he’s done.
“All children become aware of themselves and as long as you teach them that their bodies — any part of them — are theirs and nobody has the right to touch them in any manner, good or bad, without permission, they will let you know if they’re not comfortable.”
Another parent, Mrs Lola Ayanfe, told SUNDAY PUNCH that she didn’t really feel it’s an age issue but parents should learn to know their children.
“If one knows her child well enough, one will notice their discomfort even before they say anything.
“Be guided by your daughter. She will let you know if she’s not happy about it by the way she responds and her demeanour. Unless she feels forced in some way, she won’t even remember anything about being embarrassed or feeling awkward etc,” Ayanfe added.
A family counsellor, Seyi Akande, said a child at age four or five was expected to be able to dress up themselves but may still required help adjusting buttons and zips.
She said, “Getting dressed is an important skill for children to learn, but it can be hard for them. You can lay the groundwork when your child is a baby, and then help your child learn how to get dressed over the next few years.
“The ability to dress themselves helps to build confidence, independence and a sense of achievement. Getting dressed is more than just putting on or taking off clothes. It helps your child develop many other skills.”
On body privacy, she believed the children wouldn’t really understand the concept until age five.
Akande added, “Children don’t adequately understand the concept of privacy until age five or six, but at three and four, they are beginning to understand the concept of rules.
“I think when a proper education is given to them at early age about parts of their bodies without using pet names for each part, it helps such a child. Parents should ensure to give their children a proper education at an early age about parts of their bodies without using coded names.”
According to a sociologist, Prof. Bameke Olufunlayo, for a child to dress up himself or herself, he or she must be between six and seven years.
She said, “A child may be able to help herself or himself better than another or even earlier. Parents should encourage children to help themselves in feeding, dressing, etc right from when they were toddlers.
“However, parents still need to help children till about six to seven years when it comes to undoing buttons, zips, shoe laces etc. Dressing themselves give a sense of independence and responsibility.”