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Little Strippers

You're in the midst of a family gathering when your 2-year-old streaks across the room, wearing nothing but her birthday suit and a grin. Do you have a future nudist on your hands? It's doubtful. "Toddlers don't understand modesty," says Charles Shubin, M.D., medical director of pediatrics at the Family Health Centers of Baltimore. "It's not until age five or so that kids learn what's socially acceptable." Until then, clothing can seem like nothing but a nuisance.

For those times you need your child to keep her shirt  -- and pants  -- on (say, in public):

Be clear about your expectations. "In some households, it's okay to walk around with no clothes on; in others, staying covered is crucial," says Dr. Shubin. Figure out (with your partner) what your boundaries are, and reinforce them as often as you would any other house rule.

Make sure she's comfortable. Your toddler may be dropping trou simply because she's hot. Make sure she isn't overbundled; she should be dressed in the same number of layers you are.

Stay calm. If you freak out when your child disrobes (it's easy to do), she may enjoy the attention so much that she'll do it again.

Instead, gently remind her of your rules by speaking in the third person, so she doesn't feel like she's being put on the spot: "Jenny knows she's not supposed to take her clothes off here." And be sure to rave about how pretty she looks when she keeps her clothes on.