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July 31, 2018

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Mum opens up about dealing with toddler masturbation and why you should never shame your child or make a big fuss.

“The first time I noticed that my daughter was naked during nap time, I thought nothing of it. It was the middle of the summer and while I thought the room was cool enough with just a fan and the windows open, I figured maybe she had been warm. What I didn’t guess and would soon come to realize was that she was doing the no-pants dance. Yep, my 3-year-old was masturbating, writes Mom.me.

“I joked to my friends that she was “just like mommy,” in that this was also one of my most favorite hobbies, but inside I was secretly worried. I mean, I had expected this to happen—just not in her toddler years. I remember the first time I tried it, and I certainly wasn’t watching “Romper Room.” But little did I know that masturbation is in fact something that happens way before the teenage years that we associate it with.

“It’s completely normal for babies and toddlers to explore their genitals. And for some little kids, this leads to some pleasurable rubbing, either with their hands or up against something. It usually happens during nap time or when kids are sleepy or bored.

“I didn’t know whether my daughter was looking flushed from the heat or if she was just conjuring up those guys from “Wild Kratts,” but apparently, I did the right thing by not intervening. Although your instinct might be to move your child’s hands, don’t. The worst thing you can do when it comes to childhood masturbation is to tell your son or daughter they are doing something wrong. Not only can that increase the activity, it can also cause them to have major sexual hang-ups as adults.

Masturbation isn’t dirty—it’s a part of life. And you’re not going to stop your kids from doing it, so the best thing is to accept it.

“Thankfully, my daughter has a “cool mom” and it didn’t take long for me to be down with the fact that this is just a normal part of growing up. I did draw the line, however, when I saw her with her hands down her pants while we were out in public at a music class. I calmly told her that this is something we do only in private. I’m not sure how much she understood, but I will keep reiterating that message to her—in a non-judgmental way, of course.

“If you’re an adult who is uncomfortable with masturbation, I hope that you will talk to your friends or your pediatrician, so you can see that unless it’s happening in public or too frequently, or if you think it’s a red flag for an inappropriate situation that may have occurred, there’s really nothing wrong with it.

“As a very open-minded mom, it’s even difficult for me to accept this part of growing up and that I need to shut the damn door and not spy on my little one as she happily puts herself to sleep. Masturbation isn’t dirty—it’s a part of life. And you’re not going to stop your kids from doing it, so the best thing is to accept it. Personally, I’m glad that I’ll have an adult daughter who is very familiar—and hopefully accepting—of her own body!”

What you need to know

Your toddler’s touching of her genitals isn’t masturbation (and that also goes for little boys who get erections while playing with their penises). Yes, it feels good, and even comforting, but there’s nothing sexual about a young child’s intent or emotions.

What to do about it

How you should react depends on where you are.

  • Don’t forbid, shame, scold or rebuke your child. Not only might your negative response make the behavior more tempting, it’ll also send the message that she should be ashamed of her body and feelings associated with it. So try not to make any fuss. In fact, if you’re at home, ignore the behavior.
  • In semi-public settings, such as playgroups or extended family gatherings, distract your child with another hands-on activity, such as drawing with crayons or building with blocks.
  • Begin teaching your child the difference between “public” and “private.” If she starts touching herself while you’re out in public, quietly tell her that some things are okay to do in private but not in public where there are people around. Take her hand, give it a gentle squeeze and distract her. Don’t forget to also praise her for being able to wait until she’s home.
  • Ask if she needs to go to the bathroom. Some toddlers hold their genitals when they have to pee. If you suspect yours is one of them, make a habit of asking.

If your toddler seems to become obsessed with or consumed by her “touchy” habit, talk to your pediatrician. Sometimes underlying can be the culprit.

This post originally appeared on Mom.me

Share your comments below

  • My boys have done this and I just gently tell them they do it in private and away from others. It was no big deal from their reaction

    Reply

  • I told my child to do this in her room when no one was around as we didnt want to see it. She’s 3 she said no and I dont care.

    Reply

  • I know a lady who used to babysit her nephew, a toddler who was talking reasonably well. He started “playing with himself” (her words) and she asked him not to do it. Bear in mind she had had no experience with children. He said it (his penis) was sore. a few minutes prior to that when she took him to the toilet she noticed it was really red. She mentioned it to his parents and they took him to the Doctor as they hadn’t noticed it previously. Tests proved the toddler had Type 1 Diabetes.

    Reply

  • Interesting and enlightening. This is one of those topics that you’re never really sure on how to approach when it rears. I’m glad to read that there is a way to broach the subject if it ever appears in a way that is best for the child.

    Reply

  • I honestly don’t know how I’d react if my kid that young was doing it, but as it says above it is a natural part of growing up. I have seen my kids touch themselves occasionally and I usually reiterate that it is there private place and I don’t want to really see it in that way.

    Reply

  • I found out that my 13yr old had masturbated when I emptied the recycle bin on our laptop. I was horrified at first when I saw her but then thought about it and remembered I too explored masturbation around that age. I suddenly reverted back to my horrified state again at what I had witnessed. My daughter had actually recorded herself doing it. I went cold knowing this and have been in too minds how to approach the subject without upsetting her. Masturbating I don’t mind but to actually make a recording of it takes it to a new level in this day in age.

    Reply

  • I would also say they are discovering their bodies.

    Reply

  • I dont really think that toddlers would ‘masterbate’ I think it’s more just exploring their bodies.

    Reply

  • I had no idea this happened so young. My son is still shocked when he finds his penis in the bath.

    Reply

  • I agree with the writer. When young children touch the private part is more discovering then masturbating and just a normal part of their development. My youngest has Down syndrome and she does it a fair bit. It’s quite hard to teach her not to do it in public.

    Reply

  • Children have different desires and if you can be open and unforgiving then your child and you will all benefit. Some children will be more sexual than others, but remember how you were as a child and you can then help your child.

    Reply

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