This is usually a very embarrassing situation that many parents think is only happening to them. It’s actually a very normal part of life though. From a very young age, children become curious about what’s down there (usually when the diaper starts to come off more regularly), and they discover that touching private parts feels good. Barring contrary cultural/religious opinions, a parent’s job is to teach kids when and where this behaviour is or is not appropriate.
With younger children, it’s more about distraction and prevention. There’s no need to respond and draw attention to the behaviour, it’s better to keep their hands busy and the diapers on.
Once your child hits age three and up, he can learn to manage the behaviour:
- Acknowledge that they are touching ‘private parts’ and ask if it feels good.
- Use correct terminology, not funny nicknames when talking about all body parts.
- Discuss the notion of public vs private and why they are called ‘privates’. There are some things we do when lots of people are around—and there are others that we only do in private.
- Ask to confirm that the child understands: “So if you want to touch your privates, do you do it here around a bunch of people or on your own?” When the behaviour happens again you can say: “We’re in public right now, please choose another time. That is not appropriate.”
It might feel uncomfortable to talk about this with your young child, but keep it clean by using correct terminology and sharing basic family expectations at an early age. It will make future conversations less embarrassing.