Hand down pants
A bit of self-exploration is normal practice for toddlers. But they still need to know appropriate behaviour when and where it's right to investigate their bits and pieces. Here's how to teach your toddler the concept of “there's a time and a place…”
You've bought your toddler some toy trucks, a new set a crayons and a stuffed tiger - and still he seems much happier playing with what's in his pants. Don't panic - this is completely natural childhood behaviour.
In fact, ultrasounds have shown that boys can have erections while still in the uterus, and babies will often tug at their genitals just as they would their ears or toes. Little girls are just as likely to do it as boys, and it's usually out of curiosity, boredom, for comfort or simply because it feels good.
Parenting experts have lots to say on this subject - but the underlying message is for parents to stay calm and not to make a big deal about it or tell the child off. Making little ones feel ashamed or that the behaviour is “naughty” can have body image repercussions, apparently.
Instead, if they're old enough to understand, explain that there's a time and a place for it and set some boundaries.
Other tips include:
- When changing your child's nappy or bathing them, treat their genitals as a normal part of their body. If you don't make a fuss, they won't.
- Consider why the child might be doing it and offer other forms of play, distraction or comfort.
- Treat the behaviour as you would other behaviours: you could try ignoring it, distracting the child, or discussing it calmly with them, suggesting they do it in private.
- While it's fine for children to have pet names for their genitalia, teach them the correct terms, too.
- Remind them that they own their bodies and they should always say no to unwanted touching.
This article was written by Fiona Baker, former editor in chief of Mother & Baby, Pregnancy & Birth, Wondertime magazines for Kidspot, New Zealand's best resource for pregnancy and parenting.
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