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Private Parts Play

Of all the stages of my eight children's lives, it's their toddler years that stood out most. Though as babies they warmed my heart every day, after one year they got really interesting as their personalities emerged. But the toddler stage can also be the most challenging. Just when you thought you'd figured out your baby's feeding, sleeping, and pooping habits, suddenly there's a slew of new situations and quirks to get a handle on. Here's one of the most common questions that I'm asked at toddler checkups:

My 3-year-old fiddles with his penis. How can I get him to stop?
Exploring body parts is a normal part of toddler development. Think of it as any other quirk (like twirling his hair) and try not to overreact. Toddlers love attention, and when they realize that a certain behavior gets a rise out of you, they're likely to engage in it just for that reason.

That said, if he's playing with his genitals in public, you'll need to do some gentle redirecting. As soon as you see his hands go toward their intended target, distract your child's attention by calmly saying no, and give him a toy or something else to play with instead. Later, you might try explaining that what he's doing isn't bad, but that certain things aren't meant for others to see; they're for his eyes only.

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