What we don’t anticipate is talking to our son or daughter about their private parts.
Over the weekend my wife gently asked me to talk to our four-year-old son Elijah about his recent behavior. In short, he was talking up his privates, saying he was going to show them to Mommy in bravura fashion.
This sounds like a job for … someone else, I wished.
Frankly, I neither anticipated this moment or researched the right things to say. So I winged it, and it went something like this:
“Buddy, there’s not a thing wrong with your penis. But it’s a private area, and it’s something we usually keep to ourselves. So it’s OK if Mommy or Daddy sees it if you’re having trouble with it, but you shouldn’t show it to others … OK?”
I asked him if he had any questions (he didn’t), and I told him he should come to me with any other concerns on the subject. I wanted to make sure he didn’t feel any shame attached to that part of the body.
I also needed him to know his penis needs to remain in his pants in public – especially at school. Who wants to get that phone call from the principal?
Did I handle the situation appropriately? For that, I did a little web surfing and found this encouraging report on private matters.
Preschool boys, in particular, may seem to get very silly about their private parts — face it, they’ll probably be talking about penises for many years to come — but it’s best not to overreact. By ignoring your child’s exhibitionism, you’ll take some of the thrill out of it. “When your child pulls out his penis and jokes about it, don’t scold him,” Dr. Cohen says. Make it clear, however, that this sort of behavior is acceptable only at home.
Looks like I got the basics right, but I hardly emerged confident that this will be the last time I’ll be addressing the subject. The very same article warns that masturbation may be the next frontier in my child’s journey of self-exploration. My parental research has only begun.