Young children are generally curious and begin to touch themselves, many times, at the least appropriate times. When addressing their behavior, don't exaggerate or embarrass the child. Instead, speak calmly and naturally to your child. Give him alternatives and do not resort to physical force. Have a conversation with him and let him know that touching is not something to do in public. Lastly, it begins to teach you the limits on how to treat and respect your own body and the bodies of those around you.
Part 1 of 3: Responding to their behavior
Step 1. Stay calm
Children may take pleasure in outrageous acts to get a reaction. For example, your child might come out of his room totally naked and take pride in himself. If she tends to be an exhibitionist, don't react, as it will take away from her humor. Respond calmly without getting a reaction.
For example, you can say "Who took your clothes off?" or "I didn't know that today was the day to be naked."
Step 2. Redirect their attention
Especially if your child is touching himself distractedly, redirect his attention. This can be useful if you are in a public place and you don't want to talk about their behavior or turn it into an argument. One of the best things you can do is put something in his hands for him to touch. This will give you an activity and keep you focused on something else.
For example, you can say "Can you hold this for me?" or "We better play with this."
Step 3. Don't use physical force
Never hit his hand when he touches it. This can send you a negative message about your body, sexuality, and normal curiosity. Don't use any kind of force. Instead, use the words. Your child may need time to remind himself not to touch himself, so be patient.
For example, you can say "Hands outside the pants" or "This is not an appropriate time to do that."
Step 4. Avoid embarrassing him
Let him know that you understand that touching feels good. Avoid embarrassing him or acting like you are very embarrassed. It is important that your child has a healthy relationship with his body and his sexuality. Be gentle about bringing it up and asking them to stop.
- Don't say things that might embarrass him or make him think his curiosity is bad or negative.
- For example, you can say, "I know touching yourself makes you feel good, but this is not the right time."
Part 2 of 3: Have a Conversation About His Behavior
Step 1. Normalize their curiosity
Tell your child that it is normal to be curious about his body and want to explore it. Upon discovering that something feels good, you will usually want to do it again. Remember that young children are curious and experimental.
Allowing your child to experience age-appropriate behaviors will help her develop healthier attitudes about sexuality and her body
Step 2. Discourage playing in public
Tell your child that it is not okay to show his private parts to other people, especially in public. Make it clear that touching and exploring behaviors are acceptable only at home. If you tend to show your private parts or touch yourself when you're out and about, set a clear boundary.
For example, you can say, "It's okay to do that at home, but it's not okay to do it when people are around."
Step 3. Teach him to do it in private
Without showing criticism or disapproval, subtly encourage him to explore his body in private. This is a good time to talk about privacy and its importance.
Keep the privacy conversation constant and age appropriate. If your child asks why he has to do it in private, tell him that it is similar to using the bathroom
Step 4. Answer their questions
Young children become more aware of their bodies and gender identity. They will probably ask questions about their bodies, the bodies of others, and may be curious to talk about masturbation. They may be curious about gender identity and differences between boys and girls. If your child asks you questions, respond in an age-appropriate way. Be calm and direct, and don't be embarrassed when responding.
- It may not be the time to talk about sex yet, but feel free to talk about the things that you are curious about. For example, you can say "Yes, touching private parts feels good. They are made to make you feel good."
- Explain that he owns his body and must take care of it.
- Avoid nicknames for private parties. Teach him to use the correct words, such as "penis" and "vagina."
Part 3 of 3: Enforce Physical Limits
Step 1. Remind him not to touch others
While it is normal for your child to want to explore his body, teach him not to touch other children or adults, especially near private parts. This can also help you learn about privacy and respect for others. If you see your child touching another child inappropriately, subtly say, "Please don't touch Juan that way."
Teach your child that no one should touch him in a way that makes him feel uncomfortable
Step 2. Help him cope in other ways
If your child is constantly masturbating and doesn't seem to be comforting himself with anything else, assess for stress, anxiety, loneliness, or boredom. If masturbation seems like a stress relief method, help him find other ways to deal with his emotions. For example, practice labeling your emotions and talking about your feelings. If your child is anxious, take deep breaths together to calm down.
If you find masturbation a stress reliever, tell her that it's okay to touch herself, but that there are other ways to deal with her feelings
Step 3. Look for signs of abuse
Children can act out their experiences when they do not have the words to say what is happening. If your child suddenly begins to represent experiences or situations that are highly sexually charged beyond exploring the parts of his body, take note of these signs that he exhibits. Some young children may become very dependent or refuse to separate from their caregiver. Others may have a setback in their development and regress to stages that have passed long ago. Pay attention to aggressive play with their toys, other children, or the caregiver.
If you suspect abuse, take it seriously. Keep him away from the alleged aggressors and seek help through the authorities
Step 4. Get professional help, if needed
If your child touches himself inappropriately and doesn't seem to want or be able to stop, it may be time to discuss it with the pediatrician and even a therapist. Especially if your child is very interested in other sexual activities or touching other children, it is important to consult a professional and ask for advice.