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Toddler Masturbation

Jan 2013

I work in a group of children who are all around two and a half, potty training age. Naturally the children are interested in viewing one another using the potty and recently they have been interested in what the opposite sex has underneath pants and one or two masterbates at nap time.

The problem is that a couple of the assistants are uncomfortable about this. I have spoken to them repeatedly, mentioning this is normal curious behavior for the kid's age, just extra hand washing is needed, but it seems like they just can't stop muttering about it to one another. If I can hear so can the kids. anon


Both my children have been enthusiastic employers of self-stimulation/self-soothing, particularly at nap-time. As an experienced child-care provider (at a center for Harvard families, no less) I can assure you this is, indeed, normal. It's okay to set gentle boundaries around it (for example, if someone is selt-stimming during playtime) by saying, ''Not right now, honey'' or ''That's for rest-time'' or even ''That's private.'' And of course we always keep our hands to our own bodies. I conveyed to my girls (eventually) that it's like picking your nose - everybody does it (don't you?) but it's rude to do it in public. This behaviour peaked around 2.5/3yrs and then tapered towards Kindergarten. Perhaps finding a book or article that normalizes it? Or just using the language ''self-soothing'' and modeling your acceptance? I do think children should be made aware of societal norms as soon as they have the self-control to follow them, but gently, you know? They're just little.
As normal as sexual exploration is at that age, masturbation at nap time would be alarming to most and not normal. There is a time and place for everything and children need to be taught that not to normalize such behavior at daycare! A child therapist who knows a thing or 2
With toddlers and preschoolers I've also found it necessary, after discovering some tinker-toy experimentation, to say: ''No putting things in any hole in your body:eyes, ears, nose, mouth, butt, or vagina.'' If or when they ask ''Why?'' I simply say, ''The holes in your body are special and need to be kept clean. Things you play with and hands if they're not clean can hurt you or make you sick.''

6-year-old daughter has been masturbating lately

Sept 2008

Hi - I can't believe I'm having to ask about this, but my 6-year-old daughter has been masturbating lately. She went through a phase of rubbing against furniture when she was about 4, but it eventually stopped; this is much more extreme. The last few nights she did it pretty vigorously in bed before going to sleep. She has even started going into her room or bathroom at various times of day ''to be alone'' and tells me not to bother her because she ''needs privacy''. I'm worried about why she might be doing it - i.e., is she anxious about something(s)? Perhaps not coincidentally, she has also started getting reprimanded frequently at school for things such as talking over the teacher. For some reason I intuit the two might be related. I just feel so helpless at being able to help her - can anyone steer me to a professional we could see together to address this? I'd be so grateful. Anon


if masterbating is an effective, harmless emotional release for her. do not address it. just give her the privacy she wants. if you think it's related to this other issue, that is what you should be addressing (once the other thing is resolved, the masterbating should lessen IF they are related) talk with her about school; strategize with her teacher about how to motivate her to pay attention... good luck
I think its great that your daughter understands that masturbation is private. She is appropriately trying to get privacy. I know parents who have struggled to get their kids to understand that they need to seek privacy if they want to masturbate, but your kid already understands that. So what exactly is the problem? Do you want her not to masturbate? Why? Let her play
don't worry about it. my 6 yr old has been masturbating vigorously since 2. I think sometimes it calms her down. I draw the line at public masturbating, and she knows I know what's going on when she goes into her room for ''privacy.'' (though sometimes it's to pretend to wear diapers). I also draw the line if she's masturbating when I need her to pay attention. It's kind of funny in our household, and I leave her be unless there's some reason not to, or something else to think about: (''can you wash your hands before we eat dinner?'' or ''honey, let's keep our hands out of our bottom when we have visitors.'')
I was hoping that the answers you received would cover this one, but I feel like I need to offer a different perspective. I was your daughter's age when I experienced a similar situation, and years of my parents avoiding the issue led to years of heart-ache, embarrassment, and even physical issues for me.

Please, please consider talking to your daughter, and if necessary getting a counselor for her. Trust your instincts. Sexual exploration is one thing, but anxiety overlaid upon it (or anything else for that matter) is no longer healthy. Make sure your daughter understands what she's doing, what her body is doing (this discussion can be positive)--but also try to address what might be causing her stress. At 6, she may not be able to link the two, but you can help her work through the one, and hopefully you'll see a decline in her need for ''privacy.''

With luck your daughter is fine, and is enjoying a positive, healthy journey of self-discovery. It certainly couldn't hurt to make sure that the rest of her is okay, too. Best of Luck


6-year-old twins masturbating

Jan 2007

I have twin boys that are 6. I am concerned because they touch eachother in a co-masturbating situation. I have talked to them about how its ok to touch themselves and how they should do it alone, etc. Anybody been through this with their children or had close sibling situations? I am worried about it progressing. I don't care if they masturbate. I care about the doing it to each other bit. freaked out


I realise that there are special issues with twins that have to do with them developing their own individual identities and negotiating the extra closeness they have as twins. That said, many, perhaps most, children do play sexual games that involve touching eachother at this age. In general, I think it is believed that sexual activity between children of the same age that is non-coercive is fine. There certainly are lots of societies and social situations where boys masterbate eachother. I realise this is a bit trickier because they are brothers & twins. I really do not know much about twins, but my guess is that it is developmentally appropriate behavior. You would no doubt hope that they would stop at some point, and I think that in general there is a bit less sexual interest from age 8 - 12. I do think that it is a fundamentally natural and age appropriate activity. However, if it feels really wrong to you, I think telling them that that kind of thing is done in private just with oneself is fine. It could be helpful for you if one or both of them told you a bit about what their thoughts were. That can also be tricky, if you do not want to focus too much attention on the activity. Good luck, and one more thought; they will notice if you are watching them like a hawk, and that will no doubt have its own effect. Joyce
I have a five-year-old and if he had a twin I can totally see him doing the same thing with his twin. So I think this is par for the course for this age. For some kids. My two older boys were not in to it the way this one is. When this one was 2 or 3, there was a lot of glad-the-diaper's-off penis clutching, but that went away after a few months. Now at five, he has rediscovered masturbating. He likes it very much! He can often be found in the morning lying face down on the bed, pajamas at the ankles, you get the picture. I think with your twins you could say the same thing I say to my kid, which is, that it's private, and not something we do around others, and not something we do when we are supposed to be getting dressed and getting ready for school. I'm not sure I'd tell your boys not to do it with each other, because that might make it more appealing and thus more aggravating for you. I know that my son has a lot more fun doing it because I have shown disapproval. So I try to just treat it the same way I treat other annoying behavior like not getting dressed, not picking up toys, etc. You don't want to make them feel badly about it - they will be embarrassed enough about it when they're older, looking back!

2-year-old is rubbing his penis raw

Jan 2007

I know that all young boys rub themselves and I have no problem with this. However, our son who just turned 2 is so obsessed with rubbing his genetalia every chance he gets (mostly during bath and somewhat during diaper changes) that he rubs himself raw. In fact, more nights than not he exits the bath a bloody mess. We try distraction until we are blue in the face. We explain that if he rubs so hard and so much that it then bleeds, then hurts, then itches which in turn causes, we think, more desire to rub. We are already using lots of diaper cream etc. Nothing seems to deter him. To make matters more challenging we are thinking of potty training, and he seems ready in many ways, however, with the current situation it is simply unthinkable to leave him diaperless for extended periods of time. Advice please!! anon. please


I had a similar problem with my daughter. She would rub herself until she would get abrasions that would then sting when she went to the bathroom. I took her to the doctor to make sure there was nothing physically wrong and then we explained to her that she had to be gentle with her body. When she didn't stop, I forbade her from touching herself there until her ''owies'' healed. She would ask me every day to check to see if it healed. Once it did, I told her she was free to explore but that she had to be gentle with her body. It happened a few more times - where I had to forbid her from touching herself until her abrasions healed - but eventually she figured out how to please herself without hurting herself. In all of that, the most important part was keeping it clean so that it could heal without infection. Oh the joys of parenting! :) anon
Oh, my gosh! Call your pediatrician! Perhaps your poor little guy has some skin condition akin to the incredible itching of poison oak, minus the blisters. (I don't know, I'm just guessing, but this isn't something solely for BPN brainstorming... call your pediatrician so your little guy can get some relief. ) Encouragement meant to be gentle, although urgent - Hope all goes well and works quickly. I just know I'm miserable when I get poison oak & I practically beg for the cortisone shot
I'm sorry your little boy is going thru this. It sounds painful. I was wondering if his rubbing is actually scratching? Could he have a yeast or other type of infection? Try putting clotrimizole (sp?) on it. Maybe it'll be soothing and he'll rub less. Itchy kids
You might try rubbing petroleum jelly on this genitals - the diaper cream creates a moisture barrier, but the jelly will actually provide some moisture to his skin -- our DD has nbeen itching her diaper area (front and back) and her ped suggested the cuase might be dry skin, not other irritant. Certainly conce he has open scratches/sores, he will keep rubbing as it itches (whether or not it also ''feels good''). dry and itchy, not pleasure
Perhaps your son has an incredibly itchy fungal infection of the penis? Try some over-the-counter anti-fungal cream such as clotrimazole (Lotrimin). The ''diaper rash creams'' you've been using don't work on fungal infections. Good luck. Robin
My suggestion would be to have your doctor check for yeast. Maybe he has a chronic yeast infection, which could be extremely itchy. If that is the case, then he would want to scratch as much as possible - even until it bleeds.

We had a similar situation with our daughter and we had applied diaper cream for the redness, etc. Our holistic/homeopathic doctor told us to immediately stop that, ''because diaper cream is designed to create a protective barrier on the skin to prevent ammonia burns from urine. Applying diaper cream on yeast is like putting a cover over it which acts like a nice warm blanket to help them grow... Monistat (or other type of vaginal cream) is a better choice for this, since diaper creams will worsen a yeast rash.''

But I am not a doctor and can't diagnose your son, so I would highly recommend you get a correct diagnosis first. Good luck! JOJ


He's not masturbating - he's suffering from pruritis (itchies). He needs a diet change and possibly a soap change (get whatever is most mild and most natural - try a health food store). The food... his pH balance is off. Get him off all sugars for a short time til he balances out. Make him eat plain yogurt (blend in fruit if you need to) and anything acidic, such as lemon juice added to water (not lemonade which has sugar). Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in small quantities added to water (teaspoon to 1 glass water) is also helpful to restoring balance. At minimum, you need to do this at every meal and yogurt before bedtime. You can also buy probiotic pills such as acidophilus, that will help recolonize his gut with good things. If he complains, tell him it is medicine and he has to gulp it down fast. You can even make a game by racing him - make your own cup of water + ACV and down it fast. It's good for you too. It shouldn't be long before the itchies go away, so long as you keep sugar out of the equation.
I would take him to the doctor. He could well have a fungal or other itch-causing infection that is causing this. Sounds like more than good-feeling rubbing to me. anne
Hello all, I'm the original poster, and I supposed I didn't make a couple of things clear which I should have. Thank you for the advice so far. My son rubs his penis (and the area just next to it where the side of his hand rests and causes lots of friction) purely for pleasure. He has no rash, yeast infection, etc - I've already taken him to the doctor several times. (Doctor's advice is that he just does it because it feels good and if it no longer feels good, he'll no longer do it...) However, because of the intensity of his rubbing, a raw spot does occur which I'm guessing ends up itching and thus creates even more desire to rub. He also pulls his penis creating small splits in the skin along the shaft. Apparently, from his actions and expressions and his own explanations (he's very verbal) it doesn't hurt nearly as much as it feels good. He says he does it because he ''likes it'' not because it's itchy. Only very rarely does he complain that it hurts and that is usually in the morning after a long bath the night before. He never even attempts to get under his diaper but nearly always ends up playing with himself when diaper-less. How can we ever potty train??! not sure how to proceed
I know this is superficial, but my younger son got in the habit of sticking his hand down the back of his pants. I dressed him in overalls for a while and he lost the habit. just a thought

3 year old daughter rubbing herself on the carpet

Oct 2006

Hi, my three year old daughter (four in January) has gotten into the habit of taking off her pants and underwear and rubbing herself from side to side against our carpet! She says it feels good. I don't want to make her feel bad about it but I would like to know if this is a passing phase or if there is a way to have her do it less often! We are having a lot of work done on our house and there are a lot of people walking in and out and it seems like every time I turn by back, she is wiggling on the floor half naked! Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!


I would make an agreement with your daughter that she masturbate in a private space, after reassuring her that it is fine for her to take pleasure in her body. As well, I would examine if she's undergoing any sort of stressors, more so than usual, because excessive masturbation can be a sign of stress in a child. Good luck Anon
Could she have a yeast infection? My daughter developed one at age 4 and it was a terrible experience for her. I would check with her pediatrician to find out if there was a physical condition that made her do this. JOJ
Follow your instinct to not make her feel bad. Try suggesting that we don't touch ourselves in front of other people, but it's okay to do in her room by herself (also sets her up to not play doctor with other kids). anon
I was successful with my two girls, at the ages of about three and five, in simply explaining that there was nothing wrong - at all - with what they were doing, but that our genitals are not something everybody in our culture can be trusted to treat as neutral parts of our bodies, so we do these things in private. Additionally, just like we close the door when we do other bodily functions, we don't do these things in front of others. I felt that they got it - that they weren't shamed for a reasonable desire and activity, that I understood that it did indeed feel good, and that it's an activity we keep private out of both politeness and self protection. Jennifer
Our daughter loved to touch herself when she was three also. Like you, we didn't want to make her feel any shame about doing something so normal. We just started telling her it was fine, but there were two rules: 1. You have to wash your hands before you touch yourself and 2. You have to be in private. It really worked. We told her daycare provider our strategy and she reinforced it and within a couple of days, it worked there, too. Theresa

Recently potty-trained son's hand always in his pants

April 2006

Our son recently potty trained, but now that he's in underwear, the ready access to his privates have become his obsession. We've been very relaxed and tolerant, it's all good and healthy, right? But, it's almost constant - whatever he's doing, or playing, one hand is always busy. All. Day. Long. It's started to become an issue around other people and he's started to talk about it with them. He even mentioned something to a friend about how it grows. We took him aside and talked to him about how it was fine for him to do, but it was something that was done privately and not around others. Was this the right tact? What else can we do? Is this a phase? (I'm guessing not...) Will the interest slow? We've essentially been ignoring it up to this point, so I don't feel like he's doing it for our attention. We'd love to hear from other parents if this behavior - or rather the level and frequency - is normal or not?
Trying not to be uptight


ooooh, I know that scene too well. I'm sorry to tell you that the only solution is time. It took my son 1 year to finally give it a bit of a rest. He still grabs himself occationally and when he's naked, it's like one hand is always attached. I ask my friends, my mother-in-law, my mom, people I work with, etc. It is totally common and there's pretty much nothing you can do to stop it without going to extremes and giving him a complex. My husband got so frustrated because when he would take my son out, well-meaning women would constantly tell him his son needed to go potty. He learned to just smile and say to them, ''No, he's just playing with himself'' :-)

I feel your frustration, though. I was brought up in a very liberal and free family and even I was feeling uptight about it! melissa


Yes - I had this experience with all 3 of my boys. It will pass - just ignore it. After years of not being able to get at it (except during diaper changes) suddenly they are free to explore! The novelty will wear off, never fear. Mom of Boys

2 year old daughter masturbating vigorously

January 2006

Does anyone out there have a toddler who seems to enjoy masturbating vigorously? I feel a little goofy asking this question, but my 2-yr-old just goes at it. And I don't really have a problem with it, but sometimes it seems excessive: when she's covered with a blanket, she'll lie on her tummy with her hands in her crotch, and if we leave her alone, she'll strip her clothes off and content herself for 20 minutes! There's no sexual abuse here: I think she discovered it while napping on her tummy, and she'll sometimes do this almost the same way another toddler would put her thumb in her mouth-seems to calm her and ground her. If you aren't looking carefully, you wouldn't know what she's doing (it took us a while to figure out what was going on). She'd probably be embarassed if we made a big deal out of it: right now I just tell her that we don't put our hands on our bottoms in public. I think sometimes I'm just a little embarassed by her enthusiasm, and I'm afraid that one day her rather conservative and staid grandparents will figure it out. Do toddlers just grow out of this? or do they shortly figure out to do this only in private?


I was maybe a toddler or just past when I discovered masturbating, and thought it was the coolest thing ever! I think my parents also figured out what I was doing, but didn't know what to do. They would tell me to stop ''rubbing'', but no discussion that I recall. Anyway, I told my babysitter about the cool thing I could do, and she told my parents, and it became a shameful thing for me.

I think you are on target talking to your child about private parts and private places to do things. I know nothing could have made me stop doing the coolest thing ever, but I think feeling comfortable around my parents instead of ashamed and angry would have made me less obsessive about masturbating as I grew up, built a lot of respect (which would have paid large dividends in later years), and saved them some money at the child psychologists, with whom I would never discuss anything with anyway.
Now 40, still remember


One of my very good friends has a daughter who started masturbating very young and would do it everywhere. They developed a 'code word' to remind her not to do it in public, which it sounds like you don't necessarily need. She is now almost 13 and is very appropriate and also very comfortable with herself and her body, which is somewhat of a small miracle for a girl her age. She has not been overly sexual in any other ways, and is very smart and happy.

It sounds like you have already taken the right steps. It's okay to limit it to private places and times without making our children feel ashamed of their self-enjoyment. If you explain clearly that there is a time and a place, she will be able to maintain her dignity and her self appreciation wihtout offending any more conservative family members or friends.

By the way--as a long time educator and one who has helped raise many children, masturbation in boys and girls as young as still in diapers is not at all abnormal. Mostly it's just a little uncomfortable for us grown-ups! nanci


My daughter started masturbating at around 2.5. Her peds said it was normal and to give her specific boundaries. Our boundaries were she could only do it in her room and by herself. She could never do it in public. She is now 6 and hasn't done it for quite some time. She went through phases so I'll be curious to see other postings. I never really discussed what she was doing with her and I don't know if she'll remember this phase later on. I just gave her boundaries and didn't make a big deal about it. Anon
I have a 3 y.o. son that has been masterbating for almost 2 years. It is ''comforting'' for him, at least as explained by our pediatrican. I do not put a negative spin on this, and we are working on having him only do it in the privacy of his room. Dr. says this is normal. Courtney

3 year old daughter's "naps"

Jan 2006

My 3 year-old asked me to leave her alone in her sister's room this morning so she could, ''take a little nap''. I said ok and left - only partially closing the door. When I peeked in a minute or two later, she had her panties off and was masturbating. I was shocked. When I checked on her 5 or so minutes later, she was still at it. About a minute later, I peeked in again and she was putting her panties back on and called me to say she was ''finished with her nap''. Here's what I want to know: (1) Is this normal for her age? (2) how do I talk to her about it (e.g., to make sure she only touches herself with clean hands) without making her feel weird about it since she asked for privacy? (3) do I need to talk to her now about this or sex or something (we've never discussed anything remotely related to the subject eventhough she is super bright and verbal) and (4) does her secrecy about this indicate anything I should worry about? We are very open with her about everything although we also have pretty high standards for ourselves and our kids about politeness, cleanliness, responsibility, etc. Of course, I expected to deal with this at some point, just not at 3. Surprised Mom


I smiled with recognition on this one. I have an eight-year-old daughter that had a very interesting relationship with a stuffed kangaroo at this age - she used to put it in her underpants and rock back and forth. Other than having to suppress laughing, and wash the kangaroo on a regular basis (!), her father and I did nothing. We did convey that it was a private activity on the one or two occasions she wanted to do this on the couch in the living room. A couple times she 'sneaked' doing it in the living room, and I just ignored it. She's now hit 8-9 year old modesty, and would be mortified to think someone was aware of her doing this. Judging from comments from friends, and my own experience, I'd say this is perfectly normal, and should be respectfully ignored. I don't think you need to discuss it much, just that touching our own bodies is a private thing you can do when you're by yourself.

And yes, we still have the kangaroo.
anonymous mom of a kangaroo lover


I have heard these kinds of stories before, and really, they just make me chuckle. Good for them (the kids, that is!) Relax. It's normal. Treat the whole situation with respect and normalcy. My son (who is now almost 10) started masterbating at 2 also. I can't even recall exactly the first time I realized what what going on, but by the time he was 3 we were able to talk about it pretty intelligently together. I told him it was a normal behavior, altho some families didn't like it and so that this was something he could only do when he was by himself. (This came up because once he and a friend were playing in his room and asked if they could shut the door. I looked at my son and somehow caught on right away and asked him what they planned to play. When I didn't get a good answer I told him no, and then we had the discussion later that day.)

So the deal was (and is): it's something you do alone; you are entitled to your privacy (we usually keep doors open so this is the one time they can be closed); and you must wash your hands first (he got the whole hygiene lesson as well). That's it. Shortly thereafter he started calling it his ''own along game.'' To this day, he will say, ''Mom, I'm going to play my own alone game.'' My response is always the same (partly cuz he's forgetful), ''Okay, just be sure your hands are clean.'' And he goes in and shuts his door and comes out later none the worse for wear. Yes, he's still doing it at 10, and I am sure some people -- from the beginning -- are just more sexual than others...luck of the draw, I guess. But it's a completely normal behavior at any age. And isn't it a great thing that these kids haven't gotten the ridiculous messages yet about being uptight about their bodies?


All this seems perfectly normal to me. I encourage you to use the proper words--e.g. ''vagina'' instead of ''bottom''--so that you can speak more directly with your daughter(s). I remember how on a summer vacation when my son was four, he always had one hand on his penis the entire time! By age five, we began to talk about touching in private even though he continued to do so while watching TV. My feeling is that it's perhaps more shocking to you because these are daughters, not sons, and that if you continue to play it down, that would be the best. Making a big deal out of it will only call more attention to it and is likely to create stress for your daughters. As to grandparents making comments, I'd just tell them to ignore it as well. Please don't worry; they will learn about shame soon enough. Another Mother

Son, 4, playing with himself

January 2006

My husband and I are a little concerned about my 4 1/2 year old son who cannot seem keep his hand out of his pants. I'm sure he is just playing with himself for comfort, but it's not acceptable to do in public. We've told him that he should only touch himself in private, but it's become a habit. He does it without thinking. The other day a teacher at his daycare found him ''playing with himself'' in the bathroom. Has anyone else experienced this and what can we do to help him stop? Sometimes he wants to stop and other times he's resistant. Help! Jenny


As both a male as well as a father of a three y.o. boy, my suggestion is that you allow your son to go through this stage of his development without the added stress of negative inputs about his behavior. It may be somewhat embarrassing for his parents, but it is not embarrassing for your son. He will stop doing it eventually and the more he is allowed to experiment at this early stage of his sexual development, the more well adjusted and sexually healthy he will be when he comes of age. dore
Been there ... my 4 year old went through nearly a year of obsessive penis fondling (including some embarrassing public moments) and I'm not sure we're out of the woods entirely. We just keep gently telling him that's private behavior, and it seems to be (gradually) soaking in. At any rate, he doesn't have his hand down his pants nearly as much as he did a few months back. I think you've just got to be patient and wait it out. -- Embarrassed mom
Our dtr has/had a similar problem. Our pediatrician said it's pretty nromal, and usually peer pressure will take care of it - once his peers say something about it, he will supposedly stop. mike
One has to be so careful what one says so that your son does not internalize certain messages and it later effects his sex life and his self- esteem. Affirm him in his self exploration. At the same time, remind him to masturbate and play with himself when he is alone such as in his room or in the bathroom. Constantly remind him. If you are at home encourage him to masturbate in his own room alone. Be consistant about this. Be clear about the boundaries of masturbation. Treat this like anything else. I'll bet you are constantly reminding him to put his toys away, wash his hands and to remember to do whatever else. Eventually, he will stop ''playing with himself.'' He will learn at preschool or through his friends that public masturbation is not a appropriate. Rachel

3-y-o daughter rubbing genitals with stuffed animal

March 2004

My 3 year old daughter has taken to removing her pants and underwear and touching her genital area with a stuffed animal or other soft item. She does not put anything inside herself. Should I be concerned about this or is it normal? She has only been in preschool for a few months and we have left her nowhere that she could have been exposed to sexual abuse or precocious sexual behavior. None of the rest of our family do this, and never even appear undressed around her. I am at a complete loss as to where this behavior came from. How should I respond to her? This happens maybe 2 or 3 times a week, usually at the end of the day. So far, I have resisted saying anything much, positive or negative except to tell her that ''now it's time to put on your pants beause we're having dinner.'' What should I do?
surprised mom


I'm sure you will get many responses telling you this is totally normal and typical, because it absolutely is. I also doubt your daughter learned masturbation from anyone else. Fortunately for most of us, no one had to teach us to gratify ourselves- we figured it out on our own. 6 months ago my partner and I went on vacation with our then 2 year old daughter, and all stayed in the same hotel room. It was then that we learned that she uses masturbation to fall asleep. When we got back to preschool I mentioned it to the teachers, and they confirmed that not only did she do this every time she took a nap, but she was certainly not in the minority in her class. My partner and I have discussed it with my daughter when she brought it up (''That's great that you have a good way to get to sleep, sweetie.'') and so far, since it has only been linked to bedtime, we have not approached the subject of private versus public behavior much. I think that it is a good idea to teach kids about 'privacy'- that we do some things when we are alone and some things when we are with our friends (we have also talked about privacy in the context of one of us wanting some solo time when using the bathroom as well.) Good luck! mom of a resourceful kid
I think this is completely normal. My daughter started similar behavior at about 3. She is now 4 and still occasionally touches herself in the bath, etc. I just tell her, ''it's ok for you to do that, but please do it in your room, in private. It's not polite to do it in front of other people.'' I think it is totally a normal part of development (and my daughter's doctor confirmed this) that should not be treated as bad behavior. I have also recently started telling her that it is NOT ok for anyone else to touch her there except mommy and daddy during bath or toilet time. I don't want to make her paranoid, but I think when kids start ''exploring'' themselves might be a good time to make sure they know what is right and what is wrong. anon
Both of my children have explored their genetalia, as have their friends and it seems to be completely normal. I would be very careful not to treat this as an odd or wrong thing with your daughter. She is just learning about her body, it is not sexual to her. I think that if she learns that that part of her body is different and shameful, then that is when she is far more at risk- because she will probably touch herself anyway, and feel guilty about it, and will not trust herself to know what feels right or wrong. She needs to feel that it is her choice to decide what happens to her body. She needs that power to be able to say NO if something doesn't feel right.

I have a 5 year old and 3 year old. My 3 year old is just starting this since she is pretty fresh out of diapers and now has access, but I've been through the entire phase with my older daughter and many of her friends, who were the type to run around naked a lot in the backyard, but they seemed to naturally want privacy (not necessarily from close friends and family, but at least from strangers, and eventually didn't want to be naked so much anymore, and it died down. I haven't seen my daughter touching herself in probably a year or so. Anyway, don't worry, it's wierd to see your baby doing it but it's normal, my advice is just to try not to overreact. Good luck


3 year old daughter's hands constantly in her pants

Nov 2004

Our 3 year old daughter is constantly touching her behind from the front and back. During the day she will have her hand in her pants in the back quite a lot. She's potty trained during the day, and wears pull-ups at night. We've tried to sort of gently distract her from doing this, but the behavior does not change. Does anybody have any suggestions to help us redirect her attention away from that area? We've checked and she has no rashes, worms, or problems down there.


Sounds like our three year-old daughter (also potty trained with pull-ups at night)! I try to call her attention to the behavior in a non-confrontational manner when it occurs. A teacher at her preschool taught me the line, ''Hey! Where are your hands?'', which has a much better success rate than a direct request to remove her hand from her pants. I make sure that she is not actually itchy or otherwise uncomfortable. I reiterate the consequences of her behavior (her hands will get dirty, she'll need to wash them, other people might not like to see her do that). If none of the above works, I ignore the behavior (don't want it to become a way to demand attention). She hasn't entirely stopped rummaging in her pants, but the behavior has become less and less frequent over time. Anne

7-year-old plays with his penis in public

Oct 2003

My 7-year-old son has gotten into the habit of playing with his penis in public--not unclothed, of course, but touching himself over his pants. He seems at times to be totally unconscious of what he's doing as he can engage in converstion, play a video game, be with friends, etc., and also be touching himself at the same time. I've had many, many talks with him about how inappropriate this behavior is in public, how if he feels the need to touch himself he should do it in private, etc. but the behavior continues.....any suggestions on how to curb it? And no, there's been no trauma or upheaval or abuse in his life! Thanks! concerned and uncomfortable mom


You are not alone! My daughter, now 7.5, has masturbated, sometimes frequently and at length, at inappropriate times, also over clothing, since she very young. It is comforting to her, and immediately stops when I point it out to her. However, it has caused concern at both preschool and now grade school, and raised questions about how to ''cure'' the problem - her integrating when and where it is appropriate into her everyday routine. She tends to do it more when troubled by unrest at home (prior to separation) and this year due to the subsequent divorce, as well as when her hands have to be still - sitting in circle has been a very popular time for her! A solution for us has been to keep her hands less idle while her mind could still pay attention. So those hand exercisers that rock climbers use worked, as well as hacky sacks, that kind of thing. It lets her move her hands and derive comfort in a more appropriate way while in public. And there is no form of abuse in her past either, just something she picked up on from a young age as a comforting thing. Kristen
My son is younger, but this is what I do. When I find himself touching himself I usually ask him if he needs to go to the bathroom. Usually he says no, but that reminder is enough to make him conscious of where his hand is and he stops. I don't know if this is the best route to taming his behavior, but it seems to work without calling too much attention to the situation by others. trying to be subtle
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