Children will play with their genitals from the earliest age. This should not be discouraged. Instead, it should be discussed and directed. Children should be guided to healthy attitudes about masturbation and sex.
People are just waking up to how badly children were treated in the past. For instance, some babies were tied into cribs with their arms inserted into cardboard carpet tubes, so they couldn’t reach their own genitals.
A Dr. Harvey Kellogg put silver wire sutures into boy’s penises so that erections would be impossible without great pain. Yes, this is the same guy who, along with his brother, invented corn flakes. The reason for corn flakes as a food was that they would supposedly somewhat sedate the kids, so they’d be less likely to masturbate.
What’s normal at an early age?
As soon as babies are old enough to reach out and touch anything, they are likely to be fascinated by their own genitals. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s natural and has been going on for thousands of years.
Boys will have erections. This can happen so early that erections have been seen in ultrasounds of the womb. To boys before adolescence, these erections have little meaning. For them, there is little or no sexual meaning to the erection. The boys may find their erections momentarily interesting, but that’s all. It’s not uncommon for a boy to say, “Look, Mom,” while pointing at his erect little willy.
Many boys will get an erection when they need to pee due to the pressure on the nerves controlling the bladder. This may mean that they pull at their penises and may also do when they are nervous, tired, or just in need of emotional support or something to do. They do feel pleasure from this, but it can’t really be called masturbation.
Little girls may stick their fingers into their vaginas and enjoy the feeling. That doesn’t mean anything sexual. They just find it interesting and enjoyable. Not much different than using their fingers to explore an ear.
It used to be assumed that most girls were virgins, meaning they had intact hymens over their vaginal canals until their first sexual intercourse. It turns out that many girls do not have intact hymens from an early age due to an assortment of activities such as bike or horseback riding, acrobatics, or tree climbing, but also masturbation with objects. Yes, many girls will do this from a young age.
How do you keep your kids from touching themselves in public?
This is done in the same way that you teach them to stay clothed, not lose their shoes, not pick their noses, and brush their teeth. Lots of gentle repetition of rules.
The most important thing is that they are not being told off, admonished, and disciplined. The rules with respect to touching themselves are that it is fine to do it, but it is something we can do in the privacy of our own bedrooms and not in public.
Starting before or during adolescence, most children will start to take an interest in sexuality. They generally don’t do much to act on it, but they start having sexual thoughts, and may start playing in more focused ways with their genitals.
For better or worse, the Internet plays a big role in sexual awakening these days. The kids find ways to see adult material on the web. It’s not hard to do. Any child can access Wikipedia, and learn a lot, even about deviant sexual practices. That’s why this website isn’t heavily restricted. Youngsters will find a way to get in to all kinds of crazy porn sites, and if they’re going to do that, then at least here, they’ll find accurate and important information.
So, you ought to be prepared for some questions you might find quite awkward.
How do you handle questions from your kids?
Handle sexual questions just like you’d respond to anything else: Truthfully, and as completely as makes sense in the context. Otherwise you can cause confusion that can have long-term psychological consequences.
You might enjoy this true story of a poorly answered question:
A six-year-old girl noticed a construction crew on the street in front of her house. Fascinated, she ran out to the curb to watch the men at work. One of the men felt she got too close, and he flicked her the bird and scowled. You know, he elevated his middle finger at her.
She ran back inside, and asked her mom what that meant, showing her the same gesture.
“It’s about getting pregnant, dear.” The mother then resumed her cooking giving the child no more attention.
Over the next few days, the little girl gave it a whole lot of thought and became terribly worried, thinking, “I can’t get pregnant. I don’t know anything about taking care of a baby.”
Basically, she freaked out.
Fast forward forty years, and this girl, now a woman, had one failed marriage, and never dated since. She literally couldn’t look men in the eye.
In a successful NLP session (Neuro-Linguistic Programming, much like psychology), the woman was brought back to that long-forgotten memory, and it was discovered that it had unconsciously affected her all these many years later. After she became aware of what was happening, she was able go to out dancing with men that very weekend.
Not all adults work these problems out so easily and so well. In fact, many live their entire lives with phobias, deviant or addictive behaviors, stress disorders, and other complications.
That’s why we don’t molest kids. Even seemingly simple acts can have life-long negative consequences.
Here are some examples of how to handle awkward questions:
Child: “What’s a hardon?”
Parent: “That’s when a man’s penis gets larger and harder. It’s often called an ‘erection.’
Child: “Jamie called me a faggot. What does that mean?”
Parent: “It’s a term to describe someone who loves people of the same sex. You might see two men together, or two women together. They may kiss and everything else. When Jamie calls you that, he is trying to make you mad. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. If he keeps doing it, let me know, OK?”
Child: “Why does it feel nice when I wipe the pee from my vagina?”
Parent: “You have a lot of nerve endings there.”
Child: “How come my sister is getting boobs?”
Parent: “She may have babies someday. Women feed babies milk that’s formed in their breasts.”
Child: “I saw my brother rubbing his penis, which was really huge, and then some white stuff spurted out.”
Parent: “Yeah, that’s called ‘masturbation’ or ‘jerking off.’ It feels nice. As you get older, you may want to do that also. It’s like practicing for when he’ll be married. When that white stuff goes in a woman, it can help her make babies.”
Child: “Sandra said that Professor Dumbledore’s arm turned black because he was wanking. What does that mean?”
Parent: “Wanking is a boy touching his penis. Sandra may believe that, but it’s not true.”
The day will come when your children will start masturbating in earnest. Typically, you won’t know anything about it, but there may be hints. Your kid may stay in her room with the door closed for long periods of time. Your son’s blanket may start getting crusty. Give them their privacy.
Some parents will even give their children locks for their doors. This is good and bad. It lets the kids know that you know, and it’s OK to masturbate in their rooms. If they don’t figure that out on their own, you might come right out and say, “If you feel like masturbating in the privacy of your room, that’s just fine. I did it when I was your age.”
The downside of providing locks is a safety issue. You’d want to know if there was a fire or medical emergency, you wouldn’t have a locked door standing between your child and the that help the child may need.
If you can manage to talk calmly with your children about masturbation, it will have the added benefit that anything else that needs to be communicated with your children will be easier for them to bring up. I mean, you’d want to know if your child is having trouble with math, is being bullied, is confused about spirituality, is having suicidal thoughts, has been introduced to drugs, and so on, right? They’ll be much more open about this, if they haven’t felt a need to hide anything, even masturbation, from you.
What if you discover your child masturbating?
Stay calm for the child’s sake. Just let the kid know that you understand, you masturbate also, but that it should be as much a private activity as possible.
What if your child starts exhibiting deviant behavior?
Perhaps your child spends a lot of time spying on a sibling trying to see him or her naked. Perhaps your child tries to make a show of being nude in the house or publicly masturbating. Perhaps your child is doing something dangerous, such as sticking objects into a peehole.
First and foremost. Don’t freak out. Most children have deviations from time to time. However, gentle conversation and guidance is the best solution. If the behavior doesn’t straighten out, you might like to find a proper professional, such as a child psychologist. Please understand that some professionals such as clergy, pediatricians, or school personnel don’t have the necessary training to help and could make things worse.
As to sexuality, your child is likely to grow into a normal, healthy adult. The bigger concerns you should watch for are inappropriate peer influence, drug use, trouble with schoolwork, or narcissistic tendencies.