If earth were visited by aliens, they could probably figure out the majority of human anatomy. That’s because most of our parts serve a demonstrable purpose. But they might get a little hung up on genitals, which don’t have an immediately apparent function — aside from looking strange and causing people to scream, “Hey, creepy alien! What did you do with my clothes and where are you planning to put that probe?”
Like an alien, your kid really hasn’t been on earth that long. You’ve probably noticed they’re just as fascinated with what’s between their legs as an E.T. might be. And once you’ve shaken that troubling image, it’s time to consider why that fascination might not be such a terrible thing.
Curiosity Pulled The Peen
And it also touched the vulva, you know, for equality’s sake. Curiosity is a serious motivator. Just ask all of those dead cats. And right now curiosity is a super good thing for your kid. It’s what motivates them to learn and develop like a normal human being.
There’s a reason curiosity about genitals hits around toddlerhood. If your kid is potty training, they suddenly have super easy access to the parts below the belt. Not to mention that you and your partner are giving a lot of attention to what’s going on down there. So wanting to figure out what those parts are all about is completely natural. You should expect that there will be tugging, probing and incredibly uncomfortable questions.
Comfort And Pleasure
To understand some of this behavior, think of the last time you were really cozied down. Maybe you had a beer on the end table, your feet kicked up and a game on the tube. And maybe, just maybe, you had your hand tucked under your waistband. You weren’t doing anything with it, aside from feeling relaxed and secure.
Kids do this too. Sometimes genital touching is just a way to feel some kind of comfort. Often it’s unconscious. And if it’s normal for you, why have a double standard for them?
It’s also important to point out that junk-touching feels good. Yep. But please remember that as an adult, you associate that good feeling with sexuality. It’s hard to shake that. But your kid doesn’t have that context or frame of reference. All they know is that it feels nice. Like sun on the face and sand between the toes. So, chill.
There are a wide range of toddler behaviors that might make you feel uncomfortable. And that discomfort is largely due to your adult perspective based on your adult experiences. Here are some things your kid might do that are totally natural:
- Touching themselves both privately and publicly
- Using hands or objects to rub their genitals
- Getting naked
- Showing their genitals to others
- Exploring or touching peer’s genitals
What To Do
As a parent, people have probably told you to take a deep breath so many times that you feel in danger of hyperventilating. So, uh, take a deep breath. The last thing you want to do is come in hot with a privates player. You need to be calm, collected and compassionate. And your reaction will shift depending on the setting in which it happens, except for one: Ask if they need to pee. It may be that simple.
Do your best not to scold, yell, or chastise. That’s the sort of thing that could make the behavior far more interesting. Instead, just ignore it. If you absolutely must, and your child is old enough to understand the concept of “private,” you can direct them to their room. If you have to mention their genitals while you’re making this request, make sure you use the right words. Call a penis a penis and a vulva a vulva. The last thing you want is to shame them.
Don’t make a scene. Instead, get down to their level, take their hand and explain that there are some things you do not do in public. A younger kid may have no idea what this means. But the important part is to distract them and keep calm and loving. If you’re out of the home but in a place with family and friends, simply try to set them up with something else that will keep their hands busy.
Just remember that your little alien is trying to figure all this stuff out. And their senses are totally on fire. You’re the earthling with all the experience. Sadly that’s not helping you. Maybe watch Close Encounters and see if that helps at all.