“Fatherly Advice” is a weekly parenting advice column by the experts at Fatherly. Need hard-won insights and scientific facts to resolve a parenting dilemma or family dispute? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Need justifications for parenting decisions you’ve already made? Ask someone else. We’re too busy for that nonsense.
My wife and I welcomed our baby boy, Jonathan Jr. (we call him J.J.) about six months ago. As part of the team, I regularly change J.J.s diaper and I can’t help but notice that his penis looks kind of small. I know it sounds weird, but I’m freaked out about it. I don’t want my boy to go through life with a small dick. Should I be worried?
The first thing you need to understand is that pediatricians hear about these worries all the time. Don’t feel strange about your worries. They are normal. However, they are also needless or, at least, pointless. Your boy’s penis will develop how it is genetically programmed to develop and there’s not much you can do about it. Your concern should mainly be whether your child’s penis works. If it can expel urine, though hopefully not into your eyes (been there), your kid’s alright. For all those parents that ask about their kid’s genitals, only a tiny percentage need to go on to make serious decisions involving treatment or surgery.
That said, there are some specific reasons a baby’s penis might appear small. Babies have abdominal fat that can hide a portion of their shaft. Also, penis growth is connected to hormonal changes, not just height and weight, so it can get out of whack sometimes. Until puberty kicks in, there’s no telling how things will turn out. And even after puberty, he probably won’t tell you how things turned out.
I will admit that the first time I took my boy swimming, I was a bit worried about how he might compare himself to others in the changing room, but it turned out to be a non-issue. After all, adult anxieties are generally limited to adults. So just keep this one to yourself and, when he gets old enough, let him know you’re there to talk about any issue, no matter how big or small it might be. Ultimately, that’s the only thing you can do to help either way.
I’m a stay-at-home dad and there’s this lady at the park I go to with my kids who always has something to say about the way I should parent my kid. She’s full of unsolicited advice about what I should feed my daughter, how I should carry her, and what I should be reading to her. How do I make her stop?
I know this lady! She goes to my park too! We’re not friends!
I have a great way to handle unsolicited parenting advice. I developed it after reading Horton Hatches an Egg for the gazillionth time. I call it the “Maizy the Lazy Bird Method.” Here’s how it works: I compliment the advice giver for their excellent ideas, hand them my child, thank them for agreeing to raise the child for me for the next couple years, and then walk away. They start to get really nervous at about 50 yards.
Do this once and the park lady won’t talk to you ever again. She will, however, talk about you behind your back. Whether or not your willing to pay that price is up to you.
I’ve got a super shy daughter. She’s in preschool. Over Christmas break, my mom was visiting us for a couple of days. When she walked into the house with a bag full of presents, my daughter refused to give her a hug. Needless to say that Grandma was devastated and I was frustrated. It didn’t ruin Christmas, but it sure tried to. How can I make my girl get over this nonsense and give her grandma a hug?
You gave me a softball! The answer to your question is simple: You can’t so don’t try.
Look, man, I get it. It’s incredibly hard to have an incredibly sensitive kid. I use the word sensitive instead of shy because shyness is related to anxiety and is more of a psychological issue than an inherited trait. Your kid doesn’t sound like she was anxious. It sounds like she’s introverted. That can be incredibly hard to explain even though most adults are familiar with the concept.
But this isn’t just about understanding what introspection is. This is also about understanding what relationship you want your daughter to have with her own body. That relationship is, I would hope, one of ownership. You can’t encourage her to be self-possessed and strong — resilient in the face of potential future harassment — while at the same time encouraging her to physically touch or show affection when she does not wish to do so.
What you can do is prepare her for interactions so that she’s never surprised. This can be particularly helpful for introverted preschoolers (and preschoolers generally). It rarely seems like little people are actively preparing for social interactions, but they often are because they often need to do so.
It’s worth noting that preparation is a two-way street. You’re also going to want to manage grandma’s expectations. Help her understand that her granddaughter isn’t trying to be mean, she just gets overwhelmed and needs some time. Most grandparents are pretty empathetic about this sort of thing and aware that it’s better for the long-term health of their relationship with their kids that they not inflict themselves on others.
The other thing that you can do to take control of the situation is to talk to your daughter about how she might want to acknowledge guests. Maybe she could wave? That might be fine. There’s nothing wrong with sitting down at a negotiating table with a kid and making concessions. Negotiations force kids to acknowledge the needs of others and advocate for themselves. They can be overwhelmingly positive experiences for kids.
At any rate, it’s important that you curb the impulse to shame your daughter for her behavior. It’s an understandable impulse because introverted children can be very, very frustrating, but it won’t help her and it won’t help you.