As soon as you realize your 5-year-old daughter is obsessed with private parts, all sorts of thoughts start running through your mind.
This is a common behavior in children that have been sexually abused, but it is also normal behavior for young children. At this age, they are discovering pleasure, and to them, it feels good.
Some children do this earlier, and some will discover this later. Yes, it is normal, but there are a few things that you can do to curb the behavior.
In this article
- Make Sure There Was No Sexual Abuse
- Exposure To Sexual Materials
- When To Be Concerned
- Normal Part Of Development
- Having The “Talk”
- Correcting The Behavior
- Final Word
Make Sure There Was No Sexual Abuse
First, it’s important to determine whether this is normal behavior or not. Make sure that it is a normal part of development instead of a sign of sexual abuse.
Commons signs that sexual abuse has occurred are:
- Inappropriate knowledge regarding sexual topics
- Spending more time alone than previously
- Being scared to be away from their main caregiver or parent
- Having a new fear of specific people
- Symptoms of anxiety
- Increased aggression
- Loss of self-confidence
While these are the main signs that you can watch out for, there are several other signs that can indicate sexual abuse has occurred. For a complete list and further advice, check out this website.
Exposure To Sexual Materials
If a child hears or sees something that is inappropriate, they might mimic this behavior. For example, a child might walk in on their parents, and then begin to act as though they are doing the same thing.
Often, this will result in a young child copying the same behavior that they have witnessed. If a child has not witnessed someone masturbating, and this is the behavior that you have noticed, it’s more than likely a normal part of development.
When To Be Concerned
Sometimes, a child hasn’t been exposed to inappropriate things but continues to touch themselves frequently. This could be a sign of anxiety, OCD, or several other things.
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If you notice these signs, you should have your child evaluated by a primary care doctor:
- Exposing themselves in public despite knowing better
- Sexual activities with other young children
- Using toys or other objects for sexual acts
- Significant behavior changes that cannot be otherwise explained, such as changes in eating or sleeping patterns
Contact their pediatrician or primary care provider to make sure that they receive a proper evaluation.
Normal Part Of Development
If no sexual abuse has occurred, you can trust that it is a normal part of development. While this can be a relief, it also leaves you wondering what to do after the thought “my 5-year-old daughter is obsessed with private parts.”
Obviously, you need to stop the behavior as it is inappropriate for a young child, but how you go about this requires a bit of thought before approaching the subject.
Having The “Talk”
If you noticed that your little one is touching themselves, it’s important to address the issue sooner rather than later.
If you let it go, it encourages this type of behavior, which can lead to embarrassing moments, such as them touching themselves in public.
Know Where You Stand On The Topic
Before approaching the subject with your five-year-old, it’s important to know where you stand on the subject. If you believe that masturbation is immoral or sin, that’s fine.
Likewise, if you believe that it’s normal but should only be done in private, that is also okay. Regardless of which way you feel, it’s important to know your own stance.
These are the same things that you will be teaching your daughter on the topic. It will also steer the conversation towards either allowing your child to touch themselves or not allowing it at all.
Know What You’re Going To Say
It’s important to keep things age-appropriate for children. Avoid the talk about the birds and the bees, which should not happen until they are a teenager.
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Instead, focus on what is appropriate, and what is not. You can tell your child that you know that it feels good but it is either immoral or inappropriate, whichever path you are going to take.
After this, your child will more than likely want to know why. Be prepared to answer that question as well. For example, if you are a religious family that does not approve of masturbation, you could tell your daughter that God does not approve.
If you are going to allow your child to touch themselves in private, explain that it is not appropriate in certain places, and where it is, such as their bedroom or the bathtub.
A great way to explain to children that they should not expose themselves in public is by explaining that parts covered by underwear or a bathing suit should be kept covered. This is a child-friendly way to instill modest behavior in your little one.
Don’t Make Them Feel Ashamed
When we accidentally make our children feel ashamed of their bodies, it breeds low self-esteem and several other disorders that come with it. Young children do not realize that they are doing something immoral or inappropriate.
It’s important to acknowledge their behavior, explain why they shouldn’t do it or an appropriate place to do it and to be naked. Do not call them bad or make them feel bad about themselves during this conversation.
Teach Them About Private Parts
This is a great time to teach your child about private parts if you have not already done so. Use proper names for them, such as the penis and vagina.
Making up nicknames for them insinuates that there is something bad associated with the name, and possibly the body part. Instead, remain a matter of fact about their private parts when talking about them.
Children are often curious about their bodies, and educating them can help satisfy that curiosity.
Teach About Inappropriate Behavior
This is also a common time for parents to lead into a conversation about inappropriate behavior if you have not done so already. It’s important that children understand that their body is their own.
They should not be forced to give people hugs or kisses to encourage this as well. Instead, remind them that their body is theirs, and they get to say who touches it.
Inform your child that it is not okay for adults aside from doctors to touch their private parts, and only if they are okay with it.
Most parents do this by giving their children a general rule to follow. For example, telling children that it’s not okay for an adult to look at or touch parts that are covered by a bathing suit is common.
Then, inform them that if that happens they should tell you immediately. The same applies if an adult attempts to.
Correcting The Behavior
After having the talk, your children will have a more in-depth understanding of their body, and they should understand what a “bad touch” is. However, this is not going to stop them from behaving inappropriately.
Instead, you will need to correct them anytime they display the undesired behavior.
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Oral correction is the preferred method of correction for this particular behavior. Harsh discipline and groundings can result in children thinking that there is something wrong with their body, and can prevent them from being sexually healthy as adults.
Instead, simply tell them to stop the behavior. If they persist, sit them in a time out for a pre-determined period of time.
Children that act inappropriately in public can be addressed the same way. After telling them to stop the behavior, they should quit. If not, they can be sat in a time out.
Personally, I tell my children that if they do not behave well in public they will not go out in public. This applies to run around the store, inappropriate behavior, etc.
If that is not an option for you, take them in the bathroom at the store, restaurant, etc. for a time out or corner time. Remember, it’s important that they do not feel ashamed. This article is packed with wonderful advice about shaping your child’s behavior.
There are specific times that you should be concerned about this type of behavior. If you’re unsure whether you should be or not, it never hurts to contact their pediatrician to ask them if your child’s behavior is normal.
If you’re thinking your 5-year-old is obsessed with private parts, it may be a sign of something deeper. Remember, it’s always better to be safe instead of sorry.
If it a normal part of development, simply have a talk with them about their behavior. Then, follow up the talk with proper guidance and appropriate discipline to ensure that the behavior is corrected.
Within days or weeks, you should see a drastic improvement, if not immediately.