All you need to know about your toddler ‘touching’ himself

Shocked to see your toddler touching his genitals? Is there something to worry?

By Ram Shankar

All you need to know about your toddler ‘touching’ himself

There is a commercial break during your favourite TV show, and you turn around to see what your toddler is doing. You are baffled and shocked by what you see. You find that he is fondling his genitals. Such a scene can give rise to many troubling questions in your mind—How can this even happen? Where did he learn to masturbate? Was he sexually abused by someone?

Here is all you need to know about your toddler touching his genitals.

When does it start?

Curiosity about private parts or genitals is normally aroused when you initiate toilet training or start teaching your toddler how to change pants. During this training he has more access to his private area and this kindles the curiosity. It is this curiosity that leads him to touch and explore his genitals.

Relax! It’s normal

Curiosity about genitals in a toddler is age-appropriate and is as normal as touching and exploring her fingers and toes, or any other body parts. The American Academy of Paediatrics opines that toddlers often touch their genitals because it produces a pleasant sensation. So, remember, touching his genitals just makes your toddler feel good. Fondling his genitals isn’t really masturbating; there is no sexual intent. In fact, some toddlers also hold their genitals when they feel stressed.

Don’t scold

Don't prevent your child from touching herself by scolding or shaming her. Such behaviour from you may even make her feel more tempted to do it. Also, it can make her feel ashamed about her body and give rise to feelings of confusion about what she is doing.

Offer distraction

If he does it at home, ignore the behaviour. When in a public setting such as family gatherings or in a park, distract him with some other hands-on activities such as giving him a toy to play with or something to eat.

As he grows older, teach him the difference between ‘private’ and ‘public’ and the things that he should do in private.

Check if there is a need to go the toilet

Some children touch their genitals when they need to go to the toilet. When you see him touching his genitals find out if that’s the case with your child as well. If it indeed is, take him to the toilet.

Remember, do not create a fuss about it, as most young children tend to touch their genitals for different reasons. Also, it does not cause any harm and does not mean that your child is developing bad sexual habits. Over-reaction on your part can make your child think that what he is doing is wrong. It may also harm him emotionally by making him feel guilty or giving rise to feelings of sexual inhibition.