July 06, 2009,
A.J. asks from Ogden, UT on June 16, 2009
3 Year Old Touching Herself
Late last night, my daughter came out of her room to wash her hands. When I asked her why, she said it was because her finger smelled funny because she has put it inside her parts. I don't know if this was a one time thing, was she just exploring? Is this something that all little girls try just to see what will happen? I've struggled with overcomming masturbation my whole life, and I don't want her to have the same problem. We are LDS and believe it is wrong, so please don't try to convince me that it is ok, I am more looking for ways to address it with her, without drawing her attention to it in a way that will only make her more curious.
C.P. answers from Provo on June 16, 2009
It is very normal. It is just a stage, but I feel that the more attention they get the longer the stage lasts. Children, especially, like to do the forbidden. I just tell my young son, "I don't want to see it."
T.S. answers from Denver on June 18, 2009
I just want to mention that a 3-year-old is not a sexual being, they are a sensual being. The touch she is doing is about sensation, not sexuality. The quotes from the church are about a child that has reached puberty and has moved into being a sexual being. She is exploring her world and that includes here own body. She is exploring sensation only, not sexual arousal.
Also, a 3-year-old, is not developmentally capable of understanding abstract ideas. The ideas of sacredness and spouses and even sex are abstract. She is concrete.
The church even clearly teaches that a child does not have a clear understanding of good and evil until the age of eight. Which corresponds to psychological development of beginning to understand abstract ideas.
I have experienced myself and work with women every day that were separated from ownership of their own bodies. In so many overt and covert ways, women have been shamed about their amazing, natural, beautiful bodies. Please be careful of another precious little girl and the messages you are sending her about her body.
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C.L. answers from Salt Lake City on June 17, 2009
It is a normal thing to do...she is discovering herself. I think it is so sad that a religion surpresses a total natural and normal thing to do and you don't even know why! Gives me one more reason to NEVER be a part of that religion, I am soooo grateful for my beliefs and open mind. I feel sorry for you!!
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A. answers from Denver on June 17, 2009
I am LDS and I don't believe masturbation is wrong. I think one of the greatest gifts I can give myself is to know my body very well. one of the greatest gifts I can give my spouse is to be a confident exciting sexual partner. one of the greatest gifts I can give my children is the freedom to explore their own bodies. my heavenly father gave me this body with all its purposeful mysteries and joys. my children were created from having sex. children are naturally very inquisitive sexual beings. how could they not be?
there is a time and place for sexual exploration. the time is their own time, and the place is their own private area of our home.
be happy she is so open with you. keep that communication door open! teach her good touch/bad touch, stranger danger, all that, as well as dressing and speaking modestly. most of all when she begins to ask questions regarding bodies and sex, make sure she knows (and you remember) that the only safe sex is no sex, and the level down from that is sex with oneself. (people do very harmful things to their own bodies during sexual exploration, ask any ER doc!) teens that are sexually permissive with themselves tend not to venture to others for exploration.
remember that heavenly father made our bodies with full knowledge of what it is capable of, and still gave them to us anyway.
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C.N. answers from Salt Lake City on June 17, 2009
I would not make a big deal out of it. Regardless of your religious beleifs, she is only three and is discovering her body. She will not understand if you try to address your beleifs with her and it will only increase her curiosity. I would just leave it alone and not draw attention to it.
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H.W. answers from Colorado Springs on June 17, 2009
I have a now almost 7 year old daughter. She did the same thing about that age but during bath time. We had many talks about how our bodies are sacred. We talked about how there are many wonderful feelings we can experience through our bodies but they are sacred. I shared the whole...baby, mommy responsibility. I think it's important to explain the why...within how much she can understand. We are LDS as well. She knows that to "tickle" and touch herself is wrong. Those are powerful feelings and will be good at the right time. It opens up other sexual issues in later years. The Lord teaches mastering our physical bodies..letting our spirits rule, not the other way around. She still likes to push limits...being naked and silly, normal young girl kind of things. It's a constant lesson we teach...we just keep on it and stay consistent. Anything additional you can add to the spirit of your home is always helpful. Bodies are so fascinating and fun! :) Not easy to keep it all in the right perspective...best wishes!
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A.T. answers from Denver on June 17, 2009
In my experience simply telling a child "it's wrong, don't do it" will not produce desirable results. Ending in making the behavior more attractive, possibly turning the situation into a power struggle.
I suggest, if you're spiritual path dictates that masturbation is wrong, make the connection for her. Teach her why it's considered taboo. Does masturbation take the focus away from the intimacy of marriage? does it waste valuable life energy that should only be used for procreation? Children don't learn these things unless they are taught, and you might consider waiting until she asks you about it or wait until another opportunity presents itself to talk. I also suggest addressing your "struggle overcoming" masturbation such that when you speak with her you will be more at ease.
Lastly, it IS normal for children to be curious about their bodies. This too shall pass.
Good job mommin' A.!
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C.F. answers from Portland on June 17, 2009
If you make your child think that they, their bodies, their private parts are gross or that there is something wrong with them they will grow up to have a complex about it.
That is a fact.
My mother-in-law is a Christian psychologist and knows A LOT about the long term results of parents saying things that at the time may seem harmless, or "fix" a problem, but down the road will really screw that child-turned-adult up.
If your religion does not agree with masturbation, then that is your religion.
Your daughter is 3, she is growing and learning.
Let her be a kid, let her learn and explore and develop.
Let her be curious, let her be a child.
Then when she is a little older and can understand things for herself and not just because that is what mommy and daddy say, but it is because it is what SHE believes,
then she can decided for herself that masturbation,
and whatever else you and your religion think is wrong,
is wrong, for herself.
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J.N. answers from Salt Lake City on June 17, 2009
First of all, it is a normal behavior for a 3-year-old to be curious about different body parts, so I wouldn't freak out. She may even have been scratching an itch (I know, as adults we think "eeww" but she doesn't know that it's different than anywhere else).
Second, just because it's normal and natural for her to be touching doesn't mean that you have to condone it. I have 3 kids and they all went through this stage. I just talked about the "private parts" of our bodies, usually defined for kids as anything covered by swim trunks or 2-piece swimsuit. I reminded them that those parts of our body were private, and that Heavenly Father wants us to not play with them. It's important to keep them clean just like everywhere else, but we shouldn't do a lot of other touching. And that it's not okay for anyone else to ask to touch their body (or ask a child to touch their own body there). So this actually is a teaching moment for you to introduce that concept, because sadly there are those out there who will try to tell kids it's ok.
It will take regular reminders, any time you see her putting her hand in her pants. Just gently remove it and tell her we don't play with those parts of our bodies (I still have to occasionally remind my 5-year-old son). Be very calm. Don't call those parts 'dirty' or 'icky' - she already seems to understand to wash her hands after touching. The point here is not to not her ashamed of her body. Just to help her understand to not touch or play with it.
Good luck and patience!