S.K. asks from Denton, TX on November 08, 2011
HELP!! 4 Yr Old Son Exposing Himself at School
So, my sweet 4 yr old son got in trouble at daycare yesterday for.........exposing himself. The teacher said that apparently he was with a group of boys over in a circle at recess, and when she walked over to see what was going on, they all were showing their "stuff". The teacher and my son said another boy started it and the rest just went along. My husband and I are kinda shocked and a little embarressed. We have talked to him in the past about how certain parts of your body are "private" and that we don't show them to anyone and they only come out when we are using the potty or taking a bath. We had this talk again last night and explained the consequences for if it happens again. I know kids are curious, but at 4 yrs old?????? ALREADY??? His teacher said that she has seen kids this age do this before. I just don't think my son understands what I am telling him about "privates". Have any of you mamas been through this? How did you handle it? How can I help him understand better?
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M.M. answers from Los Angeles on November 08, 2011
This is exactly the age when curiosity about the human body kicks in. Perfectly normal. In another year he'll understand private parts more,
Don't make him feel terrible about this, and try to keep the conversation more neutral. Just tell him that it's perfectly natural to be curious, and if he wants to know what the human body looks like you'll show him a book (there are age appropriate books for kids that give the basics without being too graphic.).
But that the parts of your body that are covered by your underwear are private and not to be shown/shared when at school, or with friends. When he is at the doctors or changing, or bathing ,or going to the bathroom, that's the time when private parts come out, not in other circumstances.
Particularly for boys, this is just the time developmentally when this happens. Later, boys grow up and compare their cars!
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K.U. answers from Detroit on November 08, 2011
My guess is that, despite your telling him about what is private at home, the "group mentality" took over at school and with all the other little boys joining in on showing off their "junk", he went along with it too and forgot all about what you've told him. I think it's one of those things that you will need to repeat over and over until they get it.
I don't think what they did was THAT bad and probably pretty normal, but maybe getting caught by the teacher and getting in some trouble at school will hit home with him and help reinforce what you are trying to teach him about privacy. You've talked to him and let him know what the consequences are. Remind him that what is "private" is anything that would be covered by a swim suit or underwear. He made a mistake and I would treat it like any other mistake.
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R.M. answers from San Francisco on November 08, 2011
He's only 4. You discussed it with him. He probably won't do it again. Don't worry.
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L.R. answers from Washington DC on November 08, 2011
Please don't overreact. That could either make him more interested in his parts (if it's forbidden, it must be interesting, right?) or make him feel shamed and embarrassed.
The teacher said she's seen it happen before, so rest assured that it was normal. The boys were not flashing girls or walking around with their bits hanging out. As someone else posted, a group mentality took over, and I'm sure every boy in that circle had been told -- just like your son has -- to keep privates private; but once it got started they all joined the group. Not ideal, but not unusual. And you indicate that you think that at four he should not be this curious about his genitals - but far younger kids touch themselves and are curious about their bodies. Keep sending him the message about privates but don't harp or overreact or keep bringing up this situation to him or he will be confused about why the adults think it's such a huge deal. He did it, it was not the time or place to show privates, he should not do that again. Give the "doctors and parents only" talk again, say how school is a place where privates stay private, and let him know that you do know what goes on in school so you hear if anything happens. Then drop it.
The key thing is -- this wasn't sexual. That's the unspoken boogeyman in the back of parents' heads, the idea that their child did or thought something sexual at this age. No. Right now it's just this interesting thing he has and oh, look, other boys have them too.
I guarantee that the parents of every other boy who did it is thinking and feeling exactly what you are!
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P.W. answers from Dallas on November 08, 2011
I know you are stressed, but I have to admit when I read you question I laughed out loud!
He is four. Babies stick their hands in their diapers. It feels good and it's interesting. They haven't learned to be embarrassed or appropriate yet. If it were me I would not shame my child, just try to explain about privacy and what is appropriate in public. Then laugh it off. It will be a great story to tell his wife someday.
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J.B. answers from Tyler on November 09, 2011
At least he wasn't "playing doctor" with some little girl!!!! That's what little kids were doing when I was a child. The funniest thing we had happen was in T-Ball. Our little 5-yr-old left fielder needed to pee. He just turned around(thankfully), dropped his pants and peed! His mother was sitting beside me and she said, "Whose little boy is that?!" We all had a good laugh. Kids at preschool ages don't understand. It's a learned behavior to keep oneself covered. So your son is learning.
C.C. answers from Dallas on November 09, 2011
Don't make too much of it, it's very normal behavior. Adults are the ones who sexualize everything . . . little kids know nothing about that, they're just curious to see they each have something similar. Just continue to reinforce at the appropriate moments that we don't show certain body parts to others unless mommy or daddy says it's OK (i.e., pediatrician).
B.D. answers from Dallas on November 09, 2011
It is very normal and it happened to my son in Kinder at age 5. Just explain to him that those are private parts and only him, his parents and his doctor should see them, like you have. They are really just curious at that age. Maybe make it a role play thing... Say, I'm your friend John and I say, 'Hey, I want to see your underwear!', what do you say? Sometimes role playing really hits home to kids. It gives them real life situations that they can apply. The underwear thing actually did happen to my son too. Don't give it much too much worry and thought. It most likely happens to most kids and they will learn :)