16 answers

Talking to a Child About Appropriate and Inappropriate Touching

Hi Moms,

I have a newly 3 year old son, and when we went to his 3 year doctors appointment, the doctor told him as he was checking his private areas that he is only allowed to do this because Mommy was in the room. I realized, "Wow... it really is time to talk to my son about that" I should have taken the opportunity to talk to the doctor about age appropriate discussions, but was distracted by my 2 month old, and forgot. What are some ways that you have discussed the issue with your 3 year olds in ways they would understand without freaking them out? So far, I have "No one can touch you under your underware unless Mommy or Daddy are in the room" - but then, if he is at Preschool and has an accident (we are potty training now), the Preschool teacher has permission to change his underware (with another adult present) - or if he is with Grandma, and has an accident, she can change his underware... so you see, there are all these exceptions... do I just wait until his is potty trained and not having accidents to talk to him about this? I'm going to call our Pediatrician too, but figured I'd ask what has worked here too...

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

It doesn't cover all situations, but I told my sons that if anyone touches them, and tells them not to tell Mommy or Daddy, to come strait to Mommy and Daddy. That if the person says we will be mad at him, it is a lie, and we need to know.

More Answers

i was abused as a small child by my grandfather from about three to 7 and my mom thought that this could never happen he abused me and my two sisters...with this in mind i have raised my children and two step daughters to the fact no one is to touch them if it makes them uncomfortable mommies,daddies, teachers or grandparents...because of the fact kids are easily manipulated into thinking that this person is a trusted person so it must be okay he or she is touching me...i never said anything to my mom until i was 24 and had two of my own kids, it broke her heart because my grandfather had done the same thing to her (i didn't know about it cause she never spoke about it)from the time she was 6 until she ran away at 12...over the years she said she had convinced herself it was her fault because she was daddies little angel and he would never do anything to hurt her...and to see the angwish in her face was aweful she kept telling me how sorry she was if she had known this he would of been aloud arround us...remember most times children are molested by someone who is close to them and you trust or they trust... it could be anyone from a father to a grandma or a close family friend...find away that you can speak to them on his level so that you don't scare him but prepare him for the unexpected...and always listen to your children and even though this may sound weird check them after prolonged visits with others when you aren't present or once aweek after he comes home from preschool...like i said a child molestor can be anyone...good luck hope this helps and don't sound parinoid...ps don't mind my terrible spelling...

2 moms found this helpful

I read through all of the responses you've gotten so far and what JM said is perfect. I have never been abused nor my kids but we have a close relative who is an abuser (and only a teenager). My husband and I were lucky enough to know about it and learn what to do and say to our kids before it was too late.

We have been talking to them since they were your childs age. We started with the basics and as they get older you continue to remind them and add more information as they need it. But don't say "strangers" because 90% of the abusers are close family members or friends.

I am probably an extra paranoid mom but I have always made sure not to make my children that way. I probably talk to them every few months just to remind them and like another person said when they go into a new situation continue to reiterate what you've taught them.

Hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful

I have a 4 year old boy and we talk about this every few months, just to make sure he still knows. What I have told him is that the doctor has to look at and sometimes touch to make sure he is healthy, and that other adults (mommy, daddy, grandma, etc) should only touch his "privates" if he has an owie there or to clean him up (though once potty trained, this hasn't been an issue). I like the doctor's addition of "only when mommy's in the room" and may use this too! I also talk about this at natural times, such as when we are getting him dressed in the morning and he is very aware of his parts. We also talk about what to do if someone wants to touch his privates and who to tell if that happens. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi S.,

It is a sad, sad world we live in, that anyone would even consider hurting children, much less do it, and that no age is safe from people who would hurt them.

Taking into account that there are those who would do such a horrible thing, you do have to think about it and try and make them understand the danger the best that you can and that they can understand.

I'm not sure how well your son understands things at such a young age, but looking up some books at the library and reading through them may help you, or your doctor may be able to refer some publications, and may even have some in the office.

I don't have any book recommendations, but I looked up this article on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website: http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServle...

With my children, I always tell them if anyone touches them in a way that makes them feel bad, ashamed, scared, or embarassed, no matter who it is or what they say, to never EVER be afraid to tell us(their dad or I). I didn't allow my son to go into a restroom alone until he was oh, around 8, when he became embarassed to use the ladies room. I told him then that if any man besides his dad ever talked to him to leave IMMEDIATELY!, and if one touched him, to scream at him to leave him alone, and get away as fast as possible. I also waited outside the men's room(and I set a time limit), or his dad went with him, until he was 12.

Calmly, and as simply as you can, in language he can understand, teach him about "good" touches--hugs are nice, pats on the back are nice, holding hands when crossing the street or in a crowded place are for safety, and help with changing clothes after an accident is helpful, but touches and words that make him feel scared or hurt, or afraid are something he should never keep secret. And really, it was perfectly fine for you to tell him no one should touch him under his underwear but you or his dad--the NCMEC website listed warning children about touching the areas a bathing suit would cover. At his age, if he needs to be cleaned in private areas during accidents, he can probably manage this himself with a wipe, after some coaching from you. If he has a number 2 accident, *then* help with that(from an adult *you* trust!) would be acceptable.

Again, be calm, factual, and use words he can understand.

Best of luck to you. It's a shame that we as parents have to even *think* about this, much less do it, but the kids need to know it's out there, and that we will help them.

Hope I helped some,

K. W

1 mom found this helpful

There is a simple book a child can understand that illustrates "good" and "bad" touch, we used it with our kids. You can probably check it out at your local library.
"It's my body" by Lory Freeman ; illustrations, Carol Deach.
Publisher Seattle, Wash. : Parenting Press, c1982.

1 mom found this helpful

You might tell him this is his own space and he has control over it. There is no need to touch there except for baths, potty, and to keep owies away. If he has an accident and needs help he can get it but he needs to ask. Teaching him how to use flushable wipes and put on his own underwear will help alot. You will have some adjustment period here where he may need a bath when he gets home but is should only last a few weeks.

I would recomend Gavin de Beckers book "Protecting the Gift".
It covers stranger danger and how to teach your kids not to become a victim. It also goes into how to trust your kids (and your own) instincts. Most abductions and molestations are from someone the kids know.

It doesn't cover all situations, but I told my sons that if anyone touches them, and tells them not to tell Mommy or Daddy, to come strait to Mommy and Daddy. That if the person says we will be mad at him, it is a lie, and we need to know.

I'd recommend the book Protecting the Gift.

Hi S., I have a 4 year old daughter who is talking with me about this too. She has come to the conclusion that if someone is "family" then it's okay for them to see her naked. I'm not really comfortable with that because, as much as I would be shocked and horrified, most children are abused by people they know. So, my response has been that if she feels comfortable it is okay. If she feels nervous, or uncomfortable then it isn't. It is such a hard line, but I really believe in our instincts. We also talk a lot, about anything she wants to. So, I just hope and pray if anything was "off" I would know from our conversations. I wish you all the best!


We have always told my son that no one is allowed to touch him where his bathing suit covers. If anyone tries to touch him there he needs to tell Mommy and Daddy right away.

Hope this helps,

What I told my son and both my girls is that no one should touch you anywhere that your bathing suit covers unless you say its alright. I also told them that if someones touching made them feel "funny" that they should come tell mommy. I still use the bathing suit rule and my kids are 14, 12 ,and 9!

When I change my son's underwear after an accident, there's no "touching" involved! Off with the wet, on with the dry (maybe with a sprinkle of powder)!

Maybe you could teach him to wipe himself off with a cloth after accidents so there's no need for anyone else to do it..? 3 year olds are very capable of learning to do this! May not be the best "wiping" job but it'll do until Mommy's around again.

Hello S.,

I'm a single Mom with 5 kids myself. I have always explained to my kids when they were at that age that the only the only people who can touch him in the private area are family members when it comes to changing a soiled diaper or pull-up in your case since you're still toilet training him and the Dr. or nurse when he goes in for his check-ups.Even though I mostly had boys and yes I was blessed with a daughter when they were at the age where they were able to understand appropriate and non appropriate touching I had used a doll so they can see for themselves what kind of touching is and isn't allowed. It wasn't easy during the toilet training stage for my kids at that age as they were stubborn but hang in there and be patient he will get the hang of it yet.
I hope this helps.
God Bless and take care and Good Luck :)

We just keep a casual dialog about the subject, whenever the opportunity comes up to talk about private areas, we just reitterate what is apropriate and what is not. Then it is not some big scary discussion. And when did parents ever have to tell their children anything once. On the subject of exceptions, just talk about them. The doctor can check our privates, but strangers are never allowed to touch them. That kind of stuff. Just keep it a casual discussion, then it shouldn't become scary. Keep up the good work!

I started my children at birth- while bathing etc... I talk to them naming body parts- wash your arm, leg, privates etc... My youngest now 23 months knows what private parts are and gets reminders not to touch others in that area. She is also a nudist LOL. Constantly takes her diaper and clothes off, so I remind her then that she has to put diaper on so no one sees her privates. We have not talked about other people and privates due to her age and the fact that I am a full time mommy. As she grows I will start in on what is good touch vs bad touch and she is already being taught that she has rights and not being touched is one of them. Like when someone wants a hug and she does not, I make sure that everyone respects her wishes.

The first question I would have for you is: Does he still ware diapers? The "accident" are they mostly urin or BM's? At three, typicly they are old enough to undress and redress himself with some practice. Maybe just practice with him. Have a rule that unless he "poops" in his pants them he came change himself. It's great practice for him and it allows him to take accountability for his "accident", Because accidents happen. It's not a punishment, however a learning lesson for things that happen. He actually will prob. feel like a "big boy" learning to take care of his problem on his own.

We have always used: No one may touch or look at private areas!! Only if you have an accident and need a little help it's o.k. I also would just give teacher, grandparents etc. heads up so they can help reinforce what you are teaching.

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