4 Year Old Daughter Masturbates

Updated on February 20, 2011
B.C. asks from Gilbert, AZ
16 answers

I am not sure how common this is, but my daughter is 4.5 and has been masturbating for about 2 years. The pediatrician and preschool teacher has said to ignore it, but it is gettting harder and harder to ignore. She use to do it with her blankie, so I banned her blankie to her room only. Now she does it with her hands almost anytime she is watching TV. She once told her grandpa her privates hurt because I think she had irritated them so much. When I see her doing it, I send her to her room, but I am not always able to watch her. I send her to her room, not as a punishment, but I explain that it is private and it needs to be done in her room if she wants to do it. Anyway, it has become so often lately that I am starting to getting angry about it and am having a hard time ignoring it. Anyone ever deal with this. Some advice on how to handle it would be wonderful. Thanks Ladies.

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answers from Phoenix on

2 out of 3 of my kids have done this. My now 4yr boy has done this with his blanky for a few months. I did bring it up to the ped. and he said his daughter was also going through that phase and it is NORMAL.I think you are doing a great job. I NEVER EVER tell him to stop or it is wrong but to only do it in his room. I notice he will stop because he doesnt want to be in his room away from everyone else and I really notice he does it when he is bored or looking for attention. This is my son so I am in no way saying thats why you daughter is doing it. I know with my now 10yr daughter it passed after awile. It is normal and I wouldnt worry to much. Good Luck.

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answers from Atlanta on

Sexual exploration is normal. Masturbation at that age is not. A simple NO when the child explores usually will teach them not to play with themselves. I am not a young woman and I have raised quite a few children...all happily married and from what they tell me, sexually happy. Little girls are different from little boys. Rethink what she is trying to achieve. There is the issue of injury. There is also an issue of hygiene. A youngster like that can create multiple and ongoing problems with hands that could have gone anywhere.

That's such a burden for a child to bear!

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answers from Houston on

Touching and exploring is normal, but when it becomes excessive so that is her favorite pastime and to the point where she is causing irritation, that really needs to be more delicately handled.

She needs to have another stress reliever and comfort soothing activity addressed to her, as of right now, it sounds like this is the only thing she is using to cope and do out of boredom. Give her distractions, and more cuddle time are some of the things they suggest

Child expert Dr. Jim talks about this here and what you can do:


We teach our boys that this is the area they pee from, it's only okay to touch for peeing and cleaning. We don't go the naughty or sinful route, just that it's a private area and not for touching for them, or not for anyone else to touch either.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Y'know . . . this may be not simply sensual pleasuring
but perhaps irritation/itchiness.
And each feeds into the other.
I don't have any suggestions . . .
other than I hope you'll be able to resist getting angry.
Whatever the situation is, you'll be in a much better/more competent mindset to follow up with whatever plan you decide on if you are not
distracted by anger.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

This is normal. I clearly remember masturbating frequently at her age. My mom told me that it was private and needed to be done only in my room. After a few times being told this firmly, I believe that I did comply with that rule. My daughter (now 8) has not been as obvious about this, but I do notice that she chooses to be alone sometimes in the bedroom or bathtub and I give her that space.

I woud continue to stress to her that this needs to be done in private. Enforce that rule. Shut off the TV and send her to her room. Not angrily, but firmly. Watching TV causes us to stop thinking and just do what we feel like (I've noticed kids sucking thumbs, picking noses, etc. and not even realizing they are doing it when the TV is on).

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answers from Dallas on

That seems a little young, has the doctor checked her for a yeast infection or anything that would cause her to itch or be extra sensitive? Have you tried putting some vagisil on her to see if it itching/irriation that causes discomfort? Could she be doing it for comfort? My daughter pinches her underarms it's a physical habit.

I think the way you handle the masturbation is healthy - tell her it's private and not something we do in public/around other people.

If its really bothering you - I would go back to her pediatrician, or maybe see a different doctor and get a second opinion. Touching, exploration and curiosity are very normal but if she's doing it as often as you suggest I would think something else must be going on - and maybe your pediatrician dismissed it too soon.

Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Seattle on

If we have time for it I do the same and send kiddo off to be in private. The REST o' the time it's this:

"Hands outta your pants." as i go about doing what I was doing

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answers from Provo on

It is pretty common and at this age it is not considered masturbation. It feels good and it is relaxing to her so she does it. I would just let her know that no one else wants to see her do that so she needs to go in her bedroom. The more attention she gets then the more she will do it. I just use the term "adult words" with my kids and they realize when they are adults then they can say them and it is not such forbidden fruit then.

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answers from Atlanta on

Well, it's not really "masturbation" in the sense that it's sexual to her at this age. It's a pleasurable feeling, so she does it. However it does seem that she does it to excess! My oldest son is 4.5 and of course he's discovered his genitals, but he was fine with the explanation that any playing with them needed to be done in private. My MIL says his dad -my husband -was much worse and embarrassed her to death in the grocery store and everywhere, so I know some kids really get into it! Did your pediatrician offer any advice? How long ago did you broach the subject with the doctor? Is it possible she has a yeast infection and is rubbing because it itches/burns/hurts? I'm sure this isn't something you want to think about -but is it possible she's been molested? Perhaps her pediatrician should have a look at her genital region. The only thing I can recommend is constant consistency. In a calm voice (I know it's hard), every time she does it -watching tv or any other time -tell her she needs to stop touching herself there and if she doesn't, she's going to have to go to her room. Turn off the tv if she can't or won't stop while watching it. Be very clear that it's okay to touch yourself there in PRIVATE (which I know you've done), but not any other time. You may have to say this over and over and over, but she may be using this as a control mechanism and to get a rise out of you, because she knows it pushes your buttons (lots of experience with this regarding other issues and my 4 year old). As hard as it is -try to remain calm about it at all times, but make sure the tv gets turned off and she is sent to her room. I would take her back to the doctor though!

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answers from Honolulu on

So do you mean... it seems to be compulsive... and your concern is that she cannot seem to control herself and it is too... much?
Have you expressed that to your Pediatrician...
as you said, it has become "so often" that she is doing this.

Sure, every kid has normal exploration and does go through this which is considered normal.. and yes, to just ignore it and direct the child to their room for privacy etc.

But it seems... you understand that, but your concern is that your daughter is doing it SO much... or it is getting to be more frequent... that you are worried??? And don't know how much is too much or how much is not normal???

One thing would be to articulate to your Pediatrician... since you feel this is beyond... normal frequency etc.
But, I don't think, that being angry at her, is going to help.

Does your daughter do this everywhere? No matter who is around her or not? Or does she confine it... to only at home, in private????
She is 4 years old.... and once in elementary school or older... if she is still doing this... it will become awkward...

Since you say...ignoring it and having her go in her room... is not helping, ask your Pediatrician for other suggestions.... or.. is she stressed or anything???

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answers from New York on

I recently looked this up on the internet because of a five year old female student and there are many articles that say it could be a way for her to reduce stress. you wont be able to ask a four year old what stresses her but think whether there could be some thing? did she start a new school, get a new sibling, new house, Is there any thing that can be changed in her life to mae it less stress free? this five year was worried about learning to read! she has stopped masturbating at least at school!

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answers from Cincinnati on

Have you tried asking her why she does it? We associate mastrubation with sexuality, but it may not be the same for your daughter. Children are very sensory, they define their world by sense and touch. So maybe by getting an understanding, it may help you to deal with the situation better. I also noticed that you said she does it while watching tv (could it be the type of shows she's watching). You may also want to rething sending her to her room, eventhough you tell her it's because it's private that may not be what she thinks, especially since it makes you upset. I would try taking the doctor's and teachers advice and ignore it, in the true since of the word. Sending her to her room and taking away her blanket is not ignoring it. It's bringing attention to what she's doing and letting her know you don't approve. As a result this could be damaging to her self-esteem, sense this is probably more of a sense of self-exploration. than conscience sexuality.

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answers from Washington DC on

Yep...totally normal!

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answers from Barnstable on

I know this response is almost a year late but I figured I would write this for other mothers who googled this like I just did. I was once one of those little girls who masturbated at a young age. I remember it very well. I would use chairs and I remember starting around 4yrs of age. I would do it infront of people, at friends houses, at school. I can explain it best as I would get that "throbbing" feeling down there where there was a burst of stimulation and I had to get it to stop by rubbing on a chair. It wasn't something I could control. It was just a need that had to be fullfilled. I was very embarrassed by it, my brothers would make fun of me. I remember my mom taking me to the doctor to see what was wrong, I do remember bieng treated for some sort of vaginal rash. But that wasn't it, I was masturbating. I never spoke about it. I just now decided to research it because I have my own daughter who is currenlty 18 monthd and I was just curious if it would be something she would go through. I am glad to know it is normal. I thought I was just sexually advanced or something. I think the main thing parents should know is that if they do this it does not mean your daughter is going to be sexually active early or permiscuous. I stayed a virgin until 17 and was not permiscuous. I think the best advice is not to make a big deal about it, it is embarrassing enough for the child. Be supportive and open with the child. I would encourage them to do it in private and be there for them if they need to talk to you about it. I realize it is hard to see your little girl taking part in "sexual" acts at a young age but trust me it is not sexual at all at but rather a tingling/throbbing feeling that was released with rubbing. If you look on Oprah.com there is a article on it and women who are like myself that speak very openly about it. I think the worst thing you can do is punish the child for it. You don't want your daughter to be ashamed of her body, and trust me she has no idea what she is doing. She just know it feels good. As I found out in my search, it is EXTREMELY common but not talked about much.



answers from Phoenix on

I know that it's a real trend nowadays to not punish or scold your child when they self-stimulate...the thinking behind it, of course, is that you'll make them ashamed of their bodies which could someday backfire in the form of sexual problems, yada yada yada.

But honestly? It's a bad habit. No different (at this age) than picking her nose and eating it. When she does something like that, do you tell her to "do it in private" or do you simply tell her to cut it out?

I truly don't believe for one second that telling your child to stop messing with her "private-spot" will somehow damage her little psyche and cause permantent emotional scarring. If you need to scold her, do it! Heck, if you need to put her in timeout until she stops, what's the problem with that? Do NOT make a big deal of it, however. There are ways to casually discourage behavior without making it a huge production or drawing unnecessary attention to it.

You can reinforce to her the idea of doing it in "private", but I'm pretty sure kids are smart enough to figure out that doing things when grown-ups can't see them means they won't get busted.

From a very young age, my daughter would "gyrate" (rub herself) against the crotch strap in her carseat. It wasn't a huge problem, thank goodness, because it was limited to the car, but as she got older she would sort of zone out while she was doing it....even trailing off in the middle of a sentence. It wasn't a terrible thing at all, and I wasn't worried about it being abnormal. But I didn't want her doing it, either, so I had no problem whatsoever patting her legs and telling her to put them down (she would stretch them straight out when doing it).

So maybe you would be more comfortable with something like that? Find a way to discourage the behavior without actually identifying it. For example, you could tell her to stop putting her hand down her pants instead of coming right out and saying "quit touching yourself!". I'm not sure exactly what her "methods" are, of course, but you get the idea.

As for my daughter, she never completely stopped the "gyrating" until we finally upgraded her to a booster seat that uses the vehicle's seatbelt. So no more crotch strap, yay!

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