5/Y Son Plays with His Private Part and Rub It Against My Leg

Updated on April 06, 2011
A.B. asks from Miami, FL
8 answers

My 5/y son likes playing with his private part. Sometimes he even rubs it against my leg. I don’t know why he does this and I am really worried about him. What should I do?

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answers from Washington DC on

it's not 'deviant', it's just a little guy who has discovered something that feels good. tell him he may not ever rub it on you and may only explore it in private. don't make a big deal over it. there's nothing to be so worried about.

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answers from San Francisco on

Rubbing himself against your leg....NO, don't let him do that. Here is an article on the subject .....I hope it helps.


Masturbation is quite common in young children. In most cases, it is considered a natural, normal behavior in children of all ages. Children often begin masturbating at around eighteen months of age. Masturbation tends to peak when children are between the ages of three and five. It then declines in frequency until puberty.

Many parents are surprised and/or shocked to find their children masturbating. Parents should keep in mind that masturbation generally causes no physical harm to their children. In most cases, problems result only when adults overreact.

For parents to deal with their children's masturbation they must know when it is normal and when it might indicate some underlying problem.
Why Children Masturbate

*Pleasure. Children learn very quickly that it feels good to masturbate.

*Self-soothing. For many children, masturbation reduces tension. These children may masturbate when they are upset, tired, bored, or feeling stress.

*Exploration. Many children will masturbate as part of the natural curiosity they have about their bodies.
What Parents Can Do

*Ignore it. Masturbation is, after all, a normal behavior for most children. Parents can best handle it by treating it matter-of-factly. Parents shouldn't try to get their children to stop masturbating by punishing, threatening or scolding. If they do, they run the risk of giving their children the idea that their genitals are bad and/or dirty.

*Remain calm. Parents should try not to overreact. They should also keep in mind that no physical harm will come to their children as a result of masturbation. If parents overreact, they may put fear into their children about their bodies.

*Don't be surprised. Masturbation among young children is very common, and quite normal.
When Children Masturbate in Public Places

Masturbation is something that should be done in private. Most young children, however, don't know the difference between public and private behaviors. In these cases, children must be taught. Parents should treat public masturbation as they would any other behavior that is not acceptable in public places, for example, nose picking. Here are some specific things that can be done to minimize masturbation in public places.

*Explain. If parents discover their children masturbating in a public place, they should tell their children that is something that should be done only in private, for example, in the children's bedroom or the bathroom. Parents should use words like, "It's all right to do that in the bathroom or the bedroom, but not in the grocery store or when other people are around." Parents should try not to criticize, nag, or punish their children. They should treat the behavior matter-of-factly.

*Offer alternatives. Parents should provide their children with something else to do with their hands while they are in public. They could also try to distract their children from masturbating by suggesting some other activity.

*Be consistent. If children, for example, masturbate while they are at day care, parents should work out a solution with their children's day care provider. It is important that the behavior be treated in the same way by parents and by other care providers.
When to Seek Help

On rare occasions, children's masturbation habits may be an indicator of other problems. Parents should consult their children's health care provider if:

*Children's masturbation interferes with their social interactions.

*Techniques to eliminate public masturbation have failed.

*Parents have any concerns about their children's well being.

*Parents feel that their children are possibly not masturbating, but scratching or rubbing the genital area because of discomfort. It may be possible that such children have an infection or a rash.

*Masturbation is constant.

Parents should keep in mind that in most cases, masturbation is a common, normal behavior in children. Very rarely is it an indicator of some other problem

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answers from New York on

very simply, he does it because it feels good and he hasnt yet learned to be self conscious. mine discovered his when he was an infant and hasnt stopped messing with it since! its a good teaching opportunity, he should be learning that he can touch his privates if he wants to, but in private. and the same way that nobody should be touching his privates, he shouldnt be touching his privates to anyone else, or touching anyone elses privates. (dont forget to explain about exceptions, like the doctor with you present, so you dont get a minor freak out like i did yesterday when the doc needed to examine him)... this should be an ongoing conversation, short and sweet. i would definitely not give him time out for this, holy therapy! unless of course he keeps rubbing on you after you have clearly and repeatedly taught him not to, then maaaaybe. but i would never punish him for touching himself, its as natural as it gets, please dont shame him. he just needs to learn that there is a time and a place, and most importantly he needs to learn safety/privacy guidelines.

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answers from Phoenix on

You should not tolerate him rubbing it against your leg. That is just bad behavior and not good etiquette. But around this age they do explore there private parts but this behavior needs to be addressed that this is only done in privacy and not for others to see.

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answers from Houston on

We tell our boys privates are for peeing, not playing. It's a private area for a reason, do not let others touch it or see it.

It is normal for kids to explore, some say it's fine to teach them to do it in private only. We tell them not to do it at all. It's only good to touch for cleaning and peeing.

Hoover, rubbing on you is gross and not acceptable. He really should be discouraged from this. I'd put him in time out. When his behavior begins to deviate or he becomes obsessed, it could be from other problems like Tori put in the article she posted.

Dr. Sears has some excellent points on this:

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answers from New York on

Rubbing on your leg? Not acceptable. He shouldn't be humping people like a dog. He does this because it feels good, and it's normal for young children to get pleasure out of touching themselves. You should let him know that people do that, it's okay to do that but it's only something you do yourself, and you do it in private.

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answers from Williamsport on

When any of the kids do inappropriate physical stuff at his age, it's not as scary as we think it is. He literally has noticed a sensation there, and thinks it's fun to do that. He's not hiding it, because he doesn't think it's inappropriate. It's NOT any more frightening than that. For real. Dont' worry. Just use a totally normal instructional voice to tell him, "Don't rub (whatever term you use) on mama, that is not polite (sounds gross to us, but kids only know literally what you tell them). Do not play around with your (insert term)." The same way you tell them not to strip in front of people and show off their goods, the way kids love to do. it's all the same to them. Just tell him not to. You can enforce if he gets super defiant about it, but I wouldn't punish or attach a negative stigma to his anatomy. I overheard my husband telling my 3 year old son "Don't play with that in front of people, only alone in your room" :-0 I think my son was a little young to be doing THAT and was probably just itching or whatever, but I've never seen him do it, and it wasn't a big deal. I've had to tell my girls not to do some unladylike stuff too. Just keep it practical, clear and matter of fact so he doesn't feel ashamed.

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answers from Richmond on

little boys do that whether they are five or ninety five but, if you simply tell the child "dont do that on my leg " and then very gently push him away from your leg, saying "no, you dont do that against mommies leg, you are welcome to play with your fun parts, just not against my leg, ok."
K. h.

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