Dr. Molly’s Weblog

Molly O’Shea starts a revolution in pediatric care

Masturbation in young kids….yep you read it right March 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr Molly OShea @ 11:11 pm

Your 5 year old son is constantly ‘adjusting’ his underwear.

Your 3 year old daughter is ‘riding’ the arm of the couch a lot lately.

Your 4 year old daughter seems to ‘dance’ in her car seat and wriggle her hips up against the clasp for the seat belt between her legs.

Your 6 year old son is complaining that when his penis gets big it hurts.

Your 7 year old daughter is ‘itching’ her private parts so much that you wonder if she has a yeast infection.

What all these children have in common is that they are masturbating. I know you are surprised but it is true. Virtually all children, both boys and girls, starting around the time of potty training discover themselves and let’s face it, it feels good. Because it feels good, the exploration continues and some children will find lots of ways to stimulate themselves.

I get a ton of questions from worried parents about this on a regular basis. I think it is a bit of a taboo topic for parents to discuss with each other and sheepishly or with great angst they bring it up with me. Most parents are worried that interest in masturbation at this age means they are going to have a ‘sexpot’ as an older child but this is not the case. Masturbation before the hormones of puberty are contributing is not sexual. It just feels good. It feels good like scratching an itch feels good or having someone rub your back feels good. It isn’t sexual, just satisfying.

I advise parents who are worried that the child will do these behaviors in public that it is important to teach kids at this young age that private parts are private for a reason and if they want to touch them, they need to do so in a private place like the bathroom or the bedroom. Since kids don’t experience this as a sexual feeling (even though they may really enjoy it), the fact that this sort of ‘good feeling’ can’t be done in the kitchen or the classroom makes it that much more appealing for some. Often, parents will find the child will increase the behavior after the parent has drawn attention to it and consistency about the need to be in a private place is important.

Some kids start to ask more pointed questions about their bodies and yours during this time and others will even want to see the private parts of their peers through ‘playing doctor.’ This is a great opportunity for parents to talk frankly and openly with their kids about their bodies and how they differ from grown up bodies. It is a great opportunity to reinforce the rules about who can see private parts and who can’t, who can touch private parts and who cannot. It is also a great opportunity to lay the groundwork for later discussions about sex and sexuality. By talking openly, frankly, and without embarrassment about this, you will start a dialogue that is natural and comfortable and will serve you well as your child grows and matures.

Sometimes, our own past comes back to haunt us when our kids start to ask us questions or explore their bodies.  Perhaps you were told you were dirty as a child or maybe masturbation was punished in your household.  You may have chosen to be sexually active at an early age or had sexually traumatic experiences as a child or adolescent.  Sometimes we were never talked to at all about our bodies and later sexuality.  Any of these woud make it very difficult, uncomfortable and anxiety producing to talk to your kids about this natural, normal part of life.  I encourage you to talk to your partner or a mental health counselor to work through these feelings and not repeat the past mistakes with this generation of children.

Here are some good books to help open the discussion with your younger children (ages 3-8).

Amazing You

What’s The Big Secret

And for older kids (9-12)

Body Science

For parents:

Speaking of Sex: What your child needs to know and when they need to know it

Remember for young kids its not about sex, talk openly with your kids, and don’t worry and each day will be your best!

Molly O’Shea, MD  Birmingham Pediatrics + Wellness Center



3 Responses to “Masturbation in young kids….yep you read it right”

  1. Kathleen Moltz MD Says:

    I also like these for 9+:
    Body book for girls: the care and keeping of me,
    NO B.O.!

  2. Not that I’m totally impressed, but this is more than I expected for when I found a link on Digg telling that the info is awesome. Thanks.

  3. Ann Says:

    Thank you so much for posting the article, I have been very worried about my grandson. He is five and has ‘found his willy’. He calls it doing his squidgy-widgy! I have talked to him saying that it is a private thing and if and when he is going to do it to make sure he is in either his bedroom or bathroom. So I was relieve to read your article.

    Thank you again!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s