Guest blogger Gay Uncle Brett Berk: One of momlogic's other contributors recently shared an anecdote about her 5-year-old son's troubling obsession with handling the meat -- and I don't mean wanting to work the deli counter at Whole Foods. I'm talking about what the ancients called Touchin' It. Since I'm an expert in the area (of child development) I thought I'd offer some functional advice.
First off, self-love is a totally normal behavior for young kids of both genders, and should not in any way be shut down, unequivocally. But unless you're a caged monkey or a Boy Scout, it's also a very personal matter, best relegated to appropriate times and places. Let your kid know that you're aware of what they're up to, and that you're familiar with the fact that it feels good. But then tell them that it's something best done in private, like pooping or taking a bath.
Remember, YOU'RE THE GROWN UP, so it's up to you to set the specific boundaries for their HIP (Hands In Pants) Posturing, but I would recommend reinforcing the public/private divide: e.g. it's not okay at the dinner table or during story-time at the library, when there are other folks around; but it's fine when they're in bed, or watching Handy Manny alone. Then, if they slip up (or in) your can gently remind them of this divide, while offering up a viable alternative.
Oh, and, pleasure is hard enough to come by in this life, so try to stay away from confounding sanitary-based solutions. Unless your kid is reaching around back, or you haven't bathed them in a few weeks, there's nothing innately dirty down there -- or at least nothing dirtier than every other place a kid puts their hands. It's certainly nothing a good hand-washing can't cure: something your kid should do before they eat, help you cook, or touch anyone else anyway.
|Brett Berk, M.S. Ed. has worked with young children and their families for over 20 years--as a classroom teacher, preschool director, and research consultant--and is the author of The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting.|