Several years ago, my now five-year-old (she was two or three at the time) wandered into the bathroom as I was putting on make-up and my husband was getting out of the shower. Upon seeing my husband, she put her hand over mouth and started giggling. When we asked her what she was laughing at she pointed to my disrobed husband and said in a giggly voice, “You’ve got something sticking out of your vagina!” I told her the proper name for what she saw and kept moving on with our business of the day. We began keeping tighter boundaries on bathroom privacy after that incident.
Many people wonder whether or not they should call their young ones’ “private parts” by nicknames or by their proper anatomical name. The vast amount of options for nicknames includes the more ubiquitous (wiener, willy, pee pee, etc.) and the downright ambiguous (pocket book, turtle, hoo-ha, etc.). So what is the right way to go? Most experts agree (such as the American Academy of Pediatrics) the proper anatomical name should be taught. I agree with their stance. Here are 7 reasons why:
1. We don’t come up with nicknames for hands and feet and foreheads. Penises, vaginas, and vulvas are also body parts. Each body part has a name and should be called as such.
2. The idea that proper names shouldn’t come out of a child’s mouth or that it is off-putting to people is an interesting notion and probably says more about the person with the issue and discomfort than it does about the child using proper terminology.
3. If parents are uncomfortable or embarrassed about discussing body parts with their children, the children will pick up on the tension, which could lead down a path to shame and secrecy.
4. There is evil in this world. If, and I pray to God this never happens, your child needs to tell you or a teacher or counselor that they were touched inappropriately, they should be able to say so clearly and articulately. If a child says someone touched his or her “flower”, the actual act could be overlooked, or at the very least confused.
5. It is our responsibility to love and teach our children. Don’t wait until they learn it at school or from another child. Exercise your authority and responsibility to lead your children well.
6. Naming your children’s body parts sets the stage for deeper (albeit much later) conversations about privacy and sexuality. To have these discussions, and to do so with kindness and honor, prepares your child to be comfortable in their own skin and in the image in which they were created.
7. Laying the foundation early for healthy, honest communication will help to ensure that the door stays open as the child grows. Don’t you want to be the one they come to with serious issues and questions? Open, honest communication is an essential part of any relationship – parent/child is no different.
A Gallup poll showed that 67% of parents use the proper anatomical names for body parts with their children. Do you? Why or why not?