How to Handle Your Toddler's "Naked Phase" and Genital Exploration
Toddlers aren't aware of social norms yet. That's why they rip toys away from friends, spit food out on their plates, blithely point out to Grandma that she's got hair on her chin and, yes, run around naked and grab their genitals in public. So while your kid's naked phase might make you a little uncomfortable (especially when he decides to disrobe at the mall), know that it's totally normal. Kids don't see anything wrong with whipping it all out anytime, anywhere. Unfortunately for them, society isn't so liberal. Here are a few tips on how to handle your little nudist:
- Ask yourself if it's OK if your kid runs around the house naked as long as he wears clothes in public? Or would you prefer he stay in his room or the bathroom if he insists on being buck naked? Figure out what you're comfortable with and then calmly explain the rules to your kid. "You can run around naked in the living room, but when we go outside, I need you to keep your pants on. (And same goes for when you're 16, if you know what I mean!)"
- If he won't listen and continues to disrobe in public, try dressing him in clothes that are tough to take off, like overalls or a button-down shirt you put on backwards. If all else fails, you can always try duct tape. Just kidding ... sort of.
- Make sure the clothes he's wearing are comfortable so he's less inclined to rip them off. How many times have you walked in the door and ditched your skinny jeans for a comfy pair of sweats? He just hasn't gotten to the "slip into something more comfortable" stage yet.
- If your toddler is like most, he probably walks around with his hands down his pants a good deal of the time. And it's not just boys that explore their privates, girls do it, too. It's totally normal and healthy for your kid to check out his body—including "down there." To him, his private parts are no different than elbows, knees or toes. And the fact that they're kept under wraps most of the time makes them even more intriguing.
- The best thing you can do when your kid starts yanking on his privates is to remain calm. Don't shame him. Let him know that you know it feels good to touch his body, but it's something that should be done in private and not at the playground in front of the whole neighborhood. You'll probably have to remind him a few zillion times when you catch him with his hands down his pants at the store, in the library, at the park ...
- And know that if your kid does spend a lot of time touching himself, there's nothing erotic about it at all. In fact, some kids do it because it's comforting, just like some kids suck their thumbs or twirl their hair. If you make your kid feel ashamed about it, you might be sending him the message that part of his body is "bad" and that's not a good thing.