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  • "I'm a single parent. My 6 year-old son was caught playing with his private part. What do I do?"

    Mom, contributor and educator An-Marie Bartolome-Villarin sheds light on this sensitive issue.
    by SmartParenting Staff .
  • Question: I’m a single parent. My 6 year-old son was caught playing with his private part. What do I do?

    Children are naturally curious about things.  They explore their surroundings, they tinker with their toys, and they always get into things that they should not be getting into.  The more they are told to stop or not to touch, you can be sure that they will do the opposite.

    The body will always be a source of interest for children.  From the time that they are babies discovering their limbs and figuring out that they can use their body to do things and take them places to when they are three or four years old and comparing notes on what girls and boys have or do not have. 

    No matter how much we try to avoid it, touching their private parts will always be a part of growing up.  Private parts are almost always covered up and the things we do with them are always done behind closed doors (i.e., urinating, defecating, bathing/washing), which adds to their mysteriousness.

    Children are told that no one should see or touch their private parts unless it’s their parents and, perhaps, caregivers and the closest relatives.

    If you catch your child touching his/her private parts (or someone else does), be as calm and collected as you can.  Even though you may be surprised, appalled, or angry, do hold back your feelings as much as you can.  It does not help to be overly emotional about it, instead, it will either scare your child, embarrass him/her, or make him/her engage in this behavior even more (it gets your attention).


    If you are a religious parent, you might want to go this route and tell your child that this behavior is something that is not pleasing to God.  A limitation of this, however, is that when they grow older and are able to engage in critical thinking skills, this explanation might not have the same effect as when they were younger.

    Your best bet would be to go the biological route.  You can even make use of books and the Internet as references.  Explain what the functions of the private parts. Tell them how sensitive these parts are and how important it is to make sure that they are clean and kept healthy.  It may feel good to touch them, however, repetitive touching may bruise them or make them raw.  We use our hands for so many things and cannot ensure how clean they are so frequently touching our private parts will likely spread germs and bacteria.  The reverse is also true.  Since waste materials pass through our private parts, touching them can spread germs and bacteria to our hands.  Whatever else we touch after will then be contaminated and lead to certain types of illnesses.

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