Answering awkward questions from 4 year old boy

Sarah - posted on 02/27/2011 ( 12 moms have responded )

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My son, who turned 4 early in February, has lately been asking a lot of questions that I am really unsure of how to approach. We have, at this point been completely open and honest about everything he's come to us about, but I'm not sure how to answer his questions about "female" issues. First he simply asked what pads were, and I answered that grown-up ladies sometimes needed them. Then, of course, he asked "why?" I told him it just makes us more comfortable sometimes, but that it was private. That didn't seem to satisfy his curiosity, and he's been asking a lot more questions since then. "Why do girls have vaginas and boys have penises?" "How did the doctor get the baby out of your belly?" "How did the baby get IN your belly?" "Why don't Daddies have breasts?"
How much, in your opinion, is too much information for a 4 year old? Should I tell him about the baby-making process? Should I have my husband do it? "When a Mama and Daddy love each other very much..." isn't cutting it for him. He's asking me without prompting; could I have done something unintentionally that sparked his curiosity? Is this a sign of too-early sexualization? Could seeing me nurse his baby brother and sister have caused him to think about this type of thing too early?

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Rebekah - posted on 03/06/2011

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My son is very curious too. We believe in God, so God is the answer to most of those questions at our house.

Here's what my 4 year old knows about the questions you asked: God makes boys and girls. They are different: Girls have a vagina, and boys have a penis (that's what makes them boys and girls). A mama and daddy pray to God and God puts a baby in the mama's tummy. It starts off very small and then grows bigger. When God decides that it's time, about 9 months later, the mama will have a pain in her back (like a headache) and know it's time to go to the hospital. At the hospital, the baby will come out of the mama's vagina. Women have breasts so they can feed their babies.

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TealRose - posted on 06/08/2011

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It really is hard isn't it Sarah, when a child so young wants such 'good' answers! I know my daughter at age 3 knew the names for parts and also where babies came from [not how they got there as she didn't ask!] because I was pregnant with her baby brother and we watched those 'birth' programmes on tv with her and she watched them avidly ! She knew all about vaginal and c - section deliveries.. and wasn't phased a bit. Told us "Not to worry if there was a bit of blood on the baby as it was 'normal' !! " She also knew all about periods/tampons etc as she grew a bit bigger as she always was in the loo with me and I just explained as she asked. I told her that I had a sort of garden place inside my tummy and that it needed 'washing out' sometimes to keep it ready for a baby to grow there... [hence the bleeding] and therefore needed to put either a tampon inside me or use a sanitary towel to stop the blood staining my clothes or making me sore.

Girls have vaginas and boys have penises - so we can tell whether you are a girl or a boy !! Your penis lets you stand up to wee and a little girl has to sit down but that is good too. How a baby gets OUT is relatively easy to explain. How he gets IN .. is harder. If he is so in need of a fuller answer then perhaps you may have to either talk about your egg turning into a baby when a daddy and a mummy really want another baby it just 'happens' if they keep on wanting very much. [a bit like magic... !] Would that help him or would he still need more ?? Perhaps you could add that the seed/egg only grows into a baby when you are an adult/parent and only then when the time is right [and what constitutes right to you .. is up to you ! eg .. married, old enough, wanting a baby, God decides... etc ] Daddies don't have breasts .. as Daddies don't feed babies milk but mummies do and they need the space for the milk to fill them up ! :) Why do Daddies have nipples ..hmm.. because their chests would look strange all flat... ahem. I am sure you might have a different answer for that one! I must ask my daughter as she has been through this recently with her two - 5 yrs and 2 yrs old. Even the two year old will laugh at you if you suggest Daddy feeds the baby !! lol!! It's like ' How can you BE so silly nanny ??? ' !!!

Seeing your nurse the other siblings is a good thing. He will learn all about milk, babies needs, etc and teaching a boy especially about such things just has to be a good thing!

I hope I haven't waffled too much! How are you doing so far ???

Rebekah - posted on 06/08/2011

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I agree with you, OhJessie. I intend to be very open and honest with my son, as my parents were with me. At this point (barely 4 yrs) though, I feel I have to gauge his maturity and understanding when I answer his questions too. Within a year or two I am sure he'll be ready for more detailed information, but right now I believe he has all the information he needs. The goal is to give him the right information at the right time and find the balance between too much information too soon, and not enough information too late...

Case and point: I was 6 when I was told the details of sex (by my parents) and I believe I was a little too young. I'm sure my parents told me that it was something only adults did and only adults that love each other, but I remember telling another little boy that his penis would fit into my vagina if we wanted to make a baby. Thankfully, the other kid was totally grossed out and didn't believe me, but in hindsight it's obvious I wasn't mature enough for that information (at age 6).

Anne - posted on 06/07/2011

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Hey OhJessie,
I think made a great point...well several. I think telling them the truth to an extent - leaving out graphics- will help prevent it becomeing something they feel like they have to hide from you, and it wont make it awkward for them to come to you, when they are older, with questions.

OhJessie - posted on 06/07/2011

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Corrie ten Boom's stories from "In My Father's House" are just wonderful; so nice to see one of them again :)

OhJessie - posted on 06/07/2011

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Well take this for whatever it's worth - I am also a Christian, Rebekah, hi - at any rate, I pretty much answered all the kids' questions honestly; I figured it's a body, these are bodily functions, there's nothing ugly about them, so why not just tell them how it works? Fast forward to adulthood - they weren't having sex as young as so many of their friends, and always came to me with concerns and questions about relationships and sexual issues. It's really never been a problem. Would I describe the sexual act in detail to a 4 year old? I don't think so - I'd probably go with the more trite, "When two people love each other..." I might explain that it was something only grownups do, as well, so that if your husband or you ever do decide to give him a more detailed answer he doesn't think it's something to try :o

And don't worry, I'm sure you did nothing and that he's not being weird at all; 4 year olds ask LOTS of questions; it's only natural to want to know everything, even that which we might find awkward. But the less awkward you act about it, the less it will be some mystery he feels he has to unlock.

Anne - posted on 06/07/2011

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That is so funny. I usually don't argue with my daughter when she says she is going to marry her brother. I just figured she would find out later. One day she made me do the wedding for her and her dad. She even had pretend rings. ; ) Kids are so funny.

Sarah - posted on 06/07/2011

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That's so cute, Anne! My daughter, who is 15 months old, was given a baby doll with a few bottles as a birthday gift, and she'll pretend to drink from the bottles herself, but lifts up her own shirt and pretends to breastfeed the baby doll! Lol. I love it. My son's started asking if he can marry me, as well. I tell him that most people don't marry their own family members, and that he'll probably meet someone when he's older. He told me a few days ago "Yeah, but if I meet someone I don't like, Dylan or Madison can just marry them instead." Lol!

Anne - posted on 05/29/2011

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I know I'm late to this discussion...but it got me curious. And I have to say...it's pretty amusing. I like what you did though... with the ice box. My daughter who is the same age has been asking me similar questions. About periods, pads, etc. But lately she has been asking me when SHE will be pregnant! I just tell her that it wont be until she is much much older and married. Then she asks when will she be married and sometimes she asks to how...but she will usually end with "I think I will just marry Jasper", thats her brother who is 1.5... I just smile and say "yeah maybe"... sometimes she says she will marry me or her dad. I just go with it for now. It's cute; I think anyway. I try to give her an honest answer though... Oh and lately she will put her baby dolls in her shirt and come tell me she is pregnant and then she will "give birth" right there in front of me... it's so funny...but then she makes me take care of the baby... Oh and she will give me her baby dolls and tell me that I need to feed them!!! Breastfeed them that is. I'm still breastfeeding her brother. This is a fun topic. Kids ask the craziest things sometimes.

Sarah - posted on 04/22/2011

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Thanks for the suggestions, ladies. Unfortunately, that's what I HAD been doing, how I HAD been approaching the questions, and it just doesn't satiate his curiosity. If anything, it seems to make him more determined to get to the bottom of things. "Yeah, but WHY?" or "I know, but HOW" are his favorite responses lately. That's why I posted on here. He's very logical, and gets very frustrated if there's something he can't figure out or doesn't understand. He seems to be mature for his age, possibly due to having two younger siblings before he was three? On the other hand, is very sensitive to "gross" things. He freaks out if his brother or sister fall and get a scrape, or if he even THINKS someone might get hurt; I think the birds and the bees might be much for him, especially now that I'm expecting again. I don't want him to worry that I will be hurting. So I took a note from Ms. Corrie Ten Boom's father, which I read in Corrie Ten Boom's book "the hiding place." As a young girl, she asked her father a question. I can't recall the question, only that the subject matter was too grave for a child her age. Her father, instead of answering, asked her to go pick up a suitcase which was much too heavy for her. When she responded she couldn't, he told her. "That suitcase is much like your question. It would be mean and irresponsible of me to expect you to carry that suitcase around; I'd carry it for you. Some information is too heavy for you as well. I'll carry the answer with me until you are old enough to carry it with ease." (I'm paraphrasing it; I don't recall nor can I find the exact quote.) I did the same with my son using an ice chest during a picnic, after he asked how my friend's baby got out of her stomach. He seemed to catch on. He's stopped asking me the questions, though he will on occasion ask when he'll be big enough "to carry the answer." lol.

Kristine - posted on 04/21/2011

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I would not go over the birds and the bees just yet. I would say to him "daddy's and boys have a penis cause they are boys, and girls have their parts. We are different." My son asked me why I bleed, I tell him so when it's time for mommy to have a baby I'll be ready. He said "oh" and I believe he droped it. As for the baby in the tummy, you could say that God or whatever you believe in put it there and made the baby grow. I nurse my 17 month old son in front of my 4 year old son all the time, not a big deal. So try to turn thoes questions into "baby" answers something his little mind will understand lol

Shannon - posted on 04/11/2011

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Hi there, Rebekah's answer is probably the best you will come across, I believe all children at that age are curious, trying to figure out just what makes them special and different from everyone else. My four yr old daughter was asking a similar question only hers was "why do i have this" and when i answered to use the potty she says well what else and the instant i said to have babies the conversation was over, she no longer wanted to discuss anatomy, she made a face and said "ewww mommy" of course two days later she informed my pregnant sister that she was in for it when she had her baby, but what can we do with them lol just be patient and try to answer each question as honestly as you can, no one can spot a liar faster than a child :-/ Good Luck!

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