6 year old with hands in her pants, how do I address this?

[deleted account] ( 14 moms have responded )

My 6 year old is often putting her hands down her pants and "exploring" I catch her doing it at all different times: watching TV, outside playing, walking into the grocery store, just hanging out. We normally tell her to get her hands out of her pants (she does front and back) and then to go wash her hands. I tell her she shouldn't do that around other people. How do I get her to understand what is and isn't appropriate?

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Michelle - posted on 06/16/2011

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I tell my kids that Yes I know it feels good but its a private thing and they have to go to their room. I don't want them to feel that their "feelings" are bad. I would also make sure she does not have an infection that is causing her discomfort.

SHENG - posted on 06/21/2011

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According to Sigmund Freuds Psychosexual Theory, this is the "Phallic Stage" wherein youngsters find pleasure exploring their genitals. This is actually normal and mostly they forget when they grow up. Trying to stop them might lead to conflicts with their personality in the future.

Patricia - posted on 06/22/2011

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What she is doing IS inappropriate in public/in front of other people, but it is NOT inappropriate (in my opinion) for her to explore her body. I have always told my daughter, now 13, to explore and get to know herself ever since she was old enough to become curious, but not to put anything inside herself because that can be dangerous - just like not putting anything in the ears/nose/eyes/etc. for sanitary and safety reasons. To me, it is imperative that a female at any age be comfortable w/her body, and not feel ashamed about it. However, there is a fine line between normal exploration and abnormal, which may be discerned by discussing w/her what she is thinking or feeling when she is exploring herself. Is she curious about her anatomy and how it works? Is there an itch or pain present? (I hate to bring this up) Is she imitating behavior that she has witnessed or been encouraged to participate in? These are all valid questions that you s/b able to discuss at this age, but do so in a non-accusatory manner. Hopefully, you have talked w/your daughter about good touching/bad touching; however, if you have not, now is also the time to talk about that, as well.
In sum, explain that exploration s/b done in private; let her know that it is okay to explore but not use objects; ask questions about what she thinks of her body parts, such as questions she may have or what she feels; and carefully explain good/bad touching by others and whether she has seen or engaged in this behavior with another person. In extreme cases, very inappropriate and excessive touching may be a sign of something more serious, such as sexual abuse or actions/behavior that may be leading to such abuse. Most likely, this is not the case b/c 6 yr. old children are naturally curious about everything, including their bodies. Nevertheless, this behavior s/b addressed, and if you feel uncomfortable or have real concerns that you feel strongly about, it may be a good idea to consult w/her pediatrician for further advice (perhaps he/she, or a nurse, could discuss this w/your daughter, as these professionals seem to communicate well w/kids about such things).

Good luck!

Alisha - posted on 06/17/2011

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I would tell her it is not ok to touch her body like that because she is 6 and there is no need to awaken those feelings. Tell her her bottom is for pee and poop only and she only needs to touch it to wipe and clean at bathtime!

Kelly - posted on 06/17/2011

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ExploraTion of her body is very natural and even healthy for her as it satisfies curiosities. Help her understand thT it is ok but that exploring "private" parts should be done in a "private" place, such as the bathtub or her bedroom. Be sure to tell her that if she has questions, she can ask you anything, and be brave in answering her questions honestly. This will be an important step in establishing you as a trustable mother later on when she enters puberty - and beyond.

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Michael - posted on 08/30/2012

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maybe she is fingering her self?

cuz maybe she wanted to know what was down there and she knows it feels good so then she wanted to explore down there

Sylvia - posted on 10/14/2011

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I've always told mine that the reason we call them "private parts" is because you should play with them in private LOL.

[deleted account]

Thanks for all your help ladies. Strangely, I haven't noticed her doing this for a bit now! So it must have just been a phase she was going through....or my "only in private" discussions actually sunk in. :)

[deleted account]

I have been telling my 5 year old she can't touch her privates in front of people it isn't right. Though I have been telling her this for about a year now and she is getting better now she only does it when she is in a shower and it is just me and her in there. I remind her that even though she likes the way it feels she shouldn't do it in front of people. I have read a lot of studies that all say if u make a big deal out of it they will do it more often so I just say it in my normal voice I try not to freak out about it.

Amy - posted on 06/20/2011

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I'm with all the others! I tell my boys that "they" are called privates because they are to be used, touched, and talked about in private. It's important to make sure they don't feel ashamed and that they can come to you if there are any questions.

If you think her touching is outside the "normal" boundaries, you might talk to your ped or a clinical psychologist (which is VERY different from a "school psychologist) to see if she's been violated in any way.

Kelly - posted on 06/17/2011

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Doctors say children don't "masterbate" because of sexual arousal until puberty. When children are this age, they simply explore because they want to get to know the rest of their bodies. They already know their hair and noses and arms and legs. It is a phase that needs to be kept private, and when it is over, it is over. Don't shame kids at this stage or make them feel like there is something shameful about their bodies. That has consequences that are far reaching.

Emily - posted on 06/17/2011

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Dungarees? Also maybe check that she doesn't have an infection/soap allergy/problem with washing properly which might be making her itch. My daughter used to do that, then we realised she still needed help self cleaning.

[deleted account]

Thanks ladies. Don't think she has an infection. We've been through that a couple times alread (yeast infection and pin worms). I think it's purely a touching thing. I will have to maybe be a little more firm on the "bedroom" thing and not just telling her to not do it around people.

Karen - posted on 06/16/2011

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i have a 7yr. old who does that. it drives me nuts. He finally stopped doing it in public but it drives me crazy seeing him do that at home. I do the same thing with him. Tell him to go wash his hands and to only do that in his room. He will sometimes do the "pocket thing". he tells me sometimes that he's itchy. Ask her why she does it. maybe it's an infection, the way she wipes (not getting all of it), or maybe she's sensitive to the seam on the inside of the crotch of her pants she wears. Or does she have sensitive skin? maybe the kind of underwear she is wearing, or the laundry soap is making her itch. My husband complains if i use fabric softener on his underwear b/c he has sensitive skin. Other than that, just keep doing what you are doing. Sometimes it just takes some time for them to get the idea. It could just be a habit she needs to break.

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