A few months ago I got into a friendly debate with another mom about why I feel it’s important to teach my boys that they have a penis and not a “wee-wee.” After talking with some of my friends about this, I was surprised to learn how uncomfortable some parents are with teaching their children the actual names of their genitalia. I was even more surprised when my husband, a local pediatrician, mentioned how many parents come into his office who can’t even say the words penis or vagina.
Teaching our children the proper names of their private parts will encourage parent-child communication, promote positive body image, and even protect them against sexual abuse.
By naming body parts correctly as early as infancy, while changing a diaper or while giving a bath, for example, we are laying the foundation for future communication with our children. This allows the conversations with our kids to be more natural and feel less awkward since they have been hearing these words since before they could talk. Teaching your child the correct names of ALL of their body parts will help them feel more comfortable when communicating with you. If parents feel embarrassed or silly using the word “penis” or “vagina” their child will feel embarrassed, too. This makes it difficult for your child to come to you when they have questions or experience pain or have any other concerns with their genitalia. It’s important we keep the communication open and honest with our children to make sure they feel comfortable coming to us with absolutely anything.
When we teach our children the correct names of their body parts we are giving them a sense of control and ownership of their body. Having this ownership and knowing what their body parts are and what they do gives them confidence in their body. This confidence is what they need to have a healthy, positive body image.
Teaching your child the correct names of their private parts is also protecting them from sexual abuse. A sex offender can easily identify a child who knows their body and is able to communicate openly with their parents and will be more likely to report sexual abuse. If a child is too embarrassed to talk about their body, they are less likely to report someone who inappropriately touched them. Using silly nicknames for genitalia can teach children that these parts are playthings and this is exactly what a perpetrator wants! A child who has not been taught about their body can be confused about what is an appropriate touch and what is inappropriate. But, a child who is confident in their body will be able to set safe and comfortable boundaries for themselves. Protect your child from sexual abuse by naming their genitals correctly.
Private parts are private but that does not mean we shouldn’t talk about them at all. Start the conversation early and allow your child to ask questions. Answer them honestly. Expect their questions and curiosity to change as they grow and mature. By having this honest communication early on, your child will be more likely to come to you for answers.