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When baby plays bad manners

By John Muturi | July 27th 2013

If you catch your innocent five-year old  playing adult games with her young friend, the solution is not to spank her.

Body parts like breasts, bottoms, penises and other related parts fascinate children. Majority giggle uncontrollably at the very mention of these parts. It’s not surprising that children react this way because adults get so anxious about these organs and make considerable effort to conceal them. Because of this almost taboo atmosphere surrounding nudity and sexuality, children can’t wait to find out more about it.

If they were left to their own devices, without parental interference and restriction, they would probably demonstrate a significant amount of sexual interest anyway.

Pants down

In 1927 a researcher investigated the bahaviour of a primitive tribe who neither encouraged nor discouraged their children from sexual explorations, and found that a large part of the children’s spontaneous pre-school play was sexually-oriented.

Some parents attempt to control their children’s sexual behaviour by punishing them immediately they actsnaughty.

The punishments include a smack, a stern warning about the consequences of a future repetition, or deprivation of sweets. Children are also rebuked using old wives’ tales which misinform about the dangers of sex or by suggesting another activity that could be more enjoyable, and thereby distracting the child from the sexual activity.

But none of these are suitable long-term strategies because they encourage a child to associate her genitals with guilt. She may think anything to do with sex is naughty and if this feeling persists, her adult sexuality may be adversely affected.

Here are ways to manage your child’s sexual curiosity satisfactorily:

•Avoid showing embarrassment about sex. You can’t expect her to develop a mature sexual attitude if you start to giggle and redden every time the subject is raised. She’ll sense your discomfort.

•Pitch your explanation at the level of her understanding. Telling her “your friend won’t want to play with you if you keep pulling her pants down” will make more sense to her than the more general comment, “It’s not nice to put your hands up someone’s shorts”. Your advice should be very specific.

•Keep calm. If you over-react, she’ll soon realise that what she is doing is one way of gaining your attention. This realisation can make her feel powerful and may encourage her to persist. It’s more advisable to stay relaxed than to let her see you become angry.

•Explain about the importance of privacy. Remind your child that everybody has a right to decide who touches them and who doesn’t, and that just as she has time when she doesn’t like being kissed and cuddled, so do other people. Explain to her in very basic terms about respecting the personal rights of others.

•Be prepared to physically discourage her from continuing with her behaviour. There is no harm at all in your taking direct action to stop her behaving overly sexuallyas long as that action isn’t punishment, and you explain the underlying reasons. If, for instance, she always strips off whenever she is alone with a particular friend, stop her playing with that friend for a while. Tell her why you’re unhappy about her behaviour, but let her know that she can resume playing with her friend once she is able to play more appropriately.


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