My sons (ages 7 & 5) have been caught quite a few times talking about, looking at and touching each other’s private parts. I’ve explained to them that this is wrong, and yet they continue to do it. What can I do to make them stop? Please Help

A: The first thing you do is stop freaking out. This is normal little boy behavior. Your boys have discovered a wonderful body part that can do interesting things. They are naturally curious and fascinated. When you react with concern, alarm, and scolding, it complicates things considerably. The negative attention may in fact reinforce the very behavior you are trying to stop. Of more concern is that it may make them ashamed of their bodies.

Your kids don’ t need scolding. They need education. This is a good time to get some kids’ books about the human body. Help them learn the right names for their body parts and to understand that all boys look the same and all girls look the same. Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” used to sing: “Boys are fancy on the outside. Girls are fancy on the inside. Everybody’s fancy. Everybody’s fine. Your body’s fancy and so is mine.” That’s all they need to know for now. They don’t need in-depth sex education. They just need body education.

Instead of telling them that exploring themselves is “wrong,” have a discussion about privacy and personal boundaries. You can help them understand that their bodies are special and private. Knowing about their bodies and understanding what is culturally acceptable is the basis for healthy sexuality later on.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie