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Mormon Mom Asks “How Do I Respond to My 3 Yr Old Masturbating?”

Q: When my son was just 2 I found him humping his hands just after a nap. I was shocked but knew enough about the negative effects of shaming that I didn’t freak out or scold him. I spent the next year just kindly distracting him away from self pleasuring. When I’d find him (always after waking up) I’d avoid saying anything in words because I didn’t know WHAT to say that would be appropriate and positive.

He’s 3 now and he’s starting to masturbate more in the open (like on our bedroom floor after we’ve all come in to say good morning to each other). This morning when he started up with it I tried my distraction method and when that didn’t work I said to him, “Our private parts are special. Please don’t play with your penis”. He then replied “Mom, don’t talk to me right now. I want to play with my ‘potty parts’.” I thought, “Wow, I clearly need more advice on how to approach this!”I’ve read a few articles and professional opinions online that say “it’s normal to do, just educate them to do it in private”. I am on board with recognizing that he’s not doing it to be naughty or sexual, but at the same time, as a member of the LDS/Mormon faith, I want to teach him that his body and private parts are special and being pleasured is a great thing that he will share with someone he loves later in life. Is that the wrong perspective? I’m very interested on hearing the perspective of an LDS therapist. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Here’s my response:


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About Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW:
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her book The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide for Women are available now.

Comments

Melissa

Such a great conversation. Thanks for posting this!

Kris

Thank you for opening up this conversation! I have a related question for once the kids are older– it sounds like the masturbating isn’t such a big deal when they’re younger because there’s no sexual context, it’s just because it feels good. Is it still nothing to worry about if they’re doing it as teenagers but without any sexual fantasies or porn or anything? Basically if they’re doing it just because it feels good without anything inappropriate tied to it?

Patrick

Sexual thoughts, fantasies, and masturbation are developmentally normal and positive experiences, when allowed to be. It is not healthy to insist that private, personal sexual pleasure is inherently destructive. If you truly value your children’s healthy development, reevaluate your values regarding erotic thoughts and self-pleasuring.

I understand wanting your children to simply adopt your sexual values and norms…but the negatives far outweigh any perceived positives when it comes to strong arming youth into adopting premarital asexuality. They will do it anyway and, if you approach it this way, they WILL feel shame and it will be psychologically harmful.

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