Penis BFF

Dear Emily,
I have a 6 y/o who seems to like his penis. A LOT. He’s constantly touching himself. Sometimes he seems to be touching himself for pleasure and other times it’s like an impulse. When asked about it he says it’s any combination of it feels good, he’s itchy, has to go to the bathroom or he just does it without thinking. I suspect all those reasons are true. At first we tried to ignore it or encourage him to do so in private but he still continues. When other adults (at his school and basketball practice) started commenting about it I felt worried because I don’t want anyone to shame him and it’s also becoming a bit embarrassing. Any tips on what to do? Thanks!
Unsure Mama

Dear Unsure Mama,
I’ve babysat and nannied for 14+ years and can confirm that little dudes who have penises love touching their penises. I get it, sometimes you just want to relax. But yes, if you’re in public, touching your genitals for more than a quick second is… noticeable.

Try giving him another outlet when he’s in public. A hair tie or rubber band on his wrist that he can fidget with, a little stone in his pocket, a stress ball if that’s a possibility. Brainstorm with him to find other comforting things that may help him remember not to touch his penis, and instead do x. If adults keep commenting about it, a quick, “Yes we know, to be honest my hand would be down my pants too if it was socially acceptable!” should work…. Just kidding (although I think that’d be a polite enough way to tell them to back off).

I enlisted the help of my sister with this one (mother of a 4 and 6 year old). She said, “I’d also suggest ruling out a UTI. A lot of little kids don’t really know how to communicate discomfort and sometimes the touching or rubbing can be an indication of an underlying issue. If it’s totally unrelated, I think making sure there’s a distinction between what’s appropriate at home and outside world. When we’re home, you can wash your hands before and after then go to your room or a private place if you need to explore. When you’re in public, you have to keep your hands to yourself. Obviously for a 6 year old this is easier said than done but I think keeping the communication open about it will lessen the likelihood of instilling that shame based connection.”

Well, there you have it! I think the last thing is that he will probably grow out of it soon enough, and you won’t have to be constantly saying, “Hey buddy, remember hands off the penis!”

With a sign off that includes a good natured penis pun that I cannot think of at the moment so this will have to do,

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